Autism advocates push for better access to ABA services for children in West Virginia

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – Autism advocates are working to fight for services that thousands of West Virginia children need. It’s called applied behavior analysis, commonly known to those working in the autism community as ABA. It’s the most effective evidence-based treatment for children with autism spectrum disorders yet highly unavailable to mountain state kids.

“With intense early intervention we can make a significant improvement in children’s lives we actually have a 90-percent effective rate but in the state, less than ten percent of kids have access to ABA,” says Jill Scarboro-McLaury, founder of CARES.

Out of the 6,000 West Virginia children who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder only about 600 of them have access to these services. Scarboro-McLaury says this is largely due to lack of ABA providers in the state.

“We have a two-fold issue. One we don’t have currently an in-state provider training program we actually did have one at WVU it was housed in the special-ed department but this year the entire master’s program at WVU got cut,” she adds.

With no in-state certification, there are not enough providers and that means waiting lists for treatment at clinics across the state are growing.

Angela Wood, the executive director, the Augusta Levy Learning Center says, “At our center, we have over one-hundred kids on our waiting list.”

Parents like Sarah Harris are desperate to get their children access to the help they need.

“It wasn’t easy there weren’t a lot of options…he was having trouble in the public school setting because while he was able to do the work he wasn’t able to participate in the classroom where the other kids were,” Harris tells 13 News.

Harris says she was forced to pull her son Jett out of public school so she could provide the care he required in a homeschool environment. After getting Jett into an ABA program things changed.

“He’s learned the skills now he’s able we are looking in August to go back to school… he thrived in an academic environment he struggled in a social environment so to be able to teach him the skills and let him get back in there and be successful means that he has the best opportunity to be who he’s meant to be,” Harris says.

Advocates are pushing for bills in both the West Virginia House and Senate that will permit a certified behavioral analyst to be eligible for the student loan repayment program. Keeping those who are certified in the Mountain State. They are also working to get the funding back for WVU’s certification program.

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