Story, Patient

Cashton: Advocating for Better Mental Health Care Access for All Children

November 14, 2022

“At birth, we felt like something was different with Cashton,” said Christy, Cashton’s mom.

Cashton and his parents, Christy and Chad
Christy, Chad and Cash

The little boy, nicknamed, Cash, didn’t cry as a newborn. Instead, he would look around, wide-eyed. Christy and Chad, Cash’s dad, felt their concerns about his behavior and development often went unheard by health care providers. Finding the right resources and services for their son was extremely challenging.

Eventually, when Cash was 3, he was diagnosed at Children’s Hospital Colorado with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which helped explain the many perplexing symptoms he had been exhibiting since birth. Once at the Children’s Colorado Special Care Clinic, which provides primary care for children with complex medical conditions, Cash’s expert team crafted a comprehensive care plan for young boy, who was also diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), sensory processing disorder, anxiety and dyslexia. Due to Cash’s multifaceted mental health conditions, he requires psychologists who specialize in treating children with ASD, along with outpatient and in-home therapies and in-school instruction, all of which need to be integrated and coordinated to ensure the best outcomes for him.

Because his ASD was identified when he was a toddler, Cash received early interventions that have helped him thrive for many years in public school and learn skills he might not otherwise have acquired. Christy and Chad share their experiences and insights to help make other families’ journeys with ASD smoother, since navigating the myriad supports and assistance that kids with ASD need to succeed can be confusing and overwhelming.

“Children’s Colorado helped us create a clear road map for Cashton, and it really gave us tools to manage his symptoms and help him grow,” said Chad. “A lot of people don’t get a diagnosis or the help they need until their child is 8 or 10 years old. I don’t know where we would be with the Pediatric Mental Health Institute and Children’s Colorado.”

Despite the challenges of their mental health journey with Cash, Chad and Christy feel lucky and privileged to have the network, connections, resources, and ability to access the care their son needs. Even with the advantages they possess, Chad and Christy say that getting the right services for Cash is a large financial burden, and navigating his care is difficult for them even though they don’t face the additional barriers of racial- and income-based health disparities, speaking another language, or other challenges that many families encounter when trying to find mental health care for their kids.

“The access to those early evaluations is critical and crucial. It’s a game changer for families.”

Cash’s mother