MAYFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio - More children are being diagnosed with autism than ever before, but until recently the majority of families in Ohio affected by this disorder had limited and very expensive out-of-pocket options for treatment and therapy.
One such treatment is applied behavior analysis, or ABA, which is now covered by insurance thanks to a state law put in place in 2017.
Liam Collins, 6, was diagnosed with autism at 18 months old. Liam’s mother Dana decided to enroll him in ABA therapy at the Cleveland Clinic, a program that is available to all employees and covered under the system’s insurance policy.
“He wasn't talking at all,” Collins said. ”He had a lot of aggression, and you know he was still very sweet, but he was still very angry because he couldn't communicate with us."
ABA uses positive reinforcement to instill certain responses in behavior that are applied to learning, social situations and everyday life.
Kelli DiCillo will soon be opening a center for ABA services in Mayfield Heights. As part of the ABA model, the center will have licensed therapists to create a plan for children diagnosed with autism.
“Your children can come in as early as two years old and we can start working with them on cognitive abilities, fine motor skills, and it's for any child on the spectrum,” said DiCillo.
After spending nearly two years in ABA therapy, Liam is now mainstreamed in the Shaker Heights Public School system and is testing higher academically than most children his age.
“Honestly I don't know that I would try anything else other than ABA now knowing what I know and seeing the results we have from the therapy,” Collins said.
Under Ohio law, some insurance carriers will cover up to 20 hours of ABA therapy. Autism support groups in the state hope it gets bumped up to 40 hours in the near future as it is in nearby states like Indiana.