Tag Archives: autism

Family Excluded From Pool Membership Because Autistic Son Requires Flotation Vest

“If we make an exception for one, we would have to make exception for all.”

Photo courtesy of ellingtonridge.org

June 27, 2013  [Updated June 28, 2013 6:50am]

Ellington, CT –  An exclusive country club in the suburbs of Connecticut excluded a family from becoming members because their autistic son would require a flotation vest while swimming in the pool.  With recent headlines of autistic children drowning rather frequently, one would think that a flotation vest would be a fabulous idea.  It seems it would be a much grander idea than outright discrimination of a person with disability and that person’s entire family.

However, when Mrs. Cristin Millen, a seventh grade Language Arts teacher in Ellington arrived at the Ellington Ridge Country Club to begin the membership process it never occurred to her that her son’s autism would exclude them from enjoying the same privileges other residents in the area enjoyed as members.  She left without being given an application but was told someone would get back to her.

“I almost didn’t say anything about his autism at all because I assumed it wouldn’t possibly be an issue,” said Millen.  “But when I became aware that the club had a rule banning flotation devices from the pool, I mentioned that I have a son with autism who is verbal, follows directions, and is a good swimmer.  I explained that we would be in the pool with him the entire time and that the vest was really just for peace of mind as he has always worn one.”

Ellington Ridge took Mrs. Millen’s request for exception under consideration for less than 48 hours before responding with a denial of membership.  Mrs. Millen was told that if an exception was made for one, an exception would have to be made for all, and that was not possible.

This country club is a private facility, which means that ordinarily the club owners and members could do whatever they please, invite whomever they choose to join, you get the idea.  But under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), any private club that opens its doors to the public at any time, waives that right.  The Ellington Ridge Country Club offers to open its doors for banquets, weddings, business meetings, fundraisers, and birthday parties.

Wait a minute…

Can you imagine?

Can you imagine if someone like ME thought to plan my autistic daughter’s birthday party at a beautiful venue such as Ellington Ridge Country Club, put down a chunky deposit, invited ten or so other Flaptastic kiddos and their parental units? What would happen when all of us showed up at the pool with our vests and inflatable wings? Would we all be tossed to the curb?

Can you imagine?

Can you imagine, Ellington Ridge?

Excluded Flotation Vest and the Handsome Child Who Wears It

Excluded Flotation Vest and the Handsome Child Who Wears It

UPDATE: Friday, June 28, 2013 6:50am – Local media reached out to the ERCC yesterday afternoon for comment.  Management quickly asserted that Mrs. Millen never filled out the application, so therefore the club was unable to review her family’s request.  However, in WFSB’s on air coverage last evening, management admitted that Mrs. Millen was not given an application during the miscommunication throughout the week but that ERCC would happily accept the family’s application with waiver for the vest.  In an email communication from management to Mrs. Millen last evening the same offer was made but included a timeline in which the Millen Family was advised it would take until mid-July before their application with waiver to accommodate their son’s need for a Coast Guard approved flotation vest could be approved by the Board of Directors of the Ellington Ridge Country Club.

LINK to WFSB News Coverage > CLICK HERE.

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK??? COMMENT BELOW…

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DoD Reports to Congress with Mystifying Excuses for Failing to Comply with Legislation

“Pilot Program” Held Paralyzed by

Pentagon’s Divisive Concern for Military Autistic Children

Autism Speaks obtained a letter from DoD to leaders in Congress dated May 7, 2013, expressing the several mystifying factors that make it impossible for autism therapies to be implemented.  CMKAA, a federal law, was passed in 2012 and modified in Committee as a Pilot Program to be implemented no later than April 2, 2013.  Families are still waiting.

It sounds like the DoD is truly worried for our military families with autism.  If they start treating some of our kids, just think about what would happen:

First, there are too many kids to treat and not enough providers.  Can you imagine? Even if one more child with autism received the treatment he or she needs while we figure this mess out?  Well, that would be tragic.  And I think promoting career advancement in the field of BCBAs is a stupid idea, too.  I’m with you, DoD.

Next, apparently due to a lack of mobile diagnostic capability, the military kids who have autism are too spread out to find them all.  So why start the search?  We might actually find them.  If we find them, we may have to treat them. Shhhhhh.  Next thing we will find at our doorsteps are ghillie suits for our autistic kids with a note from the DoD that says, “Put this ghillie suit on your kid. Ghillie suits cure autism. And here’s a map to the nearest pond.”

