Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Serving Those Who Have Served: Fighting for Better Services for Our Military Children with Autism: I Ask You to Do the Right Thing for Our Children. Contact Your Representatives and Tell Them That You Support HR 2288

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Serving Those Who Have Served: Fighting for Better Services for Our Military Children with Autism: I Ask You to Do the Right Thing for Our Children. Contact Your Representatives and Tell Them That You Support HR 2288

Article excerpt

My father served for 26 years in the Air Force. The one thing my parents always told me was that the benefits the military provided our family were worth the hardships we endured. It was very common for my Dad to miss a band concert or a ballet recital due to his TDY trips. One thing remained the same. Every time I had a bladder infection, strep throat, or when I needed my tonsils taken out, CHAMPUS, now called TRICARE, took care of everything.

I distinctly remember the day when I was told that my son, Broden, would need approximately 40 hours of ABA therapy due to his autism diagnosis. My husband and I originally thought that since our son had autism, my husband's benefits would pay for what was prescribed for my son to improve. We quickly learned that this was not true. After realizing that we were on our own, we turned to other parents who had children on the spectrum for guidance. Our mouths dropped when we found out what little care our son would receive and it would have a monetary cap. This monetary cap meant he would not receive care that was based on the severity of his diagnosis and the only concern for my child's care was that it did not exceed a certain amount of money. We would have to enroll him in the ECHO program and his care would have a monetary cap of $36,000 a year. It didn't matter if Broden needed more. He would just have to do without or we, his parents, would have to find a way to pay for the rest of his needed ABA therapy.

I remember my husband, Mark, processing so many emotions during this time. He would say sternly, "I just served a 16 month deployment in Iraq and I'm learning that my child will not even get the care he needs." Mark felt betrayed by the system. The benefits and compensations we thought came with Mark's service were wrought with bureaucracy. He had been making sacrifices for his country, but the system would not give him what he needed to care for his family. We could barely focus on redeployment because we were too worried about how we were going to get the right care for Broden.

It was comforting to know that we were not the only military family battling the lack of support from TRICARE. When I told my family and friends our situation, they were dumbfounded that we were not given the resources to care for our children. Applied Behavior Analysis has been recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Navy and Army Surgeons General, but for some reason TRICARE states that this is not a proven form of treatment. …

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