autism

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This week in ArtPod, we look at the "great wave" generation of young adults and children with autism. 

We spent a few days on a film set where those teens and adults are learning job skills, social interaction, and how to walk back on set after a small breakdown. 

Then we visit a children's hospital that's using art –murals, patient portraits and more – to help parents and kids navigate the stressful, chaotic experience. 

You can also check out ArtPod in iTunes.

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What can a parent do to reach an autistic child, to forge some path through the barrier of autism spectrum disorder – a path that might somehow lead to greater understanding of that child’s mind, heart and soul?

That challenge is facing more and more families in America.

In 2000, the Centers for Disease Control found that one in 150 school-age children had been identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder. By 2008, that figure was one in 88 – an increase of 78%.

Consider more recent figures from a different government agency: the National Center for Health Statistics estimates that today, one out of every 50 school-age kids has the condition.

The experts tell us these higher numbers may not be so much a matter of more kids having ASD, but rather that health officials are getting better at counting those who do.

But behind all the statistics are the day-to-day stories of families coping with the often crushing challenge of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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Schuette will challenge re-sentencing for juvenile lifers

A federal judge says the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down automatic life sentences without parole applies to 363 inmates in Michigan. The judge says the ruling applies to every inmate sentenced as a child and entitles them to re-sentencing hearings. Attorney General Bill Schuette wants the ruling applied to only five Michigan inmates who challenged their cases in federal court, and to future cases. The American Civil Liberties Union disagrees and says the ruling applies to everyone affected. Rick Pluta has more.

U of M research shows association between autism and induced labor

“New University of Michigan research has found an association between autism and inducing or augmenting labor during childbirth. Researchers looked at the birth records of more than 600 thousand children and compared them to the children’s school records. They found a 35 percent increased chance of autism in boys whose mothers’ had their labor induced or augmented. Marie Lynn Miranda, a Pediatrics professor at U of M, says the data is worth further study, but it does not draw a direct link between inducing labor and autism,” Michigan Radio’s Steve Carmody reports.

Lansing wants to cut ties with Russian sister city

“Officials in Lansing want to end their community's 'sister cities' relationship with the Russian city of St. Petersburg due to that country's anti-gay policies. The Lansing State Journal and MLive.com report Lansing City Council voted unanimously Monday calling for end to the relationship. A new Russian law is aimed at 'propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors.' It imposes fines for organizations, plus stiffer penalties for propaganda online or in the media,” according to the Associated Press.

A new University of Michigan study finds an association between inducing or augmenting labor during childbirth and an increased risk of autism.

The study compared birth records of more than 600 thousand North Carolina children and their corresponding public school records. Researchers found a 35% increased risk of autism in boys whose mothers' labors were induced or augmented.

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A state review board has voted to keep autism and asthma off the list of health conditions that can be legally treated using medical marijuana.

But activists say the panel is acting in violation of the state’s medical marijuana law. They say the votes were taken without proper public comment and that the board lacks adequate representation from the medical community.

Panel chair Matthew Davis says public comment was not necessary because the ailments had already been considered by a previous board.

“The public hearings therefore occurred as part of our process, specified under law,” Davis said. And then today, our review panel took another look at these diagnoses and the remarks of the public regarding autism and asthma.”

That previous board was dissolved by the state because its make-up also violated the medical marijuana law. The state says it’s working to fix the problem.

Powell K (2004). "Opening a window to the autistic brain"

For families who have children with autism, finding a specialist to care for their children can mean being put on a long wait list.

Currently, there are about 50 certified behavior analysts in the state of Michigan.

However, there are over 18,000 children with autism.

Peter Payette/Interlochen Public Radio

A new initiative in Kalamazoo county is in the works to provide a residential space for adults with autism, known as Aacorn Farm.

Aacorn stands for Autism Agricultural Community Option for Residential Need, and the organization is led by a group of parents who have children with autism. A residential community like this isn't the first of its kind, but it is for adults with autism.

The residential space aims to assist some of the nearly 50,000 Michigan residents who have been diagnosed with autism in Michigan, 16,000 of which are children.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A federal judge has ruled that Blue Cross must pay hundreds of Michigan families who were denied coverage for behavioral therapy for children with autism.

Blue Cross contends the therapy is experimental, but doctors disagree.

The ruling may cost Blue Cross about five million dollars.

ST. IGNACE, Mich. (AP) - The Mackinac Bridge will be lit blue at sundown Tuesday and continue to be illuminated at night for the entire month as part of an autism awareness campaign.

The Mackinac Bridge Authority is working with several corporations and organizations for "Light It Blue Michigan." All costs are paid by private donations.

 

The State Department of Community Health is launching a new program designed to address the needs of people with autism. Lisa Grost heads up the autism program. She tells Michigan Radio's Jennifer White there are seven key elements to the state autism plan, which include family engagement, early identification, education support, adult services, physical, mental and behavioral health care and training and professional development.

parenting-skill-info.com

The Michigan Department of Community Health released its autism plan today

According to the plan, Michigan lacks a variety of critical services to support individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has labeled ASD:

an “urgent public health concern” as the prevalence rate increased across the country to one in 88 children. It is imperative to understand the long-term implications of the identified needs of individuals with ASD given the major fiscal crisis if they do not receive adequate services.

user blwphotography / Flickr

Last year, Michigan enacted a law that requires insurance companies to cover childhood autism treatments.

