FAQs related to SB 676: Autism Health Insurance Coverage

Background: After six years of working to pass coverage of autism treatments under health insurance through both chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly, the Autism Society of North Carolina (ASNC) decided to take a new approach to the problem: ASNC came together with other North Carolina advocacy groups, professionals, clinicians, and insurers to work toward a set of agreed-upon recommendations to the General Assembly for providing coverage for Autism Spectrum Disorder. The goal was to have an achievable, measured approach that would provide for a broad range of treatment options while assuring an annual benefit amount. Families and children cannot wait another year.

What does SB 676 do?

  • SB 676 requires health plans to cover treatment of autism for children up to age 18.
  • Requires coverage of Adaptive Behavior Treatment, which includes Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy and other evidence-based therapies such as TEACCH, Pivotal Response, etc.
  • Coverage for Adaptive Behavior Treatment is limited to $40,000 per year.

Who supports the bill?

A coalition of NC-based mental health professionals, families, physicians, advocates, and insurers, including

  • The Autism Society of North Carolina
  • The Arc of North Carolina
  • TEACCH Autism Program
  • Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development
  • North Carolina Council of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
  • North Carolina Pediatric Society
  • North Carolina Psychiatric Association
  • North Carolina Psychological Association
  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina

Does this bill cover all health insurance plans?

This law covers the large group plans for companies in North Carolina that follow state law. As we have pointed out in our policy paper on insurance, state laws can only affect certain kinds of health insurance plans that comprise a small part of the health plan marketplace. Employers are more likely to offer coverage voluntarily, even when they are not required to do so, in states where coverage is required. ASNC continues to advocate for better coverage in all plans, but change happens one step at a time.

Why does the bill not require more coverage? What about adults? Or those who need more than $40,000 in adaptive behavioral treatments?

ASNC and other groups brought up all of these issues in our discussions about the legislation. Every bill in the General Assembly is a compromise. Policymaking is all about windows of opportunity: they are open for a short period of time and ASNC felt that is was important to work to pass some kind of benefit now, to make sure families and children would get a benefit while we had the support of the General Assembly. The insurance marketplace covered under this bill is the same as previous bills. The benefit cap is higher in this bill at $40,000 and also is required to rise with inflation. Unlike previous bills, this bill does not have a requirement that individuals be diagnosed by age 8 to get coverage.

Does SB 676 remove protections of mental health parity from children with autism?

Section 2(i) on page 3, lines 45-50, requires health benefit plans to provide coverage for autism in accordance with federal mental health parity.

Why is the definition of mental illness under mental health parity changed?

This definition only applies to insurance coverage and specifically to the coverage for Adaptive Behavior Treatment for autism. Without this change, insurers cannot add a behavioral benefit that has limits. There are many definitions throughout the general statutes that define mental illness and disability. This bill does not affect any of those definitions.

The State Employee Health Plan limits coverage of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy. Do they have to follow mental health parity laws for their ABA therapy benefit? Did they have to make changes to mental health parity?

The State Health Plan is not required to follow mental health parity laws for ABA therapy. Children and youth are getting ABA therapy as part of the State Health Plan in spite of parity laws not applying.

The bill mentions DSM-5. Does this bill require that children diagnosed under DSM-IV (4) be re-diagnosed using DSM-5 criteria to receive the autism benefit?

The bill does not require re-diagnosis under DSM-5 criteria. DSM-5 changes to the insurance statutes reflect an update in the law. DSM-5 is now in effect, so the DSM-IV (4) language should not remain in the law. The DSM-5 specifically states that “individuals with a well-established DSM-IV diagnosis of autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified should be given the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.” 

Does SB 676 cover Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)?

YES. The definition of Adaptive Behavior Treatment includes Applied Behavior Analysis as well as other treatments for autism. By using the broad term and not naming only one treatment option, the bill allows for a range of behavioral and development interventions, including ABA, “that have been shown to be clinically effective.”

Does SB 676 allow ABA therapists (BCBAs) to provide ABA therapy in North Carolina and be reimbursed?

