Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Family Deals with Autism with Hope Haven's Help; Blue Foundation Grant Lets Clinic Expand Services

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Family Deals with Autism with Hope Haven's Help; Blue Foundation Grant Lets Clinic Expand Services

Article excerpt

Byline: Sandy Strickland, Staff writer

The sound of pencil touching paper was once so painful to 8-year-old T.R. Mack that he would put his hands to his ears in revulsion.

He would gag if served anything other than bacon, hash browns, rotisserie chicken, gummy bears and plain potato chips.

And he would get so obsessive about subjects such as video games that he wouldn't want to talk with friends about anything else.

But T.R., who has a form of autism, has improved significantly since he began receiving therapy at Hope Haven Children's Clinic 18 months ago.

Last week, the Blue Foundation for a Healthy Florida, the philanthropic affiliate of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, gave Hope Haven a $33,190 grant to expand its services to autistic children. T.R. and his mother, Dayle Mack, came to the clinic at 4600 Beach Blvd. on the Southside to share their success story.

"I honestly don't think he would have made the progress he has if not for Hope Haven," said Mack, who lives in Mandarin.

Hope Haven started its autism program after receiving calls from families "desperate" for services, said Laurie Price, the clinic's executive director. Autism is a complex brain disorder that affects the ability to communicate and form relationships.

The Blue Foundation provided the seed money to establish diagnostic and follow-up services in 2001. Other foundations also kicked in funds.

The new grant will fund the cost of a therapist going into homes and giving parents behavior management training over a two-year period. It will fund 500 hours of training annually.

Or, as T.R. puts it, "It means going to every home to help autistic children."

"Too often, families already burdened by their child's exceptional needs are unable to afford these vital services, as health insurance policies generally don't cover intensive, in-home behavior management and training," Price said.

Susan Towler, the foundation's executive director, said Hope Haven uses its grant wisely and figures to the penny what it will need. …

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