Today, the Michigan Department of Community Health will roll out its autism coverage plan.

There are about 50,000 people in Michigan with autism.  It’s a disorder that effects communication and social skills.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Snyder signs Blue Cross Blue Shield overhaul today

"Governor Snyder is scheduled to sign a law today that will transform Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan into a customer-owned non-profit insurance company," Steve Carmody reports

Michigan to unveil plan on autism services today

"The state Department of Community Health will roll out a plan today to address the needs of children and adults with autism. It will include early identification of children with autism and helping adults with autism live independently," Rick Pluta reports.

Knives on airplanes

"Knives are prohibited in Michigan airports, but beginning next month the Transportation Security Administration says agents will still allow them through security checkpoints at the state's airports anyway. Michigan's Attorney General Bill Schuette's office says the ban on knives will remain in effect despite the TSA changes," the Associated Press reports.

New program for teens with autism at EMU

Mar 9, 2013
Autism Collaborative Center website

Teens with autism will get the chance to learn and discuss important topics in their transition to adulthood during a new program at Eastern Michigan University's Autism Collaborative Center.

Icare4autism.com

A new Michigan State University study finds a link between autism and a brain abnormality in low birth weight babies.

Tammy Movsas is an assistant professor of pediatrics at MSU and medical director of the Midland County Department of Public Health.

She’s been studying ultrasounds of low birth weight babies. She discovered babies were seven times more likely to develop autism if they had enlarged cavities in the brain that store spinal fluid.

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A program at Eastern Michigan University is helping students with autism navigate college life. It's part of the university's Autism Collaboration Center. The center helps people with autism of all ages. As part of Michigan Radio's Seeking Change series, Christina Shockley talked with the center's Lisa Johnstone about the program.

Office of Governor Rick Snyder / Wikimedia Commons

Today, Gov. Rick Snyder signed an order creating an Autism Council in Michigan's Department of Community Health.

The governor's office said the order is a step to implement Michigan's Autism Spectrum Disorders State Plan. According to a 2009 issue paper concerning the plan, autism diagnoses have dramatically increased amongst children over the past several decades.

The AP reports:

The council will have 12 gubernatorial appointees.

Snyder and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley pushed hard to win passage of a mandate for insurance coverage for autism treatment for children. Insurers are reimbursed through a $15 million autism coverage incentive fund.

Calley's daughter Reagan has been diagnosed with autism.

Michigan's upcoming budget also provides for Medicaid coverage of autism treatment for children through the age of 18.

-Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Michigan Works! Association / Flickr

With Gov. Rick Snyder out of the country, Michigan's Lt. Gov. signed a bill he had a strong hand in pushing through the Legislature.

The Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta reports on today's signing of the autism coverage bill:

To the applause of families with autistic children, Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley  has signed legislation that requires insurance companies to cover childhood autism treatments.

Photos courtesy of Nicole Bouchard.

This week we’ve been talking about autism, what we know about it, and how autism coverage is changing in Michigan.

Twenty-two-year-old twin sisters Michelle and Nicole Bouchard both have Asperger’s syndrome. It’s commonly thought to be at the milder end of the autism spectrum.  

Michelle says school wasn't easy. "There was a list of things they told me I couldn't do. I couldn't go to college, I couldn't find a job...it was a big struggle for me," she says.

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The Michigan Legislature passed a series of autism coverage bills that have been sent to Governor Snyder for his approval.

Lt. Governor Brian Calley was been a central advocate of the bills. He also has a 5-year-old daughter with autism.

The bills would change Michigan insurance code, which would require that certain evidence-based therapies be covered, up to certain limits.

User: Sam Hames / Flickr

This week we’ll be taking a closer look at autism.

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control found that about 1 in 88 children are diagnosed with autism or a related disorder – a significant increase in diagnosis.

Dr. Richard Solomon is a Medical Director of the P.L.A.Y Project at The Ann Arbor Center of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

Dru Bloomfield / Flickr

Yesterday, the Michigan Legislature passed a series of autism coverage bills that will go to Governor Snyder.

It was one of the first significant pieces of legislation to move through the legislature with broad bi-partisan support.

The bill requires insurance companies to pay for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis and treatment for children up to age 18.

Under the bill, insurance companies regulated by the state will have to cover expenses for ASD therapy and diagnosis...

  • of up to $50,000 a year for kids younger than 7,
  • $40,000 a year for kids ages 7-13,
  • and $30,000 for kids up to age 18.

Questions about funding

The law will go into effect on October 1, but some questions have been raised about part of the funding for the mandated coverage.

user blwphotography / Flickr

The state House has approved a measure that will require insurance companies to cover autism treatments for children. The state Senate is expected to concur with the House action later today and send the bill to Governor Rick Snyder's desk.