Cannot treat what you cannot see.

Cannot treat what you cannot see.

If that doesn’t work, at some point the DoD will just have to start to acknowledge the existence of our thousands of autistic kids and that the treatments proven to work um, actually do.  Which means, DoD, you will have to start treating them.

I know, DoD, if you start treating them, there will only be more and more to treat because autism is increasing in prevalence.  So you’re right, DoD… let’s just pretend this all never happened.  Coffee, anyone?

DoD letter

[The petition to Congress to actually MAKE autism treatments available to all military dependent children is still active and every signature sends a letter directly to every Armed Services Member urging them to take action. You will find the petition HERE. Sign it. SHARE it. Thank you.]


Autistic and the F-bomb

This is my daughter.  She is autistic. And let me tell you, she is F-ABULOUS.

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Every day, she steps outside this door into a world that doesn’t quite understand her yet.  Where stares and whispers and outright insults assault her everywhere she goes.

Like the R-word. Retard.

She can hear you.  She understands every crinkle of your nose, every look of pity and she knows that your condescending tone of voice is more about your insecurity and discomfort than it is about her communication barriers.

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Seriously.  The F-word is so much more appropriate.  Does this child look anything other than F-ABULOUS?

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She may have challenges that are unique to you and I, but she isn’t complaining.  She is overcoming.  She hears the conversation and she is saying I AM WORTHY.

It is autistics like her that are changing the world every day with their determination and their spirit to change our perception of autism.  With a single smile this child commands that you respect her heart, her intelligence, her inner fabulousness that shines brighter every day.

RETARD.

That word cuts deeper and inflicts more pain than any other weapon possibly could.

Unlike a bullet that rips through flesh, that word shreds the soul leaving the kind of scars that never heal.

Each day she steps outside our door and into the world, she is asking you to embrace her.  She is expecting greatness of heart from you.  She is expecting nothing less than what we all yearn for on this earth.  Love and acceptance.

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She deserves to live each day being FABULOUS, not continuously victimized by a word that is used by people so consumed by egoism they feel the need to protect their seemingly harmless right to wield their wordly weapons.

It has not always been easy.  It has not always been fabulous.  There have surely been people whose words have made the journey painful at times, and there have been so many more whose loving words have made it sweeter.  The sweetest have been the moments when just one more person chooses to never use those hurtful words again.

My daughter is heaven on earth for me, my husband, and her older brother.  The beauty of her transcends all boundaries of what words used to describe her could ever cage.

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This is my daughter.

She is autistic.

Go ahead and drop the F-bomb, y’all.  Because she is F-ABULOUS.


TRICARE Publishes Interim ABA Benefit

Families Can Begin Submitting Claims for ABA During Interim Benefit Period

August 10, 2012

If you are TRICARE eligible, read the entire TRICARE manual change, it includes diagnostic codes and circumstances under which ABA will be reimbursed during this interim period. This change is retroactive, eligible claims dating back to March 5, 2010, may be reimbursed under this action.
 
If you are not sure whether you qualify, call your TRICARE regional contractor.
ALL TRICARE telephone contact numbers can be found HERE.
 
Refer to the TRICARE manual change, be patient and persistent in speaking with TRICARE claims personnel, they may not yet be aware. If you familiarize yourself with the information in the manual, you should be able to get the answers you need in regards to your own coverage.
 
TRICARE has a total of 60 days from the date of judgement (July 26, 2012) to appeal. Advocates and organizations are working hard to pursuade DoD/TRICARE not to appeal this landmark case.
 
The TRICARE interim benefit manual to cover ABA can be found HERE.

Senate Hearing on Medical Necessity of ABA

Washington, D.C. – Senator Jim Webb, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Military Personnel, moderated a hearing June 21st to examine the Department of Defense (DoD) TRICARE classification that Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is an educational intervention, not medically necessary treatment of autism, a complex neurological disorder.  Because of this distinction, autism is the only medical condition segregated by DoD under the Extended Care Health Option (ECHO) which limits treatment to less than half what is recommend by the medical community for best outcome. Dependents of retirees including Wounded Warriors forced to medically retire are denied autism benefits entirely.  More than 23,500 military dependent children have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).[i]  Currently, only 3,783 active duty dependents have accessed autism benefits under ECHO.[ii]

Chairman Webb opened with strong support for military families with special needs. “Ensuring that our uniformed personnel and their families receive first-rate healthcare is one of the critical elements in what I view as the military’s moral contract with those who volunteer to serve our nation.”