YES. ABA therapists (BCBAs) are already providing services in North Carolina and their services are being reimbursed. Even though they are not licensed, current law allows BCBAs to practice in NC as long as they are supervised. This bill does not change any ability to work. The House passed a behavior analyst licensure bill to license BCBAs to practice without supervision. That bill is currently in the Senate and is eligible to be passed this year or next year. Many organizations worked together to come up with the licensure bill, and although the Autism Society of North Carolina does not typically take a position on the licensing of professional groups, ASNC has endorsed the bill and will be working to pass it in the Senate.

Has there been opposition?

Unlike previous years, this bill is not opposed by insurers because we have worked with them to craft a compromise. SB 676 is the only insurance coverage bill that is not being opposed by the NC Chamber or other business associations that often oppose bills requiring new insurance coverage. 

What have neighboring states done on this issue?

While more than 40 states now have some requirements to cover autism in health plans, they differ greatly in the ages covered, the benefit limits, and the plans included.

  • Georgia requires insurers to provide up to $30,000 a year in coverage of ABA therapy for children 6 and under who have been diagnosed with autism.
  • Virginia requires large group plans in the fully funded market to cover up to $35,000 a year in coverage of ABA therapy for children 10 and under.
  • South Carolina requires large group plans in the fully funded market to cover ABA therapy up to $54,000 a year for children diagnosed before age 8, with coverage up to age 18.
  • Tennessee has not passed legislation.

Tips and Strategies to Address Challenging Behaviors

visualschedulesThis article was contributed by Nancy LaCross, ASNC Autism Resource Specialist in the Raleigh area.

As a parent of an adult child with autism, I understand firsthand how difficult it can be to support a loved one with significant behavioral challenges. I can remember reaching out to one professional after another looking for the magical solution to end the challenging behaviors immediately. Time and time again, I would leave a professional’s office feeling a bit deflated because there wasn’t a quick solution. Though my son had some wonderful skills in some areas, his severe behaviors seemed to impede his ability to access many resources in the community.

Though I don’t have a magical solution for ending challenging behaviors, I do have a parent’s perspective on tips and strategies that have helped my own child.

If your child has negative behaviors, I would first encourage you to identify the target behaviors. A few examples:

  • Physical aggression: hitting, biting, kicking, spitting, and head butting
  • Property destruction: breaking windows, throwing items, and breaking toys
  • Self-injurious behaviors: head banging, pulling out own hair, and biting self
  • Sound-making: humming, yelling, screaming, and making unusual sounds
  • Unusual body movements: tilting head in unusual positions, flapping arms, jumping, and flicking fingers
  • Non-compliance: not completing tasks, not following safety rules, not following rules at school, and refusing to do tasks

Once the target behaviors are clearly identified, figure out the function of the behaviors. What is the person communicating to you with these behaviors? Could it be that the person…

  • feels unsafe
  • doesn’t know what they should be doing
  • feels ill
  • is avoiding a task
  • prefers another activity
  • has sensory issues
  • wants attention

Once you identify the target behaviors and figure out the function of the behaviors, then you might want to investigate whether there are triggers for these behaviors. Are things being done that would increase the likelihood of a behavior to occur? Here are some examples of my own child’s triggers:

  • Not knowing who is in charge
  • Not knowing what to do
  • Hearing negative words such as no, don’t, can’t, and stop
  • Misunderstanding verbal directions or comments
  • Misunderstanding facts vs. opinions
  • Not understanding when to begin and/or end a task
  • Feeling unsafe with people, an environment, or a situation
  • Others aren’t following the rules
  • A change to the schedule
  • Expectations aren’t understood

Once we have identified triggers, then we might be able to avoid some behaviors by making modification and/or accommodations to what we as caregivers do. Below are some examples of how our family and professionals working with my son made modifications to our old way of doing things:

