By: Rachel Tripp
South Carolina's Autism program is changing following new federal rules requiring Medicaid to cover Autism treatment for children. An estimated 6,000 children enrolled in the South Carolina Medicaid program will now qualify for Autism care payments.
Ryan's Law made South Carolina the first state to require insurance to cover Autism treatment in 2007. Lori Unumb is the Vice President for the non-profit Autism Speaks who pushed for Ryan's Law. The law was named after her son who has severe Autism.
She is also the founder of The Autism Academy of South Carolina. She created the academy because Columbia had limited Autism care for children and families.
"Our mission at The Autism Academy of South Carolina is to provide intensive, high quality intervention to children on the autism spectrum," said Unumb.
Her son is a student at the academy who rarely speaks and communicates with his iPad. Changes in Medicaid will allow the academy to open its doors to more children like Ryan.
“Children who have never experienced ABA therapy, the type of intensive therapy we provide here at the academy, are now going to be able to afford it. This is life changing for these families,” said Unumb.
She says the academy expects to help more children next year and they are ready to grow. They plan to bring in a director of training to help with the new children receiving care in 2015.
“We intend to take on the capacity problem head on. We are so thrilled that the government has recognized the need for this therapy and will be funding it, and we are going to improve it in South Carolina," said Unumb.
Sean Baker is a therapist at the academy, who is excited to see the growth and help more children.
"I was put in this position to serve as many kids as we could possibly serve," said Baker.
He says if children are brought to his care he will welcome them. He wants to see other children overcome obstacles, just like Ryan.
"He just picks up on things so well. He's such a sponge. As soon as he gets something, you see his face light up and he runs with it," said Baker"
Ryan has learned to read, to type, and to spell. Unumb is happy more children will have the same opportunity.
“He can't go read a Charles Dickens novel, but he can read the menu at the restaurant and that's life changing for him and for us quite frankly,” said Unumb.
She says the therapists are amazing and have taught him to type basic words with his iPad. Ryan may be a boy of a few words, but communication is no longer an obstacle.