Dianna Varady, president of Helping Educate about Autism Recovery, said she and
other parents with autistic children are working to educate Arkansas legislators about
the need to mandate private insurance coverage for autism spectrum disorders and to
get additional therapies covered by Medicaid.
"Right now autism is considered a mental illness and isn't covered by most insurance
policies," Varady said. "Nothing, not even a doctor's visit, is covered if it's considered
The group is also working to get Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy paid for by Tefra, a
provision of the Tax Equity Responsibility Act of 1982, which allows states to extend
Medicaid coverage program for children with developmental disabilities. For more
information, go to the Web site:
Varady said what's being done for children with autism is "just not enough."
Varady said the state has not been tracking how many children are diagnosed with
autism each year. All that is available are numbers from the U.S. Department of
Education through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004.
Any child that receives therapies or services through the public school system would be
tracked in Arkansas through IDEA, she said. But this excludes children not receiving
"According to IDEA in 2003 there were 1,114 children with autism in Arkansas between
the ages of 3 and 21," she said.
In promoting ABA therapy, Varady said the group hopes "the state will see that in
providing early intensive therapies for children, they can improve outcome for the kids
and improve their chances of being able to go on to a regular school," she said.
Studies show that 50 percent of children who receive one-on-one ABA therapy 30 hours
a week "go onto mainstream, without any further assistance," Varady said.
The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences has the only Little Rock clinic that
offers ABA therapy and the waiting list is nine months to a year, she said. And since
insurance does not cover ABA therapy, only families that can pay out of pocket have
access to it.
Varady and her husband, Steve, have a three-year-old son who has mild to moderate
autism. The couple has Tefra coverage for their son's six hours of speech and
occupational therapies each week and hopes to add ABA therapy to his regimen.