Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Info on Pilot Programs for Autism Services

We are happy to pass on some information we recently received about the three programs that were created through HB272: the medicaid autism waiver, autism treatment account, and PEHP pilot.  We applaud the committees and organizations as they work within the confines of this limited law to serve as many children as possible.
"Hey everyone,

I've been attending/participating on several autism committees as a result of recent legislation.  Even though we are spending lots of time on this, we have SO much red tape to wade through and we have to follow the law...darn it, so the Autism Treatment Fund and the Autism Medicaid Waiver will probably not be available until later this summer.  You can follow the three autism programs on the following websites:
http://health.utah.gov/autismwaiver/ - Autism Medicaid Waiver
https://www1.pehp.org/ - This is the insurance for State employees only.  Go to this website, go to "mypehp" and login with your employee login to get info.

There isn't a lot of info yet, but these websites are where it will be posted!! 
Cheryl C.Smith"

Friday, May 18, 2012

5 reasons your child should be friends with someone who has special needs

This blogpost by Jo Ashline, on The Mom Blog, is one the my favorite posts I have read is a while. I feel lucky that my kids have lots of opportunities to interact with people who have special needs. I have had some parents tell me that they intentionally avoid play dates or classroom settings with children with autism because they don't want their kids to "learn autistic behaviors". While I recognize this is simply reflective of a lack of education on autism (you cannot learn, teach or fake autism), I feel sorry for their children who miss out on some fabulous opportunities that would come from interacting with children that have special needs. Check out what Jo Ashline has to say about this and then take a look at my personal experience in this arena.


5 reasons your child should be friends with someone who has special needs

Being a part of the "autism family" in Utah, my kids have had the opportunity to have play dates with kids with varying disabilities.The night before "Light it Up Blue" for Autism Awareness my 3 sons and I spent the evening with my friend Katrena and her son Michael, who has non-verbal autism. Michael showed off his service dog and gave my boys a tour of his room. They crashed trucks together and played with toys. They shared some snacks and played with each other brilliantly while the momma's chatted. Most of that play date you wouldn't be able to tell which kids had disability and which did not.

When we left that night (after my boys begged to stay longer) I expected them to ask about Michael's wheelchair or his service dog or his lack of words. I was prepared to give them a great teaching moment about how everyone is different and it's so important to include them. The teaching moment came, but I was the student. As we backed out of the driveway with Michael waving good-bye to us, my 5 year old Mason said, "I like him. We should play with him again." My boys talked about how awesome Michael was all the way home. Not one thing about his disability was even mentioned - because it didn't even cross their minds. It just simply didn't matter to them or even occur to them as something warranting discussion. Instead, they talked about all the cool things about their new friend and asked when they could play with him next.

My idea of teaching them to accept children with disabilities was based on the faulty assumption that they would naturally shy away from someone with some noticeable challenges different from theirs. I learned that a more realistic assumption is that young children naturally accept and embrace diversity until the world teaches them to do otherwise.

When children are given opportunities to make friends with children with special needs, the process of the world teaching them that "different is bad" and "conformity is necessary" is stifled and their natural childlike acceptance of others becomes a part of the fabric of their souls.

Conner (3), Jaden (5), Mason (5), Michael (9) having a fun time on their play date.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Westminster College’s fifth annual - Family Fun Day 2012

Westminster College’s fifth annual
Family Fun Day 2012

Date:          Saturday, May 26, 2012

Time:          2-4 pm

Place:          Westminster College, 1840 S 1300 E — Richer Commons (in case of inclement weather, the event will be held in the hallways of the Malouf building)

Event:  We are hosting our 5th annual family fun day for children with autism and their families—yes, siblings too!  Westminster students taking a class about autism will provide around 20 various activity stations, including a sensory station, finger painting, bubbles, and more.  Due to overwhelming interest on campus, there are two sections of the course running this year!  Special guest activity includes adults with autism who will provide face painting.  Healthy refreshments will be provided!

Cost: FREE!!

Contact:      To RSVP, or if you have any questions, please call Shamby Polychronis at
(801) 832–2489.

We look forward to seeing you!!         

This year’s sponsors include:

Friday, May 11, 2012

KUTV: Take Two - Autism

Rod Decker speaks with Dr. Judith Pinborough Zimmerman, Lead Researcher 
for the Utah Autism Registry, and Mirella Petersen, President of the 
Utah Autism Coalition, about increasing awareness of Autism.

