SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — According to the CDC, about one in 44 children have autism. However, after two years of isolating and wearing masks, some of those early signs are harder to spot.

A psychologist at the Golisano Center for Special Needs tells NewsChannel 9’s Nicole Sommavilla, that’s just one downfall of the pandemic for kids at the center.

“Play and socialization are practice. That’s how we learn and get feedback from our peers,” said William Sullivan, a Licensed Psychologist at the center.

Since the pandemic kept young kids more isolated and not getting that essential experience, it’s made it harder for doctors to diagnose autism.

“Are those symptoms truly a function of the child’s neurodevelopmental disorder or is this an outcome of them being socially isolated?”

Dr. Sullivan

At the Golisano Center for Special Needs, they’ve adapted. When the pandemic hit, they started offering telehealth assessments.

However, getting the diagnosis is only half the battle. Sullivan says the bigger issue COVID created was delaying necessary therapies kids would normally get in a clinical setting.

“Early intervention and early socialization is really important for that child’s development,” said Sullivan.

So instead, their therapists trained parents to step in and coach their children themselves.

It’s put them in a position to not only serve as the parent, but also the teacher and therapist as well, which creates its own challenges.”

Dr. Sullivan

Now, the Golisano Center for Special Needs is hiring more psychologists and hoping to keep kids on track.

As for parents, Sullivan says it’s crucial you keep your kids socializing, whether it’s online, with other kids, or with you.

“It’s important for parents to be in tune to their child’s unique and specific needs, as well as try to capitalize on what some of their strengths and interests might be,” said Sullivan.

Sullivan says you should take your child to their pediatrician to get screened early and often.

To learn more about Golisano’s services, click here.