Jennifer Sheridan, or "Mom to Charlie," is our grassroots advocacy chair for Tennessee and helping to lead the fight in the Legislature for insurance coverage for medically necessary autism treatments. She explains why she is working so hard to bring help to families, even though her own family would not benefit.
My little boy is 9 years old and has moderate to severe autism, major expressive and receptive language and speech delays, and lots of other issues. We actually homeschooled Charlie for the first four years for a few reasons. He was unable to learn in any kind of group setting. He was unable to just sit down in one place for any length of time. Unable to tolerate being spoken to by children or adults without getting up and running around, couldn't form basic give/take relationships with people because he never gave anyone a chance, he just wasn't interested for a long time.
ABA therapy changed that for Charlie.
We started when he was two years old, at the time the most important thing to me was to get him to tolerate having his temperature taken with an ear thermometer. ABA therapy taught him to not just tolerate the world, but to accept so much more of it and to want to become a part of it (on his terms of course!)
Autism is a neurological disorder, a medical condition, and a spectrum. For some of our children therapies like ABA, speech, OT, and other medical treatments are crucial to their ability to function.
Many people outside our Community do not know this, and have no idea what our families go through to try to provide therapies and that so many of us do not have health insurance that covers these treatments. These therapies help our children become more productive, more self sufficient, more independent. These therapies can give so many of our kids their best shot to grow up to be taxpayers.
This is what our Autism Insurance Reform bill is about. Giving more of our kids their best chance to be successful in their own ways.
My family has gone so far in debt paying for these treatments out of pocket we may never get out, but that's what we felt we had to do to provide Charlie the therapies he needed. He goes to traditional public school now, third grade, and he is happy and able to learn. He's happy! And learning!
In his case he is off to this great start because of dedicated ABA therapists who worked hard with us and showed him respect and love and taught him how to learn from an early age. Autism is a medical issue. Charlie received his diagnosis from a doctor, not a teacher, and is entitled to have access to health coverage for the medical therapies he needs.
We can no longer afford to provide therapy for him, we are all tapped out, but we gave him a good foundation, the best we could. I fear that there are so many parents right now in Tennessee who are unable to provide the therapy their children need, are unable to give their kids their best chance at independence and success. I fear they are giving up hope, and that when their money runs out there won't be any more therapy. That is crushing to our families and to our Community. We need to pass Autism Insurance Reform in Tennessee.
Our bill won't help everybody -- my family included, as our insurance plan is regulated by the Federal government -- but it's a start and it's something we can do if we pull together and fight for it. It is NOT okay for our state to continue to support the discrimination our families face from the insurance companies. It is not okay.
Thirty-four other states have already passed laws like these, their children have access to insurance coverage for these treatments and they have better chances than our own. This is not okay. This is not right. Please do what you can to help pass our bill in Tennessee. Our kids and our friends and our families deserve this and so much more. We aren't asking for something for free, we are asking to be treated fairly.
Please answer the Calls to Action and help get this bill passed in 2014.