  • Not knowing who is in charge
    • An index card was created with the name of the person that was his go-to person at the time. For a younger child, they might also need a photo of the person.
  • Not knowing what to do
    • A visual schedule was created for him. When he was very young, the schedule was an If –Then schedule but as he got older, we could add more items.
    • My son really benefits from a task analysis: step-by-step directions on what he needs to do during an activity, which is listed on his schedule.
  • Hearing negative words like no, don’t, can’t, and stop
    • We try very hard to avoid using negative words. We had to train ourselves to tell our son what to do, instead of what not to do. For example, if our son was hitting a toy, we would redirect by saying, “hands by your side.” If we said “stop hitting your toy,” it would escalate the behaviors.
  • Misunderstanding verbal directions or comments
    • Keep it simple. Limit words.
    • If possible, use pictures or written words to communicate
    • Now that my son is older, we find texting to be an excellent way to communicate with him.
  • Misunderstanding facts vs. opinions
    • We work on these concepts on a daily basis. He doesn’t understand that other people may have a different perspective or opinion than his own.
  • Not understanding when to begin and/or end a task
    • A schedule and a task analysis are effective tools for creating a clear beginning and end.
    • When he was younger, we used a visual timer.
    • When he was younger we also would tell him how many more times he could do an activity. For example, if he was using the slide at the local playground we would say, “five more slides, then in the car” (holding up 5 fingers), and we would count each turn.
  • He feels unsafe
    • Provide him with the name and contact information for a trusted person to communicate with if he feels unsafe and needs reassurance.
    • Share a list of rules and regulations with him about the setting that he is going to be in.
    • Prepare him for a new environment or situation by reading him a social story in advance.
  • He feels that others are making fun of him
    • We have used role playing and social stories to work on this concept.
    • We also used Jed Baker’s social story picture books.
  • Others aren’t following the rules
    • We used social stories to try to teach him more about this.
  • A change to the schedule
    • Advance notice can be helpful
    • Using a social story to prepare for a change
    • When my son was in middle school, we used to have one activity for the day be “change in activity” or “mystery activity” just to get him used to having something unexpected happen each day.
  • Expectations aren’t understood
    • Again using a schedule and task analyses make expectations much easier to understand.
    • We also had to be sure tasks were within his skill set.

Teaching your child new skills

  • Self-regulation: When my son was very young, he had poor body awareness and often seemed to go from 1 (calm) to 5 (full meltdown) quickly. He might be calmly playing with a peer and then suddenly pushing them to the ground. We found that working with an occupational therapist experienced with sensory integration was helpful. When my son got revved up, we had to find ways to help him calm down. Under the supervision of a private occupational therapist, we used oral motor sensory objects (examples: chewy candies, gum, and chewy tubes), weight-bearing activities (pressing on the wall, weighted blankets, weighted vests, and heavy work), and exercise (jumping on a trampoline, swinging, running in place, jumping to the sky and touching the ground, and rolling on the floor) to work on self-regulation.
  • Replacement behaviors: Sometimes if we understand the function of a behavior, then we can assist the individual in replacing the behavior with something more desirable. For example, my son might tear up a homework sheet or break his pencil while working on his schoolwork. What my son was trying to communicate was that he was frustrated with his homework. Though he was verbal, when he was overwhelmed, his verbal skills disappeared. At that moment, he didn’t have the ability to use his words to ask for help. We learned that if we first provided him with a visual card to ask for help and provided him with homework expectations (“You need to do two problems,” or “You need to work for 10 minutes and the timer is set”) then he was much less likely to rip up his homework sheet and break the pencil.

If you need more support in managing behaviors, here are some people or resources you might consider:

