Children First: Autism therapy helps change lives - KOTA Territory News

Children First: Autism therapy helps change lives, House committee agrees

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Thursday morning South Dakota lawmakers on the House Health and Human Services Committee voted to support House Bill 1257, which would provide insurance coverage for certain Autism therapies.  One of those therapies is called Applied Behavior Analysis or ABA.

Many parents of children with Autism say ABA therapy has changed their lives, and most importantly their children's lives, for the better.

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Two and a half year-old Oliver Fromm is Autistic, and while he thinks he is just playing toys, he's actually getting therapy.  "He is one of our very early children that we serve and so we're working on skills like imitation," ABA therapist Alison Hulshof said. "His job is to watch what we do and then produce that same action," She continued.

Hulshof is the director and owner of Behavior Care Specialists, a company that uses ABA to help Autistic children live more normal lives.  "Kids with Autism aren't great at observing their environment and learning those skills, so we teach them in a very distraction free environment," Hulshof said.

The therapy is working for Oliver.  In fact, while mealtime used to be a constant battle for the Fromm family, after a couple of months of ABA therapy, It's almost a non-issue.  "We teach them very systematically, so as we learn one step we build on it and that leads to the next step," Hulshof said.

Hulshof says depending on the severity of the Autism, some kids are able to start school without needing any special education services.  ABA is most effective in the early years of a child's life, however older children can benefit too.  "We have had a lot of clients start between five and nine, or even older because ABA has truly shown results whether it's started at two or started at nine," Hulshof said.

ABA therapy requires a big commitment.  Many kids participate in therapy 40 hours per week. One drawback is that it is very expensive, around $80,000 per year, unless of course insurance companies cover it.  

House Bill 1257, which would offset that cost, still has to pass through the full  House and the Senate.

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