Autism, as it is generally known, is a Spectrum of Disorders that are exploding in prevalence, and can generally be termed as social interactions disorders, because the neurological disorder affects how an individual processes such interactions.
With early identification, and rigorous application of rapidly developing treatments, children on the Autism Spectrum now have considerable opportunity to develop social skills and become confident, productive, interactive individuals. Unfortunately, widespread failure of medical insurance companies to pay for such treatments often prevents families from access to those medically necessary treatments.
Oregon, with the second highest incidence of Autism in the United States, is also one of only 22 states without state mandated coverage.
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are Social Interactions Disorders that, according to data published in 2009 by the Data Accountability Center (DAC), directly affects 1 in every 100 school age children in Oregon.
- Affected for a Lifetime – The numbers underscore the urgent need to immediately support efforts to fund and Autism Spectrum research and advocacy. Why? Because elements of Autism Spectrum Disorders may last a person’s entire lifetime, and very few statistics speak to the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders in adults. That’s right, so little is known about the Autism Spectrum that there are no clear numbers showing how many people are actually on the Autism Spectrum.
- Early Diagnosis & Treatment – Worse still, without early diagnosis, many children will reach school age having missed out on many of the best opportunities for treatment. Drawing on misguided fears, administrators in private schools often deny enrollment for children, leaving only expensive legal action or public schools as options While public school teachers are, arguably better trained, ever increasing class sizes impede the opportunity for the kind of one on one time Autism Spectrum children require to thrive.
- Insurance – Even after diagnosis, current Insurance Coverage in the State of Oregon falls woefully short of even the basic treatment needed, often covering fewer than 60 visits per year (or, for one Oregon Insurance company, 30 visits in a lifetime). For perspective, 60 visits is just enough for one therapy visit every week from either a Speech Therapist, or an Occupational Therapist. That despite a 2001 report by the National Research Council on the education of children with Autism that included the following recommendations :
- Intervention programs as soon as an autism spectrum disorder is seriously considered.
- Active engagement in intensive instructional programming– a minimum of a full school day, at least 5 days (25 hours)/week, full year.
- Repeated teaching organized around short intervals with one to-one and very small group instructions.
- Inclusion of a family component.
- Mechanisms for ongoing evaluation of program and children’s progress, with adjustments made accordingly.
- Compounding the problem, many insurance plans stop covering treatment after the age of 5. Yep, insurance companies deliberately leave already overburdened schools to pay for the ongoing treatments for children on the spectrum once kids reach school age, further ignoring current medical science and medical advice.
Autism Spectrum Disorders are very real, and they are very treatable. High functioning adults have enormous capacities for out of the box thinking, and emerging technologies for alternative and augmentative communication are helping to unlock the talent and potential in this amazing, unique, group.
What is needed now is money for research to improve early identification and lifelong treatment, awareness of the unique nature of autistic children and adults, and better access to opportunities starting in early childhood education and reaching beyond the schools into employment, and the community at large. Finally, considerable resources are needed to aid in determining what keeps some autistic individuals locked in for their entire lives, unable to develop significant expressive language; a serious impairment that actively prevents access to a normal life.
ECLAT Technologically is proud to be a part of the search for solutions, and we invite you to join us on the journey.