APIC continues mission of helping autism community during pandemic

Hear one of the biggest challenges facing the autism community with the loss of in-person access
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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) – The challenges of educating those with autism during the coronavirus pandemic continues, even as many elementary school students will return to the classroom in a traditional five-day schedule.

Organizations like Access to Psychiatry Through Intermediate Care, or APIC, are dedicated to helping individuals with autism and their families.

“We primarily go out to the community and work with folks in their homes and schools,” Janell Van Cleve, Clinical Director at APIC, said. “Often times, individuals in difficult cases end up at emergency rooms so we will intervene there as well. We essentially provide psychiatric case management for these cases and decide what the barriers are for them to receive the proper treatment and appropriate level of care. We work with their treatment team to make sure they get there and we can get them to thrive and not just be surviving.”

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects around 2% of the population. People on the autism spectrum range from having difficulties with interpersonal communication to severe cognitive limitations, including a lack of verbalization. In other cases, people with autism are rigid and have repetitive behaviors.

APIC sees an average of 300 people each year.

April is Autism Awareness Month and the hope continues with organizations like APIC that autism will be recognized and treated early.

“If you think about children that you may have or children you’ve grown up around and what language development really is from one-and-a-half years of age to four, it’s huge,” Michael Cummings, Vice Chair of Psychiatry at UB and APIC Medical Director, said. “We go from a couple of words to thousands and thousands of words almost overnight. All that happens in a predictable way for most people. People with autism really struggle with language development, so early and aggressive treatment for language development changes their entire life.”

Cummings said the lack of access to in-person education may have impacted their ability to acquire things like language.

“That early intervention matters so much for the entire life of an individual on the spectrum,” he said.