Wednesday, March 31, 2010

NYTimes looks at the cost of treating (or not treating) autism

From the NYTimes on January 23, 2010:
“Autism trends, treatments and therapies routinely make headlines. Often overlooked, though, is the financial burden for many families with autistic children.
Treatment is extremely expensive. Direct medical and nonmedical costs can add up to as much as $72,000 a year for someone with an extreme case of the disorder, and even $67,000 a year for those on the lower end of the spectrum, according to a study from the Harvard School of Public Health.” Read the entire article

While the article talks a lot about the high cost of the various therapies used to treat autism, it also briefly mentions a study by the Harvard School of Public Health that looks at the cost of not providing early intervention for a child with autism. The study estimated that it cost $3.2 million to care for a person with autism throughout their lifetime. The early intervention that many people are fighting for, like ABA, could dramatically reduce or even eliminate this cost by allowing the child to catch up with their peers at an early age and begin learning in a regular environment as soon as the 1st grade. While many people argue about the cost of mandated treatment for these children, I think this is a critical point to make sure is understood. An investment now will be only a fraction of what costs down the road could be. Not to mention it will drastically change the child’s entire life.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Times article explores the 2 sides of autism advocates

Nominee to Disability Council Is Lightning Rod for Dispute on Views of Autism

"When President Obama nominated Ari Ne’eman to the National Council on Disability, many families touched by autism took it as a positive sign. Mr. Ne’eman would be the first person with the disorder to serve on the council.

But he has since become the focus of criticism from other advocates who disagree with his view that society ought to concentrate on accepting autistic people, not curing them.

A hold has been placed on Mr. Ne’eman’s nomination, which requires Senate confirmation. Whether the hold is related to the criticism of Mr. Ne’eman and what it might take to lift it is unclear." Continue reading

I do not agree with Mr. Ne'eman's stance on an approach to autism. While it would be a huge step forward for a person with ASD to serve on the council, the harm his opinions could cause to research efforts in the near future are not worth it. I understand Mr. Ne'eman's arguments and agree that there should be more support to help those with high functioning autism to fit into public life, however this is only a small number of those with ASD. His approach would leave behind the children that never develop speaking or other communication skills. It would leave behind those that are firmly stuck in their own world in order for a few to fit more comfortable into ours.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

MO Senate passes their own autism bill

For the March 19 Columbia Tribune:

"JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Missouri senators voted yesterday to require some health insurance plans to cover treatment for autism.

The legislation, approved by a 26-6 vote, would require group insurance policies regulated by the state to provide as much as $55,000 annually for behavioral treatment until age 21.

The “applied behavioral analysis” is an intensive and costly therapy some parents say produces dramatic improvements in their autistic children.

Similar legislation was approved by the House in February and would require coverage of as much as $36,000 annually until age 18. The Senate version of the bill now goes to the House."

The bill referred to is SB 618 sponsored by Senators Rupp and Schmidt. The House and the Senate, each having now passed a bill, will have to decide which one to back. They can then make compromises and changes to hopefully satisfy both sides while not jeopardizing the strength of the bill.

Read a comparable story in March 18th's Missourian.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Interim Committee on Autism Spectrum Disorders

After the wave of support for the autism bill during the 2009 session, an Interim Committee on Autism Spectrum Disorders was created in order to evaluate how the issue effects the citizens of Missouri and what the best solution(s) are to helping those effected by the disorder.

Read the Speaker of House's press release on his decision to create the interim committee.

The committee heard testimony from families, medical specialists and insurance companies on subjects such as the epidemiology of autism, the cost of a mandate, the cost of lack of treatment, ABA, and educational vs. medical treatment. Read the committee's report here.

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)- What is it?

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is the most thoroughly researched autism treatment and is what most states have chosen to pursue as mandate. It has been approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Academy of Science Committee, the Association for Science and Autism Treatment, and other respected organizations.

ABA is a hands on approach to develop an enhanced environment that a child with autism can connect with. The goal is to teach prerequisites that will make it possible for the children to learn on their own in the future. Obviously, the sooner this intervention can occur, the sooner a child with autism may be able to learn on their own and potentially join their peers in the traditional classroom without assistance. Of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder that receive early intervention, 50% are able to perform in a regular classroom without a para-educator by the 1st grade.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Prevalence Report from the CDC

On December 18, 2009, the CDC released a new report estimating that autism affects 1 in 110 children in the U.S. This is an increase from the previous estimation of 1 in 150. There is also an unequal prevalence between genders with autism affecting 1 in 70 males. These new findings have CDC administrators calling autism an "urgent public health concern".

While it is critical that autism be correctly diagnosed as early as possible (ideally by age 2), the average age of diagnosis is 53 months. Late diagnosis and inadequate treatment are likely reasons that the Harvard School of Public Health estimates a $35 billion price tag on caring for those with autism. The cost is more than monetary, with the disorder drastically changing the quality of life of a child and adult with autism.

Reports like this are helping awareness of the problem to be growing rapidly, efforts have stepped up in research, legislation, and support for these children.