Senate bills 414, 415, and 981 would require the following, according to the House Fiscal Agency:

  • Require group and individual health plans to cover services for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in a manner similar to physical illnesses.
  • Allow health plans to limit coverage for ASD treatment to a yearly maximum based on age, and limit coverage to children 17 years of age and younger.
  • Allow insurers to request, among other things, a review of ASD treatment.
  • Provide a limited exemption for qualified health plans offered under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
  • Create the Autism Coverage Incentive Act and the Autism Coverage Fund.
  • Establish the Autism Coverage Incentive Program, under which insurance carriers could seek reimbursement from the Fund for expenses incurred in providing coverage for ASD.

The House Fiscal Agency writes:

The Governor's FY 2012-13 Executive Budget Recommendation for the Department of Community Health includes an increase of $34.1 million Gross ($10.1 million GF/GP) to fund autism spectrum disorder treatment for the Medicaid and MIChild eligible children under the age of six.

The report indicates that approximately 2,000 kids under the age of six would meet the criteria that would be established with the new policy. 2,000 kids with an "average expenditure of $17,000 per child."

The Autism Coverage Incentive Program is expected to cost the state between $500,000 to $1 million to administer.

Ifmuth / Flickr

Measures on the state Senate calendar this week would require health insurance plans to cover autism treatments for children. Supporters of the autism mandate say early treatments can ensure children transition into healthy adults, and ultimately save money on health care costs.

There are an estimated 15,000 children in Michigan diagnosed with autism. But some mental health advocates say there are many more children with other brain disorders – such as severe depression or bi-polar disorder – who would similarly benefit from coverage.

Psychologist Judith Kovach says autism coverage is a good start – but singling out one condition isn’t fair to other families affected by mental illness.

“What do we say to those parents – your children don’t matter?”

Kovach appeared on Michigan Public TV this past weekend. The autism mandate is backed by Gov. Rick Snyder and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, who has a daughter with autism. They do not support expanding the requirement to cover all brain disorders.

The Michigan Senate passed legislation today establishing a system of veterans' courts.
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LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Senate soon could vote on bills aimed at requiring insurance companies to cover some types of treatment for autism.

The Senate's Health Policy Committee on Thursday approved a bipartisan package of bills related to autism coverage, sending the bills to the Senate floor. They go to the House if the Senate passes them.

One bill sets up a fund to help reimburse insurers for paid claims related to diagnosis and treatment of autism. That provision is included in hopes of lessening opposition from business and insurance groups.

Previous efforts to mandate autism coverage have stalled in Michigan.

More than half the states require insurers to provide autism coverage. Gov. Rick Snyder says it's time or Michigan to join them.

A national advocacy group for autism-treatment says Michigan tops its list of states it believes could require insurance companies to cover treatments for autistic children this year.

Rick Remington, with the New York-based group Autism Speaks, said the support of Republican leaders in the Michigan legislature along with Governor Rick Snyder bodes well for autism-treatment legislation.

“It’s been before the legislature for a number of years, it’s gotten strong support from Governor Snyder, as well as the advocacy of the lieutenant governor,” Remington said. “We’ve got strong support, bi-partisan support from the Michigan legislature. So, we’re very confident we will see a bill become law this year.”

Twenty-nine states already have insurance mandates for autism-treatment.

Remington said advocates for autism coverage are becoming more prevalent in legislatures throughout the nation as the number of autism diagnoses increases.

Many insurance companies oppose the idea, saying it would increase costs.

MI State Police website

The Michigan State Police says more than 200 troopers have been trained to recognize autism and provide services.
    

The Mid-Michigan Autism Association has been working with state police to teach troopers how to communicate with autistic people as well as their families. The group says it's common for someone with autism to have contact with law enforcement, typically in situations that don't involve crimes.
    

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan lawmakers plan to make another attempt at passing legislation that could prompt insurance coverage for certain autism treatments in 2012.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said Thursday that new legislation related to autism coverage is expected early next year.

It's likely the plan will differ in some ways from previous proposals that would have mandated insurers to offer coverage for autism treatments. Those measures were opposed by business and insurance groups that say mandating coverage would raise the cost of employer-sponsored health insurance.

Supporters of an insurance mandate say it would save Michigan money in the long run while helping families with autistic children.

Previous bills that would have mandated insurance companies to offer the coverage died in the Legislature, most recently last year in the Republican-led Senate.

Image by John Wilson / Michigan Radio

As part of Michigan Radio's end-of-year look back at some of the more notable stories, here's a collection of 2011 arts and culture stories that we feel deserve another look:

Kids with autism struggle with reading non-verbal cues, like facial expressions. They also have a tough time knowing the right words to say. That’s why there are social skills clubs for kids with autism.

One such club meets regularly at Bel-Mark Lanes in Ann Arbor. There are three different groups based on age, and this particular group includes kids in junior high and high school.

After a little bowling, and cheering each other on, everybody heads back to a side room.

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