Butterfly Effects Teams with Camp Lejeune Wife to Eliminate Artificial Barrier to Critical Autism Services for North Carolina's Military Families

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Butterfly Effects announces that on February 27th at 1:00 PM, Donna Anders, a Marine Spouse raising a child with autism, will speak at the City Hall Military Affairs Meeting in Jacksonville NC to rally support for House Bill 487. Butterfly Effects, which provides essential services to the families of children challenged by autism, is supporting Ms. Anders efforts to change a state regulation that limits the practice of behavior therapy, the only proven treatment for autism to licensed psychologists. Only 20 professionals in N.C. are both licensed psychologists and behavioral specialists, which means that many military families transferred to NC, are loathe to discover that their children can no longer access services critical to their development. The regulation also impacts the almost 10,000 North Carolina children challenged by autism. In May, Mrs. Anders will go to Raleigh to help reintroduce the bill to North Carolina legislators.

This spring, the North Carolina General Assembly will consider HB487, a bill that expands the definition of who can provide Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services to children with autism. Presently, only licensed psychologists are permitted. The problem, which appears to be one of language, might seem like a trivial one, were it not so critical to the lives of the 10,000 children diagnosed with autism in North Carolina, and had the legislation not already been delayed a year, a dangerous waste of time considering how critical is is to provide early intervention to children with autism..

This problem is dangerously acute among military families as their TRICARE insurance requires that ABA is delivered by clinicians certified by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). As there are no more than 20 licensed NC psychologists certified by the BACB, an artificial barrier to services is keeping the children of military personnel stationed in North Carolina from receiving the only kind of therapy that will allow them to realize lives of achievement and inclusion.

The BACB standard is becoming the accepted norm across the nation, (10,000 certifications have been issued worldwide), which means that military families raising children with autism in other states know that their children can lose access to essential services they are presently receiving if the family is transferred to North Carolina.

Donna Anders is the wife of a United States Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Together with her husband, who is presently deployed, she is raising three sons, one of whom has autism. Autism can present itself in many ways. With Donna’s son, there are challenges with self-injury, elopement, non-communication, and PICA, an eating disorder typified by the compulsive eating of non-food items. Sometimes those challenges can be as frightening as they are overwhelming.

During one military move, Donna was unpacking boxes when she looked up and noticed her son was gone. She and her neighbors frantically searched for the boy and contacted military police, who after an hour found him naked in a river that was posted as a 'Protected American Alligator Area'.

Raising a child with autism requires various kinds of help no matter what the situation. For Marine families who must move from base to base and deal with constant deployments, that need can be especially acute. Finding a child who runs off is important, but just as important is the kind of help that allows a child with autism the opportunity to enjoy a life of realized potential and inclusion. Mrs. Anders is involved with an effort to make sure that Marine families in North Carolina continue to get that kind of help, but she is going to require an assist from North Carolina voters.

Fortunately for the Anders, their son is eligible to receive support from Butterfly Effects, a national provider serving individuals with autism and other chronic challenges. Over the course of the last few years, the intensive behavioral intervention provided by Butterfly Effects has helped their child successfully adapt to the severe difficulties that once required him to be watched 24/7. Today, he is realizing options for inclusion and enrichment that did not seem remotely possible just a few years ago. (Read about this support at http://butterflyeffects.com/services/for-children-with-autism)

That help has also allowed Donna Anders the breathing space she needs to play her good fortune forward. She is standing up to ask that military families stationed at Camp Lejeune, as well as other bases in North Carolina, be allowed access to the same services that her son receives. To this end, she is rallying support for passage of HB487 by the North Carolina General Assembly.

Passage of this important bill will not cost the voters of North Carolina a single dime, yet it has been passed over, delayed, and tabled now for over a year. If enacted, this bill will simply allow military families more ready access to therapeutic support based on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

As a therapeutic approach for children with autism, ABA stands alone. It is the only type of treatment that is regarded “objectively substantiated as effective” by the Association for Science in Autism Treatment. This opinion is shared by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the U.S. Surgeon General, and the FDA.

The U.S. Department of Defense concurs and now funds ABA interventions for children with autism through its TRICARE military insurance. TRICARE requires that these services be delivered by individuals certified by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, recognized by most states as the official standard-bearer for ABA. To be an approved provider of ABA-based support requires stringent training and testing. A BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) must also hold a relevant masters degree. BCaBAs (assistant analysts) who work with clients under the supervision of BCBA’s are required to hold a bachelors degree.

However, current North Carolina regulation requires that licensed psychologists must be the ones who deliver all ABA-based services. And there’s the rub. …

In recent years, the state law, which supersedes TRICARE regulations, has made it difficult to find qualified psychologists to serve children in the state. According to Charlotte Fudge, Butterfly Effects CEO, “The North Carolina rule disqualifies highly competent and certified ABA specialists who are permitted to practice in other states. This leads to delays and delays are never good, as the younger a child receives services, the more positive the outcome.” (Learn about ABA at http://butterflyeffects.com/company/aba-supports)

Thanks to the diligence of Butterfly Effects, the waiting list for services, which once stretched 25 families long at Camp Lejeune, has been erased for now, but that offers little assurance to those families whose lives are dependent on ABA services.

“ABA therapy has given our son the skills he needs to function and communicate,” says Mrs. Anders. “Knowing that I had a therapist working with my son and seeing that he was making progress enabled our family to make it through my husband’s deployments,” says Mrs. Anders. “ABA saved my child and the well being of my family.” Now she wants to make certain that other families are saved.

On February 27th at 1:00 PM, Donna Anders will speak at the City Hall Military Affairs Meeting in Jacksonville NC on behalf of the legislation. Come May, she joins State Representative Phil Shepard in pushing for the bill before the General Assembly.

Mrs. Anders wants all North Carolina patriots to stand up with her.

She is hoping for good turnouts of support at these meetings and is asking that North Carolina voters contact their legislators by phone or email as a way to support the bill and thank our military families.

To locate addresses and phone numbers for North Carolina legislators, visit http://www.ncleg.net/GIS/representation/Representation.html
Be sure to identify HB487 by number in any written or spoken messages.

ALSO of NOTE for all families raising children with autism: At last count, 29 states now require carriers to provide insurance for autism treatment. North Carolina is not yet one, but it is considering its own insurance reform bill, HB115. Linked with HB478, that bill has met with similar delays and is also scheduled for consideration this spring.

Find out more about TRICARE Autism services for Military families at http://butterflyeffects.com/services/autism-services-for-military-families.

Donna Anders can be reached at donnaanders44(at)gmail(dot)com.


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