'Heartbreaking' delays in autism diagnosis and treatment got even worse during pandemic

Brandie Kurtz of Wrens, Georgia, said her son Wylie had to wait more than a year after his autism diagnosis to begin behavioral therapy.

Wylie James Prescott, 3, had to wait more than a year after his autism diagnosis to begin behavioral therapy, even though research shows early treatment of autism can be crucial for children's long-term development.

His mother, Brandie Kurtz, said his therapy wasn't approved through Georgia's Medicaid program until recently, despite her continued requests. "I know insurance, so it's even more frustrating," said Kurtz, who works in a doctor's office near her home in rural Wrens, Georgia.
Those frustrations are all too familiar to parents who have a child with autism, a complex lifelong disorder. And the pandemic has exacerbated the already difficult process of getting services.
    This comes as public awareness of autism and research on it have grown and insurance coverage for treatment is more widespread. In February, Texas became the last state to cover a widely used autism therapy through Medicaid. And all states now have laws requiring private health plans to cover the therapy, applied behavior analysis.
      Yet children from Georgia to California often wait months — and in