LINCOLN, Neb-- For many parents, the biggest fight they hope to ever have to put up for their child is to help them with a tough class or even bully on the playground, yet for the families of one in 68 kids, an autism diagnosis makes those type of fights dreams.
Parents of children with autism fight daily to provide their child as normal as a life as possible. Yet, with varying battles regarding medical coverage and resources for both parents and children, the battle is at time difficult.
When Cathy Martinez, a mother to a son with autism, received a letter she couldn't believe what was enclosed. Stating that she almost cried when she saw it.
The letter from Nebraska's Department of Health and Human Services marked the culmination of a decade-long battle to get Medicaid to cover Applied Behavioral Analysis Training (ABA). The fight began prior to her son, Jacob, being diagnosed with autism.
"When my son was firs diagnosed in 2005, people were working on this and I was so hopeful it would pass," said Martinez. So Martinez joined the push for coverage.
"We continued to fight because there's thousands of kids up and coming, and I didn't want to see their parents decide if they could afford therapy for their kids."
Martinez adds upset parents are a powerful force. After years of work, she's the president of the Autism Family Network.
"I always say I'm just one person, but I can still make a change and make it improve. Even though I can't stop my child from having Autism, I can improve his life and the other kids who have Autism."
Now, children with Autism on Medicare needing ABA have access to that care. According to Martinez her family spent nearly $60,000 per year totaling to about $300,000 and forcing the family to file for bankruptcy. Cathy says having the coverage is a great development, but not enough. She wants children, like Jacob, to have access to as a normal life as possible.
"We need daycare, childcare, before and after school care for children on the spectrum," says Martinez. Right now, the Autism Family Network is working at Nebraska's Capitol to help adults with Autism Access Housing. Nationally, Autism Speaks is working with representatives to speed up research.
Martinez says these efforts are opening countless doors for children with Autism to get the treatment they need to have a normal a life as possible. "Perseverance and persistence. It took 10 years to do, but it paid off," said Martinez.