  • Teachers
  • Special education staff at your child’s school or at the central office
  • Pediatrician or primary care doctor for a referral
  • Psychologist
  • Psychiatrist
  • Applied Behavior Analyst: Find a board certified behavior therapist at www.bacb.com.
  • Contact your MCO: My son has benefitted from a service called Specialized Consultative Services. If you need to know more about services and how to obtain them, please read the ASNC Accessing Services Toolkit
  • ASNC Clinical Team
  • Call your local Autism Resource Specialist for options
  • ASNC Bookstore, at www.autismbookstore.com, offers a few of my favorite books for teaching social skills to my son and working on behavioral issues:
    • The Incredible 5-Point Scale assisted my son in identifying behaviors/emotions/anxiety and then having a concrete system in place to know how to manage it. The scale can then transition with my son throughout his day.
    • A 5 is Against the Law! This has been an excellent concrete visual system for my son. We have been using this book to assist our son in understanding how his behaviors are perceived by others, how social expectations change as he ages, and how some behaviors are okay in one settings, like home, but not okay in others, like school or a job.
    • The Ziggurat Model is a good resource for those interested in learning more about behavior plans.
    • The Hidden Curriculum helped me as a parent to identify the areas that my child may find challenging.
    • Social Skills Picture Books: All of Dr. Jed Baker’s social skills picture books were excellent tools for me to read and review with my son. The pictures provided my son with concrete examples of social situations he would encounter in a school setting

Nancy LaCross can be contacted at nlacross@autismsociety-nc.org or 919-865-5093.

ABLE Authorization Close to Passing in NC; US Seeks Feedback

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This article was contributed by Jennifer Mahan, ASNC Director of Advocacy and Public Policy.

The federal government released draft guidelines for ABLE accounts and will be taking comments on the new regulations for the next 90 days. Advocates are concerned that requirements for certifying that spending for allowed expenses with ABLE account funds under the new regulations will be difficult for families and individuals with disabilities to navigate. We encourage people to review the draft guidelines and submit their comments to the IRS at this link.

If you would to contribute comments on the draft guidelines through the Autism Society of North Carolina, please send them to Jennifer Mahan, Director of Advocacy and Public Policy, at jmahan@autismsociety-nc.org. ASNC will make comments on the draft regulations along with several of our advocacy partners.

Progress in NC

Twenty-two states have passed authorizing legislation for ABLE accounts, and North Carolina’s ABLE Act authorizing legislation is moving forward! Both the NC House and Senate included funding to administer and promote the use of ABLE accounts in the budget. The House passed its ABLE bill unanimously, and the bill now moves on to the Senate, where it has much support. Please thank your House and Senate members for their efforts to pass this legislation in North Carolina.

ASNC will continue to advocate for the ABLE Act in NC, and we are looking forward to sharing information with you about the new program once the legislation passes.

Background: The federal ABLE Act, Achieving a Better Life Experience, allows states to set up savings programs that are similar to 529 college savings but specifically for people with significant disabilities. ABLE savings plans would allow people with disabilities, their families, or friends to save money for future needs such as support, housing, services, health care, and personal care, without jeopardizing eligibility for other needed benefit programs. People of any age who acquired their disability before the age of 26 are potentially eligible. SSI and SSDI recipients would be eligible automatically; other people who have significant disabilities will have to meet a disability standard of proof established by Treasury regulations that will be written this year. For more information about ABLE accounts, please see our previous blog post.

Have questions about this legislation or other public policy issues? Contact Jennifer Mahan, ASNC Director of Advocacy and Public Policy, at jmahan@autismsociety-nc.org or 919-865-5068.

Let’s Talk About Abilities

Logan in living roomThis article was contributed by Juliette Heim, an ASNC Autism Resource Specialist in Asheville and mom to a son with autism.

Autism comes with many challenges that we face every single day. We have to address these challenges and learn how to manage them, and we often have to “think outside the box” in our approaches. There is no “day off,” and it often can absorb and drain us.

It’s so much about autism – and the challenges and deficits that accompany it – that sometimes we miss out on the strengths and the abilities that our kids do have.

People with autism have abilities, and we need to look closely and see what their strengths are. Our kids may not necessarily verbalize that they are very good at something in particular. In some cases, they may not have been given an opportunity to demonstrate some of the skills and strengths that they have, simply because we may not know what they are.

As parents, we need to look closely at our children, try to figure out what their strengths may be, and then build on those skills. We should incorporate those strengths and skills into their learning environment, which will also help build their self-esteem.

My son Logan, who has autism, certainly has some very interesting strengths, which he demonstrated to us in his own way.

