WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Theresa and Jeremy Jaeckel are a unique family of six. Three of their four children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

“When they say it takes a village, it really does take a village,” says Theresa. She has her hands full each day caring for her children.

“I can’t work outside the home. The three younger ones have therapy six days a week. They have doctors’ appointments, and the therapists and therapies that they have to go to are anywhere from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.,” Theresa explains.

When their second daughter Piper was young, Theresa knew something was off.

“I was getting emails, phone calls, everything from her preschool teachers saying she was having speech problems,” said Theresa.

She also noticed Piper would walk on her tippy toes and bang her head with her fists. Piper also had early celiac disease; a common theme for children with autism is more than one physical or mental health condition.

Theresa wasn’t able to get Piper’s official diagnosis until she was 5 years old, due to teachers insinuating Piper would grow out of her learning issues, then, the lengthy waitlist to be seen by a psychologist in Wichita. Insurance requires the child to have an official diagnosis before they can begin Applied Behavioral Therapy.

“It’s frustrating for any parent that is facing the waitlists that come with ABA therapy and the initial waitlist that comes with getting a diagnosis for your child,” said Brooke Loreg, Assistant Director of Business Office Compliance at Little Starts Therapy Services. “In Wichita, we have several physicians that do diagnose, but their waitlists are extremely long because they don’t just diagnose ASD. And we also have several physicians that are looking to reduce their caseloads because retirement is on the horizon.”

“It took a six-month waiting list to get [Aspen] in, which is why she wasn’t diagnosed until she was three. We knew before she was two that there was a problem,” said Theresa.

She says she wishes all of her kids could have been diagnosed sooner.

“No one should shy away from helping a child that is older. Early intervention is recommended because the skill deficit that a child has when they are younger is much smaller and closer to their peers,” explained Loreg.

Even after the diagnosis, Theresa says parents of children with autism still struggle to find resources.

“Most of the resources I hear about are from word-of-mouth from other parents, but if you don’t know other parents with kids with autism, you never hear about these resources,” said Theresa.

Additionally, the costs of medical care for Theresa’s three children are very difficult to manage. She says a lot of their expenses are not covered by insurance.

“This is a lifelong disability. So planning for life and planning for the future doesn’t end after college,” explains Theresa, “It can be lifelong expenses families have to plan for.”

Theresa encourages parents to get on wait lists as soon as they can. She also says to ask children’s therapists about classes and available resources.

“Talk to your friends about the stress and worries, or make new friends. And don’t be afraid to, because there’s so many of us around who know what you are going through!” said Theresa.