Baltimore, Md. (WUSA9) - There is a new push for coverage of early and intensive therapy for children diagnosed with autism. This type of therapy, shown to increase I-Q and language skills, isn't covered in many states, even under the healthcare reform.
Psychologist Tiffany Garner at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital explains this therapy can literally change the way the autistic brain develops and maximize language potential. Many experts consider applied behavioral analysis or ABA to be the "gold standard" and it's recommended for 25 hours a week, reshaping behavior with repetition and rewards.
Melinda Lozzi's two and a half year old daughter Chloe is autistic. Her mother picked up the red flags very early on when Chloe's development seemed to stop - and reverse.
"If you think something's wrong, go with your gut," said Melinda Lozzi. Doctors were hesitant to diagnose Melinda's 15 month old with autism, but after going to numerous doctors, Chloe's mother made it to Mt. Washington Pediatrics Hospital, where Chloe finally received a clear diagnosis.
After starting Chloe on therapy, Melinda has seen her daughter's progression and realizes how crucial early invention is.
Melinda Lozzi and her daughter Chloe still have a long way to go. Since many insurance companies don't reimburse for ABA therapy, a lot of families like Chloe's can't afford this necessary treatment.
Autism advocates had hoped the Affordable Care Act would mandate nationwide coverage, but it has been left up to each state to decide whether or not to require health plans that include ABA. Virginia does mandate coverage, while Maryland and the District of Columbia do not. Director of psychology Kenneth Gelfand says kids who would reap major benefits are missing out.
Kenneth Gelfand, Ph.D. of Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital says, "These children can get better. They can become very active with full lives if we intervene early and have these services available to them."