When Logan was only 4 years old, we realized that he was extremely fascinated with clocks. Every time he looked at an analog clock, he’d always find a digital clock and compare the two. We soon figured out that he was learning to tell time one minute at a time. Here we see a great strength, in that our 4-year-old son could tell time and had developed the concept of time, and he learned it in his own unique way. His typically developing twin sister learned to tell time several years later, along with her peers.

We took advantage of this skill and incorporated a clock schedule for Logan. He loved seeing a clock in front of each activity on his schedule, and he followed it beautifully, thanks to all those clocks.

Logan watching Julie on TVA couple of years later, we noticed that our nonverbal son had a fascination with weather. He always wanted to watch The Weather Channel, and when our local news station displayed the weather, Logan was always right there, watching very closely and trying to mimic what the meteorologist was saying. This child was nonverbal but trying to say sentences. He only talked when it was about the weather, despite how hard we worked to encourage him to talk.

Logan meets JulieWhen he was 13, we arranged to take him on a tour of our local news station, WLOS, with his speech pathologist. We were ecstatic about the visit, as it turned into a news story, and Logan very willingly stood in the studio with a microphone attached to his hip and remote in hand, lights and big cameras surrounding him. He was “in the spotlight”! Logan became the weatherman. He was given some visual prompts as needed and was able to demonstrate his ability to talk, given the fact that this was a subject of “high interest” for Logan. To see the news report on Logan, Finding a Voice, go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jk0co2JnTdg.

Logan on screenWe use Logan’s interest in weather to help him learn. Every evening just before Logan goes to bed, our family meets in our living room to play a silly “bunny toss” game. I think only one who understands autism will be able to relate or understand this game, but it has merit. One of us tosses the bunny to another family member, and we say a weather-related word or short sentence as we toss the bunny. The person who catches the bunny then comes up with their weather word or sentence and tosses it along to the next person. We are now expanding this into state capitals and other state-related questions. Logan will Google on his iPhone to search for answers.

As a parent, it is very rewarding to study my child’s abilities. It is equally rewarding to see the impact it makes on his self-esteem when he can show us what he CAN do.

Juliette Heim can be reached at jheim@autismsociety-nc.org.

Comprehensive Intervention Offered by ASNC’s Clinical Department

ABA therapy x

What is this intervention?

LifeLong Interventions is a new service delivery model that provides comprehensive treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder, across skill domains and the lifespan. The service is rooted in the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and involves intensive teaching and training using evidence-based practices to promote appropriate skills and behaviors in the home and community.

Who can receive the service?

Clients with ASD are accepted at any age, with treatment plans developed based on the results of intake and formal assessments.

Who provides the service?

Psychologists and Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) in ASNC’s Clinical Department develop and directly oversee the intervention programs. All psychologists and BCBAs operate under the guidance of ASNC’s Clinical Director, Dr. Aleck Myers. Direct 1:1 training is provided by certified paraprofessionals who work under the direct supervision of our psychologists and BCBAs.

Where is the service offered?

ASNC is currently offering the LifeLong Intervention service in the Triangle (Durham, Orange, Wake, and Johnston counties) and greater Charlotte areas (Union, Iredell, Mecklenburg, Gaston, Lincoln, and Cabarrus counties). In the future, we plan to expand to other parts of North Carolina based on demand and available resources.

Who funds the service?

ASNC is an in-network provider for the North Carolina State Health Plan (SHP). Additionally, we are in the process of becoming credentialed and in-network with other insurance carriers such as Cigna, United Healthcare, and Aetna. Several employers in the greater Charlotte area have opted to provide coverage for autism treatment in their employee benefits package. If you do not know whether your insurance carrier offers coverage for autism treatment, call the customer service number on the back of your insurance card. You may also contact the ASNC clinical staff, who can help you determine whether you’re eligible for insurance reimbursement for this service. We also provide this intervention service via private-pay arrangements with families.

How do I find out more?

Sign up here to have a member of our Clinical Services team contact you about receiving services. To read more about the SHP benefits specifically, click here.

