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.