California clinic to treat adult autism

April 6, 2009 9:42:23 PM PDT
The face of autism has long been the face of a child. But more and more of those children are growing into adulthood, where society isn't necessarily ready to address their needs.

Now there is a new clinic in Sacramento focused on helping adults with autism.

Debra Dix is worried about her 17-year-old son, Andrew, who has autism, a neuro-developmental disorder that interferes with communication and social skills.

In a few months, he'll turn 18 and his options for care and services narrow. Care for people with autism has always focused on younger kids.

"What do you know about 30, 40, 50 year old person who is diagnosed with autism? You never hear about it," said Dix. "The gap is obvious. There is no organized conversation about this topic."

Dr. Michael Chez has been treating children with autism for decades and sees first hand how his patients are growing up into adulthood.

The pediatric neurologist is starting a unique clinic for people with autism, aged 18 to 21.

"A clinic specifically that says we're going to take care of neuro-developmentally disabled patients with autism and similar conditions, who grow up out of the pedicatric age group and want to come to a place where we understand their medical problems," said Dr. Chez.

Most people with autism in California are three to 18 years old, so the problem of addressing their needs as they become adults will only grow.

Besides their medical needs, the costs of their social services are great too.

The California Department of Developmental Services says the state spent nearly $11,000 in 2007 on services for each child and young adult with autism.

After age 21, those costs more than triple when the state starts paying for food, shelter and transportation expenses the parents used to pay for.

For now, the clinic is relying on grants and philanthropy to get going.

"This is sort of a life preserver in a sea without many landing spots," said Dr. Chez.

Debra is grateful someone is listening.

"What it is and how it evolves, how it benefits, I can't speak to that. But I do know having a place to go where there's a focus is a big relief," said Dix.

  • Autism Medical Treatment Center


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