I am so behind on blog posts. I will attempt to get caught up over the weekend. So, my first catch up post will be about Emery.
We had our follow-up meeting with The Imagine Center in September. Emery received a diagnosis of ASD - Autism Spectrum Disorder. They recommended getting her as much therapy as our insurance would cover and to get her evaluated and placed in our public school system. We were beyond relief to finally have a diagnosis for Emery. Since Michigan is one of the states that mandates autism benefits, we thought this diagnosis would definitely get Emery more therapy than the one hour per week she was currently receiving. Finally, we would be able to get her the help she so desperately needed. The neuro-psychologist recommended speech, occupational, and ABA (applied behavioral analysis) therapy.
Then we were hit with our first disappointment. The Michigan autism benefits mandate is not applicable to self-insured companies. Self-insured companies are regulated by the federal government, therefore making them not subject to the state mandate. Wouldn't you know, Bruce's employer is self-insured. No additional benefits for the autism diagnosis were available. I was crushed. It seemed like every time we thought we had something in place for Emery, it ended up not working out.
We were then directed to MIChild. MIChild is a Michigan program that helps families cover the cost of medical treatments not otherwise covered by insurance. Autism therapy treatments are included. So this was great news. I had renewed hope. Then was disappointment #2. Unfortunately, the MI autism program only applied to children through the age of 5. Ugh!
We were then directed to CSHCS. CSHCS (Children's Special Health Care Services) is a program in Michigan that helps cover the cost of services for children with special needs. The program is available to all ages. So Emery would qualify, or so we thought. One of the qualifications is that your child's diagnosis is included in the program. Out of more that 2700 diagnoses covered by the program, autism is not one of them.
Emery was caught in limbo. She didn't qualify for one program due to her age and the program that she met the age requirements, didn't cover her diagnosis. Yet another disappointment.
We were left with whatever our local public school could offer her. I can't remember whether or not I ever blogged about my conversation back in January with Special Education Director from our public school. He had told me that I would have to enroll Emery in a regular class before I could have her evaluated. I did not see this as an option. Emery could not be in a regular classroom even if it was only for a month or two. She would not be able to handle a regular classroom for a day or two. I tried to explain this to the director, but he was insistent that I needed to enroll her first.
Well, we never did enroll her. So she was not evaluated. The professionals at The Imagine Center
informed me that as a resident within the school district, the school was required to evaluate Emery for special needs placement regardless of her current enrollment. So I obtained a lot of information regarding Emery's rights and contacted the director again. He again began insisting that I enroll her. Once he realized I understood our rights, his attitude changed. We scheduled an evaluation for Emery.
I was a little wary of the special needs program based on my conversations with the director. However, I knew we needed to get Emery as much therapy as possible and this was basically our only choice other than private therapy at $200 per hour.
As it turns out, Emery's evaluation went extremely well. She was evaluated by the school speech therapist, occupational therapist, psychologist, and social worker. I was also informed at the evaluation that our district had an elementary autism classroom within walking distance of my house. This was quite contrary to what the director had told me in January. He said that Emery would have to be bussed to another district and would most likely be on the bus for one hour each way. I was so excited to finally be getting some good news.
After the evaluations and recommendation that Emery be placed in the Autism room, the team at the school completed Emery's IEP (individual education plan) and Emery started school full-time on October 14th. School for Emery is going far better than I ever expected. The best thing we ever did for Emery was to obtain a diagnosis. I will give more updates on school in another post.