Monday, October 22, 2007

$2 Million Massachusetts Pilot Program to Offer Autism Services to 80 Low-Income Children

The Massachusetts Autism Division has unveiled a $2 million model program to provide up to 80 low-income children with autism spectrum disorders with home- and community-based services—as much as $25,000 per year for three years.

Children up to age 9 are eligible for the one-on-one services. Families must apply for the program which applies to children under age 9 who meet the income eligibility requirements of the state's MassHealth state health insurance program for low- and moderate-income families. An announcement from the state says:

The funding for this new Waiver Program is limited and the number of applicants that can be served is also limited. The Autism Division expects that up to 80 low-income children will be able to participate at this time. This Waiver Program will provide one-to-one interventions to help children with severe behavior, social and communication problems through a service called Expanded Habilitation, Education. This service is expected to occur in the child’s home under the supervision of trained clinical staff and will use an intervention method as identified by the family and clinician such as Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), Floor Time or a Communication Model. The waiver will also provide related support services such as community integration activities and respite.

The purpose of the Waiver Program is to help eligible children with autism to remain in their homes and actively participate in their families and in their communities. The waiver will serve up to 80 children under the age of 9, with an autism spectrum disorder who meet the clinical criteria for the Waiver Program, as well as, MassHealth financial eligibility, which is based on family income. The Waiver Program provides up to $25,000 worth of services and supports, per year, based on the assessed needs of the child. This Waiver Program is for a 3 year period of time and children are reassessed every year to ensure they continue to meet the eligibility criteria for the program. Participation in the waiver program ends, regardless of the start date, when the child reaches his/her 9th birthday.

Massachusetts families with autistic children who meet the eligibility criteria must apply for this program between Nov. 5 and Nov. 16, 2007. More information is available at the website of the Autism Division of the Massachusetts Department of Mental Retardation. Applications are available in English, Chinese, Creole, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese. Here's an example of the English form. Contact information for the waiver program is available: call toll-free 1-888-367-4435 or e-mail: DMR.autismdivision AT

The state also has set up a website for autism services providers to get information about providing services at home and in the community.

One advocate I spoke to mentioned that there has been some commentary on online discussion forums about this program, about how it's a shame that this program is modest and applies only to low-income families. The advocate also mentioned that there were parents who cited the acute need for families of very modest means to access vital autism-related services. Both are right.


Anonymous said...

I've been on some of these online forums, and agree they must start somewhere (ie with low income families) but it's very frustrating that the state doesn't seem to recognize the enormous amount of money every family may need to spend to treat autism. I've had the same problem with Mass. Advocates for Children. We can't afford one, but make too much to get assistance.

Anonymous said...

where are the online forums you mentioned about? may you please provide some links of them? my son is autistic, I am looking for some parent support group but can hardly find one.

many thanks in advance.