Butterfly Effects Initiates Much Needed Support for Gulf Coast Children with Autism

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Fewer than one in five Louisiana children at risk for developmental delays are receiving early intervention services. Butterfly Effects, a national provider of supports for children with autism is now working to change that.

A newly initiated butterfly effect is beginning to impact children with autism in the parishes of New Orleans and surrounding towns. Making profound changes in the way that individuals with disabilities are supported across the country, Butterfly Effects has now arrived on Louisiana’s Gulf Coast. Here, the organization will first concentrate on the needs of children with special challenges, especially those evidencing an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Providing comprehensive family-centric care, Butterfly Effects encourages families to take a proactive approach in treating children as early and intensively as possible. While the early intervention approach dramatically changes outcomes for children with Autism, Louisiana has been unusually derelict in making it happen.

“Historically, the New Orleans area has remained especially underserved,” says Dodie Powers who was recently appointed Gulf Coast Regional Manager and Care Coordinator for Butterfly Effects. Noting the number of setbacks that have besieged the area in recent years and the resilience of the area’s residents, Mrs. Powers explained the role she is planning for her agency. “We are hoping to assure that the New Orleans renaissance is one where people of all abilities have the opportunity to achieve lives of realized potential, inclusion, and continual enrichment.”

Mrs. Powers possesses a unique combination of experience and education that will allow her to take an active role in advocating for children with needs, as well as providing the services to meet those needs. After graduating from Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago, Mrs. Powers served as a defense attorney in juvenile court where she implemented a collaborative care model to help delinquent children with mental health concerns. That work ignited a passion for working with children, which led to her obtaining a Masters in Social Work from Tulane University.

According to Charlotte Fudge, Butterfly Effects founder and CEO, "We are especially excited with bringing aboard an exemplary professional such as Mrs. Powers to concentrate on the New Orleans–Metairie–Kenner metropolitan area. She will do what it takes to change the paradigm of service delivery in an area that has gotten far too accustomed to being shortchanged. We’re going to raise the bar on the quality of support that families come to expect on the Gulf Coast.”

Much of the Butterfly Effects approach is based on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). As a therapeutic intervention for children with Autism, ABA stands alone. It is recognized as the only type of treatment regarded “objectively substantiated as effective” by the Association for Science in Autism Treatment. This opinion has also been voiced by a number of state and national agencies, including the FDA. In addition to being quite effective, ABA-based interventions are an extremely cost effective approach. When administered one-on-one early and intensively, they can help realize savings of 100s of thousands of dollars over the lifetime of an individual with Autism, a fact proven in a number of studies.

Butterfly Effects is a great supporter of early intervention. The earlier that children with Autism, as well as those with other developmental challenges, receive intensive behavioral therapy, the more hopeful the outcome. By any standards, Louisiana lags behind in meeting the needs of its most vulnerable children. Fewer than one in five Louisiana children are properly screened to identify special needs. And while it is estimated that some 26,000 children under the age of three are at risk of developmental delays or disabilities, only 4,500 are currently receiving early intervention services through the use of federal funds allocated to the state. The many military families stationed in Louisiana can take advantage of a new services benefit for children with Autism. Butterfly Effects has played an instrumental role in pioneering the development and delivery of those services as a Department of Defense TRICARE provider.

According to Mrs. Powers, “Children three and under don’t necessarily need a formal diagnosis to receive services if they are evidencing cognitive, behavioral, or speech deficits. Whenever parents say they aren’t sure whether they should call us or not, I tell them to never hesitate. Parents know their children better than anyone and even if they just have a feeling that something isn’t right, they should have it looked into. Or for that matter, if their children are receiving services but not advancing, they should also give us a call. When it comes to children, the window of best opportunity is small; wait and see is never the right approach.”

Parents can put their own butterfly effect into motion by calling (888) 880-9270. More information can be obtained at http://www.butterflyeffects.com.

The Butterfly Effects national network is populated by over 300 professional and paraprofessional providers, including psychologists and educators as well as speech, occupational, physical, and behavioral therapists. Its mission is to deliver high quality evidence-based educational, behavioral, and support services, while seeking to eliminate the fragmentation in delivery that makes it harder for children and adults with serious challenges to receive continuous whole-life supports.

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Alex Levin

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