Steven Merahn, MD, FAAP: April 16, 2019


New survey of parents of children with autism uncovers unmet needs, treatment impact and societal perspectives

Steven Merahn, MD, FAAP

Chief Medical Officer, Centria Autism

Kayla Schmidt, Parent of two children with autism

As a behavior health condition across many communities, autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is becoming increasingly common as the CDC reports numbers are on the rise. Of the 3.8 million children born in the US in 2018, between 65,000 and 70,000 will meet the diagnostic criteria for autism in 2019.[i] With autism affecting more families in 2019, more parents will seek resources to help them make difficult decisions regarding their children’s treatments and therapy, which are crucial elements to a child’s long-term success when living with ASD.

To better understand the challenges and how best to support families, Centria Autism, a leading national provider of therapy based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) for children with ASD and their families, has released a new survey conducted by Wakefield Research[ii], to better understand the everyday challenges that families with children who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) face.

The key findings of the survey include the following:

·         Nearly all parents (99%) think early intervention is important for treating children with ASD.

·         However, on average, parents first suspected their child had autism at the age of 2.8 years, but children were not diagnosed until 3.8 years with many parents attributing the delay to time spent searching for information as they did not know where to go for diagnosis.

·         Then, on average there is a 3-month delay between diagnosis and treatment; meaning, on average there is a 15-month period where a child with ASD could be getting treatment.

·         Although more than 7 out of 10 parents received referrals to therapists[iii] while trying to get their child diagnosed, 55% encountered issues, with 32% being told their child would “grow out of it.”

·         Parents reported it taking an average of 8.3 medical visits before their child was officially diagnosed with more than half of parents (57%) noting that the diagnosis process was difficult, and 84% saying it was stressful.

·         Once diagnosed with ASD, over a third of parents (35%) noted difficulties in learning about treatment options, with the most common barriers being insurance coverage issues (41%), long wait lists (43%), and difficulty finding a therapist (38%).

Additional key findings focused on the intersection of autism with society, media and technology.

·         Society – 92% of parents who have children with ASD are concerned with how other children treat their child. 84% are concerned about how the public views their child, and 80% are concerned with how teachers treat their child.

·         Media – 64% of those surveyed said the media represents autism somewhat, not very or not at all realistically, showing room for improvement in the accurate portrayal and understanding of ASD in pop culture.

·         Technology – Over three-quarters (78%) of survey respondents feel at-home voice activated smart speakers, such as Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, could benefit autistic children with socialization. Additionally, 86% of parents would be interested in learning about the latest virtual reality (VR) simulation technology used in ASD treatment.

To learn more about ASD, ABA therapy or Centria Autism, visit, or call (855) 77-AUTISM to speak to a team member about consultation.


·         What is autism spectrum disorder or ASD?

·         Can you tell us about some of the main highlights/results from this nationwide survey?

·         What is applied behavior analysis or ABA therapy?

·         Where can people find more information about the survey?


ABOUT Centria Autism:

Centria Autism, an operating division of Centria Healthcare, is a leading national provider of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy for children with autism and their families. With its national headquarters in Michigan, and more than 3,500 clinical staff working in nine states, Centria’s Optimal Outcomes approach combines child-centered, evidence-based ABA with best practices to help children with ASD have the best developmental experience possible and acquire the skills to live independently and succeed in the world on their own terms.


ABOUT Steven Merahn, MD, FAAP:

Dr. Steven Merahn is Chief Medical Officer at Centria Healthcare. As a pediatrician with special training in child psychodynamic psychotherapy and interests in medical complexity and children with special needs, he supports development and implementation of programs and services, including ABA therapy treatment at Centria Autism to help children have the best developmental experiences possible. Additionally, Dr. Merahn and his team enable parents and caregivers with the resources they need to find right paths for growth and success for their children. Prior to joining the Centria Healthcare team, Dr. Merahn was the Chief Medical Officer for U.S. Medical Management, providing clinical leadership to improve quality and performance of care delivery for complex/fragile patients in need of home care. Trained in Pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, NY, Dr. Merahn spent the early part of his career with the New York City Department of Health, where he shaped policy and developed programs for early childhood, infant care and early intervention, maternal-child health, and families with special needs.

Produced for: Centria (one mention)

Speak Your Mind