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Saturday 18 Nov 2017

Getting Organized: Keys to Accessing Services


If you’re a parent of a child newly diagnosed with autism, you’ve likely already heard/read that you need to get your child early intervention services. This is a multifaceted, often complex and confusing process; so we’re going to attempt to break it down for you to help you get organized quickly and get you and your child on the road to success.

State Services
Many states fund services for individuals with disabilities through the Department of Human Services (many times there is a division for developmental delays). These state services may include habilitation (one-on-one intervention), respite (child care), speech and occupational therapy. It is important to contact your state’s department as soon as possible because there may be a lot of paperwork to complete, assessments to undergo, and possibly a waiting list for services. If you’re having difficulty locating the specific department which provides these services, there should be a general number to call on your state department’s website.

Early Intervention Services
For all children ages 0-3, there are services available through the federal mandate Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA – Part C). Click here for a list of the lead agencies in each state which administer services under this law. Each child/family will get an assessment and have an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) written which details goals and services which will be provided up to age 3.

School Based Services
For all children/individuals ages 3-21, there are services available through the federal mandate Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA – Part B). Many times, if you’re already participating in services through Part C (early intervention) your coordinator will assist you in the transition process once your child turns three. If your child is already 3 and not currently receiving services, you’ll have to call the special education department at your local school district office to initiate the process. Your child will be evaluated, eligibility will be determined, and an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) will be written detailing the goals and services your child will be provided.

Insurance Based Services
Your state may be one of the 29 states which currently mandate insurance companies to cover autism treatment (including applied behavior analysis – ABA – the only scientifically proven treatment for autism). Check out this website for information on your state’s law. The coverage of autism services has been a revolution in the treatment of individuals because it has opened the doors to high quality treatment by certified professionals (i.e. behavior analysts) which is many times not received due to the cost. There are a few things to be aware of though. Even if your state mandates insurance companies to cover autism services, this does not apply to all insurance plans. If you work for a large company which has a self-funded plan, the plan may not cover services. If you’re unsure you can contact your HR department or a plan representative and they should be able to tell you what is covered. If your company’s insurance does not currently cover autism services, I encourage you to work with you HR department to get these services added to the plan because they can opt-in. Check out this site for more information.

These are the four main routes to getting services for your child with autism. Ideally, you’ll want to make sure that your child is getting services from a behavior analyst (BCBA), a speech therapist (SLP) and an occupational therapist (OT). I’ll post an article later this month about assembling your “home team” so stay tuned for that! If you have state-specific questions, or information to share with the community, please post it below!

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