Starting January 1, 2013 Alaska becomes the 31st state to have a law requiring most private insurance companies to cover the diagnosis, testing and treatment of autism spectrum disorders for children and young adults up to the age of 21.
Channel 2 spoke with a family that said their son benefited from treatment of autism through a program called Early Intervention Training, something that will now be covered by some Alaska insurance companies.
“We went out for lunch yesterday, all the kids, I mean Jake and everybody included, and if we had never done the intervention thing then it would've been difficult to control in a restaurant situation," said Jake's father Bill Blanas.
Bill Blanas has a 20-year-old son named Jake who is autistic. When Jake was diagnosed he was entered in a research program for early intervention training.
"It improves the quality of life for the whole family," said Blanas.
Early Intervention Training is just one thing many private insurance companies in Alaska will now be required to cover. During the program a child is taught how to learn, since for many it does not come naturally. Jake's parents said during his training he was taught cognitive learning skills and how to communicate.
“He can't verbally tell us he has headaches but he'll start pressing on his head and getting upset and when he does that more than three times I start to give him his meds,” said Jake's sister, Elizabeth, who often helps take care of Jake.
“Through that intervention service he learned those life skills, but also as parents we were taught to work with him so I’ve used those skills forever,” said Jake's mother Annette.
Only 30 other states have similar legislation, which is why Democratic House Representative Pete Petersen was a strong supporter of the bill here in Alaska.
“We have a shortage of specialists here to treat autistic children and one thing that's happened in other states after they've passed legislation like this is more professionals opened up business and they were able to get more treatment for specialists with children in those states,” said Petersen.
Petersen said not all companies will provide coverage for Early Intervention Training. Medicaid is one insurance provider that will not.
Contact Mallory Peebles