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Autism - A Memorial Hospital Patient Story

When Adam and Amy Hughes moved to Douglas with their two sons, Thomas and Parker, in 2011 there was more to that process than just finding a house, setting up utilities and getting the boys enrolled in school. Since their youngest son, Thomas, has Autism, it also meant finding a medical professional who could help them navigate meeting his special medical and educational needs. Since his diagnosis of "Pervasive Developmental Delay, No Other Symptoms" at age 2, that was later refined to Autism Spectrum Disorder at age 5, the family has leaned on medical professionals to help them address all of Thomas' needs.

"From the initial stages of diagnosis, which for Thomas was rather drawn out as he is classified as low impact on the spectrum, we relied so heavily on the support of trained medical professionals," Amy said. "When you are just going off a gut feeling and seeing that your child isn't meeting milestones as a young parent I had no idea where to go except to medical professionals for answers."

Moving from Indiana where highly qualified doctors specializing in Autism were just minutes away to less populated Wyoming was somewhat a leap of faith for the family. When they first moved to Douglas, they found a doctor in Cheyenne who specialized in working with children with Autism. Unfortunately, that also meant driving four hours round trip once a month for Thomas' medical care.

"We were driving as far away as Cheyenne to see his doctor, while still having a primary care physician at Memorial Hospital," Amy said. "Thomas' doctor in Cheyenne was excellent but ended up moving on to a position in Montana so we were trying to find someone who felt comfortable overseeing Tom's care, prescribing medication, etc."

After meeting pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Kathryn Skuza through their local church, the family felt that she would be a good advocate for Thomas' medical needs. Working at Memorial Hospital of Converse County, Skuza provided a closer option for Thomas and someone who specialized in working with children.

"Having a local provider has helped him immensely with not missing so much school but also learning to be his own voice in his health care," Amy said. "Before, we were fairly limited with our exchanges with the doctor in Cheyenne, even though he provided excellent care. With Dr. Skuza, Thomas has been able to see her outside of practice in our community which helps him relate and communicate easily with her."

As a patient of Dr. Skuza's for a few years now, Thomas and his family feel comfortable working closely with her. Now 11, Thomas is learning how to advocate for himself medically and his family is working with him on life skills that will help him as he moves into young adulthood. Dr. Skuza has played a large role in helping the family reach those goals set for Thomas.

"For us it's of great importance to have someone who is kind and takes time to understand this complex diagnosis," Amy said. "Dr. Skuza compiled an extensive family history from the beginning. And when we have an appointment with her we never feel rushed but allowed to glean those items from Tom that he is concerned with so she has helped us with our goals for our child of being his own advocate. She has been, and continues to be, a partner in helping us further understand both of our children's overall health and a great resource for helping us move through this next stage with our children."

To set up an appointment with Dr. Skuza or one of the many other providers at Memorial Hospital of Converse County, call 307-358-7300.