In April, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) which oversees the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program released the following[iii]: “Previously, ABA was considered to be an educational intervention and not covered under the FEHB Program. The Panel concluded that there is now sufficient evidence to categorize ABA as medical therapy.”  FEHB covers over 8 million Federal employees, retirees and their family members.  Jeremy Hilton, father of a child with autism and other special needs, Navy veteran and 2012 Military Spouse of the Year, testified at the hearing on behalf of military families.  “We now stand at a point where, without action by the Congress, we will soon see federal workers provided medically prescribed autism therapy for their children while military families receive either an inferior level of care or, as in the case of the retired veteran’s child, receive no care.”

Dr. Vera Tait, Associate Executive Director of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), testified[iv] to the effectiveness of ABA-based interventions as, “well-documented through a long history of research in university and community settings.” Dr. Tait hailed ABA in addressing specific medical issues that must be dealt with through behavioral approach such as self-injurious behavior, feeding issues and malnutrition.  “AAP has endorsed the use of ABA treatments when determined appropriate by physicians within a medical home.”  

Dr. Geraldine Dawson, Chief Science Officer for Autism Speaks, followed up with added significant medical basis for ABA: “[ABA is] prescribed by a physician, delivered by a licensed clinical psychologist, or Board Certified Behavior Analyst, not necessarily a special educator, and requires many hours of intensive intervention not accommodated within an educational program.”  Dr. Dawson also testified to ABA’s impact on brain development and its success in changing the pattern of brain activity in autistic children to normalize them over time.[v]

So why is this issue still so problematic? 

The DoD maintains their ground regarding ABA as having insufficient scientific evidence by using a dated report[vi] by Hayes Inc., an online database that provides health technology assessments for a fee. The ABA ratings report issued by Hayes to the DoD contains the following disclaimer: “This report is intended to provide research assistance and general information only. It is not intended to be used as the sole basis for determining coverage policy.”[vii]  When asked by Committee Members how long it would take DoD to review the current evidence-based data widely accepted by the medical community, Dr. Karen Guice, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Staff, replied, “It could take us a very long time, six months.”

Sen. Gillibrand asserted that six months was too long.  “The fact that these therapies [ABA] actually work is the greatest hope that we have.  So we shouldn’t be denying them to any child, certainly not the child of a military family and certainly not the child of a wounded warrior.”  Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) agreed, “The hopes offered by ABA are impressive.” 

Senator Gillibrand asked Dr. Guice what the Committee could do legislatively to aid the DoD in expediting a review of current evidence but Guice declined the offer.  Dr. Dawson concluded her testimony, “This is not a matter for further study. Action is needed to provide the quality of care our military families deserve and have earned.” 

In May, the Caring for Military Kids with Autism Act was passed in the House as an amendment to the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act with overwhelming bipartisan support of more than 70 cosponsors.  Senator Gillibrand is spearheading the effort to pass a similar amendment in the Senate this summer.


[i] According to DoD report dated 12 September 2011.

[ii] Testimony submitted by Dr. Karen Guice, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Staff http://issuu.com/jeremyhilton/docs/tricare_statement_for_the_record_21_june_2012?mode=window&backgroundColor=%23222222

[vi] Don Woody, Chief of TRICARE Appeals, 29 October 2010.  Appeal letter to retiree family stating TRICARE denial of ABA treatment as medically necessary using the Hayes Rating.

[vii] United States District Court testimony in dispute of Hayes report regarding ABA.


Open Letter to Armed Services Committee Members on Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day Weekend, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Armed Services Committee Offices.

My name is Rachel Kenyon. I am a proud and battle-tested Army wife and mom of two beautiful babes, one with autism.

Currently, TRICARE military healthcare provides less than half the recommended treatments for autism, and only to children of active duty service members.

Service members who retire after more than twenty years and Wounded Warriors forced to medically retire are stripped of what little treatment TRICARE allows via the Extended Care Health Option (ECHO).

On Thursday, May 17, 2012, Congressman John Larson took to the House floor armed with embarrassingly large photos of our little family and made the case for Caring for Military Kids with Autism Act to be included as an amendment to the FY2013 NDAA. It worked, because for Mr. Larson, this had become personal. It worked because Rep. Tom Rooney had the courage to walk up to Chairman Buck McKeon and tell him it was personal. Mr. Rooney has two nephews with autism. Mr. McKeon did the right thing, because now he understood, it was personal. The amendment passed as part of the NDAA in the House.

