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Autism Evaluations for Military Families

Pediatric patient CJ Norris.

April 22, 2019

At The University of Kansas Health System, we understand the sacrifice veterans and active-duty service members make for our country. That’s why we pay tribute to military families by providing high-quality, expedited care.

For military families concerned their child may have autism, The University of Kansas Health System offers a weekly developmental evaluation clinic in Kansas City. This clinic is available only to service members and their families and offers faster, more convenient diagnosis. 

To find out if you qualify for our military developmental evaluation clinic, or if you would like to set up an evaluation in Kansas City for your child, call 913-588-6300.

One sergeant’s story

Staff Sgt. Christopher Norris Sr. and his wife, Lauren Norris, of Fort Riley, Kansas, share their experience and 4-year-old son CJ Norris’ success. 

What made you initially consider evaluating your child for autism?

Lauren: I just felt like he should have been saying more at about 18 months old. It’s not good to compare your children, but I just felt mom’s intuition. He should have been saying more. 
Christopher: He was constantly using nonverbal cues. He would grab us by the hand to show us rather than talking. We go to a peer group around military installation (MI) and would notice his language wasn’t developing at the same level as other children. 
Lauren: His speech wasn’t very clear. You know your kids; you know your intuition. At his primary care doctor, we pushed to get him evaluated because of his age. We wanted to have him evaluated rather than not do anything. 

What was your experience with the autism developmental evaluation military clinic?

Lauren: We were referred to a specialist in Wyandotte County. They confirmed we could get on a wait list, but CJ needed to be 3 years old to be evaluated. The University of Kansas Health System gave us the fastest time in getting him in, which was awesome.

Christopher: We had a really good briefing before we went to the clinic to understand what was happening and what the doctor was trying to get from the appointment. Dr. Catherine Smith worked with the military program on MI. She had worked on installation before, and had worked with military families. She helped us get the early diagnosis, the right diagnosis, and access to the right treatment plan.

What advice do you have for other military families or any parent?

Lauren: Don’t be in denial. If you feel your child could be delayed, I highly encourage getting your child screened. At best, all will be normal. Or something is there. We caught it early and can get the treatment he needs to be on the right step by school age.

Christopher: For me, as a service member and father, I’m not around all the time, and my wife is noticing these things. I would miss certain things, but my wife was worried about his development and speech. Service members work hard, train hard and put their life on the line – use the military health benefits to take care of your kids.

What’s next for your son and his care plan?

Lauren: Our all-day appointment was 3 to 4 hours. We had the diagnosis, and the very next week there were phone calls for applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy. The therapist comes to our house 4 days a week for 2 hours. CJ is now developing much better. We’re able to cut his hair with scissors without him crying. If we didn’t tell people, they wouldn’t know he had autism.

Christopher: Now he won’t stop talking! We really appreciate Dr. Smith and her ability to get CJ the resources he needs. Our biggest fear was CJ not having a normal life. Now he is moving light years ahead because of early diagnosis and treatment.

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