Colin’s new school is an Applied Behavior Analysis center (ABA). ABA is most often used for kids with autism, but a lot of the behaviors of kids with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) can be similar to the behaviors of kids with autism. That’s why our doctor recommended this type of therapy for him.
However, along with his FAS diagnosis, Colin has a secondary pervasive developmental delay (PDD) diagnosis, and PDD is on the autism spectrum. This does not necessarily mean that he will have an “full” autism diagnosis later (though it is possible), but it does mean that we can get this kind of therapy covered by insurance. The PDD diagnosis was key to getting Colin help. Our state has a mandate that requires insurance companies to cover treatment for autism.
Not all states have these kind of mandates. I really didn’t realize we were so lucky to be in a state that does. I didn’t realize that only 23 states do. Apparently, the mandate was only passed in our state seven years ago, so parents of children with autism (or FAS) were basically out of luck before that.
There is a website called Support for Special Needs that I started following recently. I follow their blog through my feedreader, but they also have a Facebook page. One of the articles they posted I found really interesting was called “Moving Out of State to Get Autism Treatment.” (The full article is available from CNN.) The story is about a family who has to leave the home they love to move to another state where their autistic son can get the ABA treatment he needs. And since ABA is most effective when it is started at an early age, they have to move in a hurry. How sad and screwed up is our system!?
The article presented some statistics about the use of ABA therapy, and I am feeling very grateful that we live in a state where this type of treatment is available to Colin. Again, Colin does not have a “full” autism diagnosis, but the therapy has also been shown to help kids with FAS.
ABA is typically administered one on one, in a program that is customized to the individual. It involves breaking down learning tasks into small steps, and teaching them over and over in a reinforcing way until they are mastered.
It is the best-researched and most effective current treatment for autism, experts say.
Research suggests any child with autism, regardless of severity, has an equal chance at “best outcome” if the child completes an ABA program (average is three years to completion) that starts before the age of 3 1/2, says Kristi Oldham, program director for the Lovaas Institute Midwest Headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which provides early intervention services for kids with autism.
Sixty-seven percent of such children can expect a “best outcome,” which Lovaas defines as a child who is mainstreamed in a classroom without additional support, has no diagnoses on the autism spectrum and has a typical IQ, Oldham says.