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Valley parents describe challenges of facing complex autism care system

Christian and Bryce Ambriz thought the first evaluation would help their daughter get the care she needed, but it was only the beginning.

PHOENIX — Christian and Bryce Ambriz value every minute with their two daughters.

“The minute she was born, whatever we have to do to give them the best life possible, we are going to do,” mom Bryce Ambriz said.

The couple's youngest daughter Cleo was born at the beginning of 2020, right before the world shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bryce said during the early part of the pandemic; she noticed Cleo was not developing the same way her other daughter did. At first, she attributed it to the pandemic and a lack of socialization. However, as the world returned to normal, her problems persisted.

"I realized she wasn’t really changing,"  Bryce said.

Bryce said she was watching TikTok when she noticed that her daughter may be exhibiting signs of autism, so she went to a pediatrician.

“She immediately said let's get an autism evaluation done,” Bryce said.

However, after the first evaluation came back, the family realized it didn't count for much of the care Cleo needed.

“There’s health insurance, government aid, there are school systems, all of those systems have their own rules for qualifying,” said Morgan Hall with Axis for Autism.

Hall said getting the proper evaluation can be more complex than a parent may think.

“If you don’t understand those rules, it’s easy to miss the mark,” Hall said. "The reality right now is that families are in a position where they have to do the patching together. And figure out how to make the systems work together."

The Ambriz family eventually did get the correct evaluation and their daughter is getting the care she needs.

However, they want the system to become easier for parents to navigate.

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