How much do you know about it? Would it surprise you to know that almost 1% of children today are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD)? Even more go undiagnosed. This is a significant segment of the population. Chances are good that you know someone on the spectrum, or that you know someone who does. Causes are unknown, but research is making significant progress in treatment and management of ASD. Not only that, but research has also shown that early diagnosis and treatment can be phenomenally successful in helping to mitigate the associated traits of ASD.
We were shocked this morning when we learned that health insurance companies are not required to cover treatments for ASD or developmentally delayed/disabled children. An entire class of people is left out. Where federal law mandates insurance coverage for any number of maladies, ASD has not made the cut. And a disorder that is quite treatable, at least manageable, is left out.
We have some very dear friends with a child who is on the autism spectrum. The child is four years old, and owing to ASD, is somewhat developmentally delayed. Thanks to therapy, in the last 18 months the child is now capable of some limited speech, interacts with others more, throws fewer and briefer temper tantrums, and will even come to me (something that simply did not happen even eight months ago), among many other things. Therapy has been helping this child adjust and develop. But now, thanks to a company-wide insurance plan change, no plans are being offered to employees which cover such therapy. (Had the child been speaking and lost the ability to do so as the result of an accident it would be a different story.) The options for this family are a) find other employment with a more comprehensive health plan and pray that it doesn’t get changed on them; b) pay for the therapy out of pocket, which will financially wreck the family; or c) work for a change in federal law so that treatment for such children is covered.
Autism and ASD are not creepy. I’ve seen the way that parents pull their children away when the ASD child is around (once they learn that it is an ASD). They’re afraid because they just don’t get it. But children on the autism spectrum have a good chance of managing the symptoms through various treatments. They can grow and become quite socialized. When treatment has such a high possibility of success, it is a travesty not to include them in health insurance coverage.
We can do better. I ask you to please contact your senators and representatives. Ask them to hold the insurance companies to account. Demand that these children be given access to the therapy that they need to help them grow and develop and manage their autistic traits.