Iowa Puts $5 Million into Autism Program

Des Moines, IOWA – $5million dollars has finally been approved to fund a program for children with autism. The program, called Applied Behavior Analysis, (ABA) has been endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. surgeon general to help children with autism improve social skills.

The money had been approved by legislature in 2013 has been available since April. It has helped five families enroll into the program thus far with more families to come.

This is welcome news to the state seeing as the cost of participating in ABA could be  between 30-36,000 dollars. Most insurance plans deny coverage for the therapy while Medicaid only covers disadvantaged families in need. Republican Rep. Dave Heaton, who orchestrated the proposal, said what helped get it passed was thinking of future costs. Heaton says,

“If these kids don’t move toward living somewhat normal lives, when they become adults, they’ll be under state care for the rest of their lives, and that’s very, very, expensive. The money plans to help those in the middle class who might not be able to afford such therapies. 

One family is the Treess and their son Sidney. Diagnosed with autism at a very young age, Sidney has always had trouble interacting with others. At the age of 4 his speech was hard to understand, something that frustrated him dearly. His mother, Stacy Trees, said he would would pitch fits that lasted hours. Trees told USA Today,

“He would push and hit and scream. He was a great screamer.”

But she knows that ABA can help him. He has had 2 1/2 hour sessions every weekday for the past three months and will continue the program for two years. She hopes the program’s constant praise of his building social skills will motivate him to use them more often. As with most children with autism, daily practice can preserve the valuable skills they learn. She added,

“You see that little light, and you know it’s in there. But unless someone feeds it oxygen, that little flame will go out.” 

The full article by Tony Leys can be read on USAToday here.

Contributed by Audrey L. Hollingshead