This week, we've seen the potential for autism treatment to help children in our state and the problems many still have accessing it. A parent-training program could help fill some of the gaps until a more permanent is available for families.
Twins Tristan and Autumn Hinebaugh receive treatment at West Virginia University's Center for Excellence in Disabilities, and their family was part of a pilot program to take some of the treatment home.
The Parent Implemented Training for Autism through Telemedicine (PITA-T) program is funded by a five year grant to expand professional autism treatment to remote or rural areas.
Mom Tina Hinebaugh learned the basics then recorded her sessions with Tristan and Autumn. The videos were reviewed by Board Certified Behavioral Analysts (BCBAs) at West Virginia University who provided feedback.
"It gave me structure to know where they were developmentally and how to help them," Tina said, "How to break down the skills that they needed into little pieces that helped them get the whole skill eventually."
More than 50 families have participated over the last four years. The program's administrators found that parents need structure around the treatment too and plan to provide more training up front in this last year.
"We also want to provide them with live observation of the sessions through high speed internet and webcam so we can provide them with immediate feedback," said Lashanna Brunson with the PITA-T program, "and we think making those changes will make it a little easier."
Families spend a year in the PITA-T program. The Hinebaughs are finished with it, though sessions continue at the autism clinic
They enter kindergarten this fall. Both will need some extra help in school, but they are now set up for success.
"She has really begun to put her world together," Tina said of Autumn. "If you put him in a room full of other children, with an untrained eye I highly doubt that any of you would be able to tell me that Tristan is autistic."
Dr. Susannah Poe, the director of the autism clinic, hopes lawmakers will take up the case for more coverage so no child is denied the same results.
"We're finding that it doesn't cost nearly as much as people think it does, and the benefits are just priceless," she said. "There's no way to replace the value of a Tristan or an Autumn who become typically developing kids and end up as productive members of society."