Parents Say More Financial Assistance Needed for Autism - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Parents Say More Financial Assistance Needed for Autism Treatment

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MISSOULA -

April is Autism Awareness Month, and national studies show the number of kids diagnosed with the disorder continues to rise.

In fact, current studies show one out of every 68 children is diagnosed with autism in the U.S.

Experts said they've made improvements in the types of care offered for kids with autism.

The disorder is even covered by most people's insurance, but parents tell me many families still need more help paying for treatment.

Courtney Wahlberg said her 9-year-old son Reese was diagnosed with autism when he was three.

"When we got the diagnosis, we didn't have any resources, we didn't know anything about autism, we'd never heard of it," Wahlberg said.

Wahlberg said it was a big struggle to find good care for Reese six years ago, but over the years, it's become much easier as autism has gained awareness.

"I'm glad that they were able to get the help that we needed."

Reese received much of that help at the Child Development Center in Missoula.

"You start with the family and what is it that they're looking for, you know, how can we help their child maximize his or her potential," said Lynn Solomon, the communications specialist at the CDC.

Solomon said treatment varies from child to child, but it can include one-on-one coaching for speech, learning and even job training.

"You know, have sort of social activities, maybe do things downtown."

Wahlberg said Reese's behavior has changed dramatically with treatment at the CDC.

"It was as if he was like, in a bubble, didn't even know that anyone around him existed."

Reese has learned to make eye contact with people when they talk to him and other important social skills.

"Because eye contact is a big thing in the autism world," Wahlberg explained.

Wahlberg said Reese's care also includes an aid who accompanies him to school every day, which costs $3-4,000 per month. She says under Brandon's Law, her insurance covered up to $50,000 for Reese's care, and decreased to $20,000 when he turned 9.

Wahlberg said more needs to be done at the state and federal level to give financial assistance to families battling autism.

"It's going to end up costing the state more because the parents are no longer going to be financially responsible for these adults and now the state will have that burden," she said.

Over the years, Wahlberg said she's also learned the importance of early intervention.

"I think that the older that they get, the harder it is to break through that barrier."

Solomon agrees, and said it's important to let people know that treatment for autism is often covered by health insurance.

"Life changing, that's the word we keep coming back to, they're really important services for these kids," Solomon said.

To learn more about autism treatment in Montana, click here.

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