JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A monumental step was taken this weekend for families with an autistic child. In Arkansas, a new law now requires insurance companies to provide coverage for screening, diagnosis, and treatment for children with autism. Many believe it will open-doors to therapy options, that before might have been out of reach.
"This is going to effect so many children. Not just Jonesboro, or Northeast Arkansas, but the entire state," said Beth Bryant, who is a mother of an eight-year-old son with autism. He was diagnosed at two years old. While she's been able to provide her son with special treatment, the new law will help take some of the financial weight off her shoulders.
"It's great for families like mine, who have been paying out of pocket for years, but maybe more so for families who haven't had the means to provide this type of therapy for their children until now," said Bryant. Like Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy, or ABA, which can cost up to 25-50 thousand dollar a year. It's a treatment that research has shown can change the lives of a child with autism, and make them almost indistinguishable from their peers.
"It's like going from cancer or diabetes to getting a medication that changes their lives or saves their life," said Dayna Miller-Black, co-owner of SPARC-a therapy center that specializes in autism. Miller-Black has a son with the disorder and has seen the benefits of ABA therapy.
"I was told he might not be able to speak or function in a classroom, and I would probably have to find him a group home because he was already very aggressive as a child. Today, he's in sixth grade, has straight A's. He was elected 6th grade class president last week," said Miller-Black.
Her son even helped to play a part in the new piece of legislature. "He testified to the House of Representatives and to the Senate. Then he testified to the governor about his struggle with autism and how ABA therapy has helped him. He actually got to be there when the governor signed the law in March.," said Miller-Black.
Families will now be able to receive up to 50,000 dollars a year for ABA therapy up to the age of 18, which is huge step for the growing number of families with an autistic child.
"I hope this helps families to look and realize, hey, I don't want the diagnosis, but if it's going to happen lets get it early and hit it head on. Lets get these services for our child, said Miller-Black.
Miller-Black says this isn't a fix for all children will autism, but for individuals that have a group policy. For more information about the law just go to http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/assembly/2011/2011R/Acts/Act196.pdf