A Closer Look at the NC House Budget

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This article was contributed by Jennifer Mahan, ASNC Director of Advocacy and Public Policy.

The NC House passed HB97, its version of the two-year budget, on May 22. The House budget would increase spending by $1.3 billion (6.3 percent) to address funding needs in Medicaid, education, and other services. The bill includes funds for increased teacher pay, student growth, some education initiatives, current Medicaid services, and new crisis services.

The Senate is expected to reveal its version of the budget this week, with fewer increases in funding to make changes to income and corporate tax rates. Then a House and Senate budget conference committee is usually appointed to work out differences between the budget bills.

Here are some details on the proposed House budget:

Education

  • 2 percent pay increase for teachers
  • Student growth is funded
  • Special education per-pupil spending is increased in special provision language
  • Funds for technical assistance to increase capacity for postsecondary education for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities

The education special provisions include bill language from HB921 to begin addressing graduation and future employment of students with disabilities as well as to improve postsecondary education opportunities that promote employment and independent living.

Health and Human Services

  • Funds Medicaid rebase (growth in Medicaid eligible populations and current services)
  • Adds $2.3 million to the NC START crisis program that serves individuals with IDD so that it can serve children and youth.
  • Adds about $7.5 million (some recurring and some non-recurring) to develop more crisis services for MHDDSA populations including hospital beds, behavioral health crisis units, and a crisis bed registry.
  • Adds $2.1 million to fund a pilot project for Targeted Case Management for individuals on the waiting list for Innovations waiver services slots.

The special provision language in the Medicaid section would return more control to the NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to manage the Medicaid budget. Legislators stated that the language in this section will allow NC DHHS to shift funds as needed to support group homes that have been affected by changes to Medicaid policy on who qualifies for personal care and other services.

Other

  • Funds the administration and promotion of ABLE Act 529 savings plans for people with disabilities.

What’s missing?

The House budget bill does not specifically fund the expansion of Innovations waiver slots to address the lengthy waiting list for IDD services. Also not included are any new funds to address the need for autism treatment under Medicaid Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment services. The $2.3 million in NC START funding in the House budget is enough to address the gap in adult IDD crisis but is not enough to address the needs of children and youth with IDD. Another $4-5 million would be needed to build effective child and youth crisis services.

ASNC will continue to advocate with the Senate to ensure that education and human services budgets address the growing needs of people with autism and other developmental disabilities.

Learn more

Information about the budget and the latest versions of the bill can be found in the left column of the General Assembly’s website at http://www.ncleg.net. The “bill text” includes all of the bill language including the special provisions. The “committee report” is also called the money report and includes funding cuts, additions, and shifts in funding from one source to another as well as a brief description of each funding item.

Have questions about this legislation or other public policy issues? Contact Jennifer Mahan, ASNC Director of Advocacy and Public Policy, at jmahan@autismsociety-nc.org or 919-865-5068.

Interview with an Artist: Kaitlin Moncol

Self-portrait of Kaitlin Moncol

Self-portrait of Kaitlin Moncol

Kaitlin Moncol is a 22-year-old artist from Raleigh who was diagnosed with autism when she turned 2. As Kaitlin prepares for her first independent art show, we asked her and her mom to share some thoughts about her life, her art, and autism. Below we share their responses, edited for brevity.

Kaitlin’s art is hanging at Cup A Joe, 3100 Hillsborough St., Raleigh, throughout June. Many of the pieces will be available for purchase, and she is also available for commission work. An artist’s reception is set for 6:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 10. The Autism Society of NC will also be there to provide information and resources. To see more of Kaitlin’s art, follow her on Instagram.

 

Q&A with Kaitlin Moncol

When did you get started as an artist? Tell us a little bit about that history, what you like about art, etc.

