TriWest Nurse Offers Tips for Parents of Children with Autism: About 80 Percent of the Families Shelia Armstead Helps Have a Loved One with Autism

Article excerpt

It's her job to provide them with education and make a difference in their lives. And, she's passionate about her work.

Armstead is the nurse at TriWest Healthcare Alliance responsible for working with special needs families for the Midwest Market. TriWest administers the military healthcare benefit, TRICARE, in 21 western states. The ECHO Program--or Extended Care Health Option--is TRICARE's benefit for individuals with special needs. Armstead's formal title is "ECHO specialist."

After a military family stationed in the Midwest portion of TriWest's market gets registered with the ECHO program--and the Autism Demonstration Project--they are sent to Armstead. Within five days of receiving an assignment, Armstead said she contacts the parents.

From there, she explains how the ECHO program works--including the Autism Demo Project--as well as information on equipment, available therapies and cost-shares. Then, she'll discuss which providers are available in the family's area of residence.

"I tell the parents to do an interview with the providers before choosing one. These are the people who will be working with your child," Armstead said. "You need to see who will work best with your child."

Armstead then walks the families through the authorization process to make sure their children receive proper treatment. …