New Resources for Children with Autism—First Children’s Response

In August, 2009 Public Law 2009, chapter 115, was signed into law in New Jersey.  This landmark legislation requires that insurance companies provide services for children of beneficiaries who have autism.   The law designates Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) as the treatment approach with the most promising results.  It is estimated that thousands of children will be able to access thousands of hours of service through this new law.  More importantly, these services will be able to start early in life when children can make significant gains.

First Children school in Fanwood has served children with autism for many years.  Before becoming First Children, the school was operated by Children’s Specialized Hospital, one of the state’s centers of excellence in serving children diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum (ASD). When First Children took over the school in July, 2009, it entered into a relationship with Eden Institute in Princeton, New Jersey, one of the premier schools for children with autism in the U.S.  Through this relationship First Children brings to the children it serves cutting-edge approaches under the supervision of a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA).   First Children has purchased and implemented the Eden Curriculum in its ABA classrooms and is seeing first-hand how children with ASD are responding, communicating and learning.

Just after the new legislation was signed requiring insurance coverage for ASD First Children’s president, Joseph Hess, was asked to assist a group in New Jersey to form “Autism Services Group, LLC” (ASG).  ASG contracts with the insurance companies in order to bring to their beneficiaries a network of providers in the state who are able to provide high quality services to children on the spectrum.  ASG operates a call center to help parents find resources for their children and to access their insurance benefits to pay for these services.

First Children was also one of the first organizations to sign up as a provider with ASG.  What this means is that First Children will provide Applied Behavior Analysis services, in cooperation with Eden, to children in Union, Essex and other neighboring counties.  We expect to start these services in the spring of 2011.

First Children remains committed to serving children with complex challenges – medical, developmental and behavioral.  The inauguration of these new services for children with autism is just one more sign of the organization’s continuing commitment to work in close cooperation with the “best and the brightest” available to serve our children.  In the past year, similar innovations have occurred for children who are deaf and experiencing developmental challenges.  In that our commitment is to provide services in natural environments, including in the public schools, we started our “CO-OP” program where we provide therapies, including behavior therapy, to children in their own schools.  As indicated, we remain dedicated to the idea that it is best to join forces with those who have demonstrated an ability to provide effective services rather than try to reinvent the wheel ourselves.  We believe that this has allowed both our school and community programs to meet the needs of our children and their parents more effectively.

Please feel free to contact us at First Children if we can be of help to you in identifying services for your children with autism as well as other challenging conditions.  Feel free to call Dr. Ellen D’Amato, our psychologist at 908-654-2470 or Holly Pedicone, LCSW, our social worker, for assistance in this regard.  To contact Autism Services Group directly, please call Teresa Boussom, BCBA, at 1-609-454-4598.

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First Children on the move!

The First Children school in Fanwood is on the move!  With a staff second to none, our kids seem to have no limit on what they can achieve.  Everyday you see miracles…children learning to walk whose parents were told never to expect such a thing; children with little to no hearing learning to communicate their needs and wishes via sign language; children whose autism previously left them no other way to communicate their frustration than injuring themselves learning appropriate ways to ask for and receive the care and affection of others.  What a wonderful place to be!

When I bought First Children eighteen months ago I had a vision of a school that would chart new territory for children with special needs.  I wanted to see children given every opportunity to live up to their full potential and then some.  I wanted to see children with disabling conditions be fully assimilated into their communities and neighborhood public schools.  I had no idea at the time what a gem our school is, with so many dedicated people sharing these same goals for the kids we serve.  Fortunately, last July I was able to bring a new principal to the school, Kathy Gorski, who has pushed the envelop even further than I thought possible, opening up a new classroom modeled on Applied Behavior Analysis and supervised by the incredibly talented people from Eden Institute in Princeton, NJ.  Under Kathy’s guidance we opened a classroom dedicated to the needs of children with serious hearing impairments AND developmental and other cognitive disabilities.  With our new teacher of the deaf our kids have been breaking new ground with their ability to communicate and, as a direct result, are absorbing incredible amounts of information and skills.  Not too long ago, these same kids would have been written off by others.  At First Children, they are given a chance to shine!

Despite the ongoing challenges of funding services for children with complex special needs, we move forward.  Last year we initiated a program we call “CO-OP” in which we partner with school districts to bring services to children with disabilities in their public school environments.  Last September we initiated the program with a contract to provide therapies, including behavior therapy, to children in Plainfield schools and are hoping to expand that program next year.  Similar initiatives are underway with several other districts.  Not only are our districts improving the quality of services to children with disabilities but we are able to save them, on averge, 40% of the cost of providing services out of district.  There will always be children who need temporary or longer term private schools like First Children in Fanwood but it is our goal, wherever possible, to deliver services to children with disabilities in natural environments whether they be in their public schools or at home.  In that regard, First Children was one of the first organizations of its kind in New Jersey to sign on with Autism Services Group, a company headquartered in Princeton, NJ that is breaking new ground in bringing insurance-funded services to children in the state and beyond.

So, lots is going on at First Children and we could not be more proud of the children we serve, their families and our wonderful staff.  Look for future blogs about our services and don’t hesitate to give us a call if you know of a child in need of our services or a frustrated parent looking for resources for his/her child with challenges.  We will be glad to help in any way we can.

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this is great.

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