Click HERE to view the full interview.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

SL Trib - Utah autism treatment pilot struggles for funding

We wanted to share this article.  The original piece can be found here.

Utah autism treatment pilot struggles for funding

By Julia Lyon | The Salt Lake Tribune

Despite assurances during the Legislative session that major insurance companies and a bank would donate $1 million toward a new autism treatment pilot, the state has not yet received any money.

That could halve one part of the program, set to begin this summer, at a time when a study of a small area in Utah indicated the state could have the highest autism rate in the nation.

"As of right now there is no money," said Marc Babitz, director of the Division of Family Health and Preparedness at the Utah Department of Health. "I am not aware of one private donation."

But Rep. Ronda Menlove, R-Garland, who sponsored the bill to create the pilot, says there is "no question" that money is on its way.

"We’ve been working with the entities this past week working out the details," she said.

Expected donor Zions Bank did not immediately comment. Intermountain Healthcare says it plans to provide financial support although the details are still being finalized.

The two-year pilot program is expected to pay for therapy for about 350 children between the ages of 2 and 6, through a combination of Medicaid, state and private dollars.

Three groups of children will be served, including up to 50 covered by the Public Employees’ Benefit and Insurance Program; at least 200 kids covered by Medicaid, supported by $4.5 million in Medicaid dollars; and up to 100 from the autism fund, paid in part with private dollars. Those children may be on private insurance or be uninsured.

Babitz said he remained hopeful the private money would still materialize; $1 million in state dollars will become available in July.

"I know how people have to budget their funds," he said. "If someone is going to donate $100,000 or a million it’s not just sitting around in a bank account."

Whether the private dollars appear or not, the pilot program will only be able to serve a small fraction of the number of Utah children with autism, which some estimate to be as high as 5,000. Children served by the autism fund will be selected in a randomized process, not necessarily based on the severity of their diagnosis.

The earliest the treatment program will start is August, due to the bureaucratic steps that remain, such as a public comment period.

"We know the tremendous need," Babitz said. "It’s better to take one step forward than do nothing."

But for one advocate of families with autistic children, the fact that the dollars have yet to show up is not a surprise.

"I’m not shocked," said Mirella Petersen, president of the Utah Autism Coalition. "Because historically in every single state [insurers] have not done that until they have been required to do something."

From New Jersey to New Mexico, a growing number of states are requiring health insurance to cover treatment for autism, the cost of which can run in the tens of thousands per year.

"The fund itself is an ineffective medium," she said, explaining that families would like to be able to access treatment directly. "Even more money wouldn’t help that much if we don’t expand the age range to cover the bulk of the children that need help."

This is how we feel about this whole fiasco.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What To Say To An Autism Parent

Ever wonder what you should say to a person who has a child with autism? Ever wonder what you could do to help them? Or suddenly you have a family member with a child with autism - now what? With the rate of autism being higher than its ever been, chances are you will come in contact with someone affected by autism in one form or another. Our VP Christine put together this great list of things you could say to help. Read it, pass it along, and maybe you'll find something that might be helpful to you or a loved one.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Attention Ogden, Price, St. George, and Provo autism families

Attention Ogden, Price, St. George, and Provo autism families.  There are four upcoming meetings to make you aware of. They all pertain to the new medicaid autism waiver. Please review the locations of these meetings and attend the one nearest to you.

General Information:

What will be discussed? The development of the Medicaid Autism Services for Children Waiver. Medicaid staff will review frequently asked questions such as "Who is eligible?" "How will open enrollment work?" and "When will open enrollment happen?"

Who should attend? Parents, families and other interested stakeholders.

Is there a number to call if I have questions about the meeting? 801-538-6955

Meeting Dates and Locations:

Thursday, May 10, 2012 from 2:00 P.M. - 4:00 P.M.Weber Human Services Building
Auditorium (3rd Floor)
237 26th Street
Ogden, Utah

Thursday, May 17, 2012 from 1:00 P.M. - 3:00 P.M.
South Eastern Utah Association of Governments
375 South Carbon Avenue
Price, Utah

Thursday, May 24, 2012 from 4:00 P.M. - 6:00 P.M.
Five County Association of Governments
1070 West 1600 South, Bldg. B.
St. George, Utah

Wednesday, June 6, 2012 from 2 P.M. - 4:00 P.M.
Provo City
Council Chambers
351 West Center Street
Provo, Utah

Hope to see you there!