IMG_5467I think I really started my art when I was young, possibly with my first CAP worker when I was 4 or 5. She used a lot of art to work with my communication and fine motor skills and other tasks. Art became my favorite elective in middle and high school. I love that I can be creative and work with all sorts of materials. There is no right or wrong with art, which is great because with every other subject, there is a right or wrong. I love working with animals and abstract ideas, and you will see this in my art. While this is my first independent show, I have had one of my pieces juried and it hung at Duke Raleigh Hospital several years ago.

What inspires you to create a particular piece? Is there anything you want to accomplish with your art?

When I work on each piece, I like to see just where it takes me, unless it’s a commission piece. I like to make people feel happy when they see my art or put them into a happy state of mind. Some prompts for pieces have come from trying out new mediums, a blank canvas, a new idea, my mom, or even a need to relieve stress. Art is a huge way to relieve stress for me.

Tell us about your job at Jerry’s Artarama.

IMG_5795I have worked at Jerry’s Artarama in Raleigh for almost three years part-time. I stock art supplies, help customers find what they need for art projects, run the cash register occasionally and do just about anything else that is needed. It’s helpful to have my job coach from ASNC to keep me organized and to understand new things. I like that I get to be surrounded by people that do art at my job and that I get to make shelves straight – it’s very calming. Having a job means I get a paycheck to buy things I need and want for myself. Having a job means I have a place to make friends, and I get to go out in the community and help others.

Your mom says you have some funny stories from work. Care to share any?

IMG_5411My funniest story from working in retail is the customer who came in to buy molding material. She was afraid of the dentist, so she was going to make a mold of her dentures to make new ones. I had to make sure all of her materials were nontoxic, but I did try to get her to go see the dentist instead. There is someone out there with homemade teeth and I helped!

Q&A with Kat Moncol, Kaitlin’s mother

Tell us a little bit about Kaitlin.

Kaitlin had very classic symptoms early on of autism and was diagnosed at age 2. We were quite fortunate to have fantastic early intervention and to locate good support systems along the way. She was nonverbal until about age 5, but you would never know it now! We discovered early on that art was a fantastic way of communication and stress relief for Kaitlin. She could let us know her needs and wants by drawing or let out her frustration by coloring. Finger-painting, working with clay and other media became a window into sensory integration for her, and her artwork grew and changed as she did.

How has ASNC improved her life over the years?

The Autism Society of North Carolina was there for David and me as soon as we received Kaitlin’s diagnosis! Literally, I made a phone call, and two days later, a huge packet of information landed in our mailbox at home. I then showed up in ASNC’s offices the next day to discover what would become an extension of our family. We are so very grateful for ASNC. Kaitlin started receiving services through CAP/Innovations waiver at age 4 with ASNC, and those services have helped her improve greatly with daily living skills and community skills. Kaitlin has a wonderful sense of independence for a young woman with her needs, and the support provided by ASNC has led to her being and feeling successful.

What do you think having a job has meant for her?

Kaitlin absolutely loves her job at Jerry’s Artarama in Raleigh. As we all know, employment for folks with autism is just difficult…to find, to do, and to keep. ASNC provides Kaitlin with employment supports and helped Kaitlin with finding this job and getting hired. Her job coach also assists her with making certain she does her job requirements correctly, learns any new skills, communicates with management, and any other number of item that you can think of that are necessary to be successful in a retail job. Bringing home a paycheck, feeling part of a work-family, giving back to the community, being successful, doing a job well, making friends, and having a sense of freedom and independence are just a few of the ways I can see that Kaitlin benefits from her 15 hours of work each week. Kaitlin is the hardest worker ever, and my favorite part of her job is that she is making new friends.

What are you particularly proud of about Kaitlin?

Kaitlin is not only a hard worker at work, but she works hard, period. We were told in those early years not to get our hopes up about the future, even about her language production. Kaitlin has gone against all the odds and is not only talking but is far more successful than we could have ever dreamed. A lot of support goes into Kaitlin being successful, but the bottom line is that Kaitlin does the hard work herself in the end. She will always have autism and that is OK, but she does not let that define her, nor do we. Kaitlin is always Kaitlin first, and she makes sure everyone knows that. It takes a village for sure, but Kaitlin leads that village!

 

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