Senator Gillibrand attempted this past week to do the same in the Senate Armed Services Committee markup session. The amendment was rejected.

I contact you today because this fight is so very personal for so many of us serving our country each day. Not only do I want my husband to feel that his more than 25 years of service warrant the medical care our daughter with autism needs, but I want my daughter to have the security of being able to access the tools that can give her a richer, more meaningful life.

It’s personal because I now hold 23,000 other children in my heart, and more than that many parents who serve our country. I love them as I love my own. I want them to feel proud of their country’s service to them in return. I want them to sleep at night, knowing that though autism may have knocked on their door, they can live their lives to the fullest with the care they need and deserve. It’s personal.

I know once you read the petition comments from your constituents, both military and civilian, you all will choose to do the right thing. To take this fight personally. To share with your fellow staffers and your Senators and Representatives that our families are proud. That our children are worthy. That if just one military child was denied the cancer treatments he or she needed, we would not be wasting time with emails and petitions. A true American who hears that 23,000 military children are being denied the medical standard of care for autism takes that personally. Well, for real American patriots, it is so very personal.

I appreciate your time and I wish you all a fun, relaxing Memorial Weekend in remembrance of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Our little family will be spending another weekend living with autism in our house and struggling to understand why we have to fight this battle, too.

Best,

Mrs. Rachel E. Kenyon

Wife to Command Sergeant Major William W. Kenyon

Mother of two beautiful babes – one with autism.

http://www.change.org/petitions/congress-make-recommended-autism-treatment-available-to-all-military-children


Get Up On That Wagon

“Your lazy butts are in this too. So get up on that wagon. We’re goin’ up north to put the word to the streets.” ~ Curtis, “The Blues Brothers” (1980)

It might seem like a strange parallel to draw, but The Blues Brothers movie has some good messaging that is actually a bit relevant to our cause, my friends.

Whether or not you are a fan like me, the story of one man seeking redemption by doing good for others is a likeable storyline no matter who you are.  As humans, no matter how selfish we sometimes can be, we yearn to connect with others and make the world a better place in whatever moments of opportunity that present themselves.

Here’s our chance.

For me personally, I attest that I am no saint.  I make my share of mistakes and bad decisions.  But I love hard, and I want to do good by others.

So I share my story.  I share my family’s story.  I beat down doors, break down walls, and I talk.  I write.  I sometimes harass and harangue.  But my intentions are honest and I put myself out there and hope to be heard.  By some crazy twist of fate in this life, it seems to be working.

I think you can make it work, too.

I think your story is just as powerful.  I think what you have to say is just as important.

I think you can change lives in ways you never imagined.

There are a handful of public servants standing in positions to help us.  They are men and women just like you and me.  They bleed like you and me.  They love like you and me.  They stumble around this earth like you and me trying to find their way.  They need to KNOW you to want to help you.  If they do not know you, if they do not know what you need, they simply cannot help you.

So talk to them.  Call them.  Email them.  Send an open letter to them via their hometown newspaper.  Reach out to them so that they KNOW you.  So that they are moved by your story to want to help you.

I have no advanced degrees, there is nothing that makes me special.  I am unemployed and deeply in debt.  But I have been to The White House, I have spoken before Congress, and I have had meaningful conversations with Senators and Representatives on the state and federal stage.  Just sharing my story.  Sharing what is important to my family.

I can tell you that I know how we can win.  I heard it straight from a Senator’s mouth.  We need the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Members to know all of our stories.  We need them to be thinking about our families when their heads hit the pillows at night, and when they put their skivvies on each morning.  They need to be consumed with the injustice of our children not getting the medical treatments they need for autism.

So get up on the wagon and put the word to the streets.

No excuses.

[Ed note: You have so many tools at your disposal to share your stories.  You can sign and share the petition at Change.org – remember, every signature is sent to every Member of the SASC.  You can call their offices and email them, too.  You can reach out to local newspapers and TV stations, especially in Michigan and Arizona where SASC Chairman Levin and Ranking Member Senator McCain reside.  You can also post on the facebook pages of local media, too.  Friends, I have been doing all of this myself and I no longer can do it alone.  I still have laundry and vacuuming and ‘cooking’ to take care of each day.  Pushing the boulder up the hill is too much for me to manage alone.  But together, we can move an entire mountain!]


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