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Autism study may offer new hope

Published: Friday, March 20 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

Whiffen said the higher scores for some of the Utah group could be directly related to early intervention, which she credits with completely reversing the disorder in her 8-year-old son.

During this past legislative session, Whiffen endorsed and allowed her son's name to be used on a bill, SB43, that would have made behavior and education training a benefit covered by private insurance companies. The bill was approved in the Senate, but died there. The bill also was amended so much that Whiffen and the coalition withdrew their support.

Early intervention could have been part of the success cited in the study, "if their families were able to afford outside help, or if they happened to receive quality state-funded early intervention free of overcrowded, watered-down programs and waiting lists" that most families face, she said. "The missing piece to this study is what type of intervention did these individuals receive, if any? I think this piece of information is crucial in underlining the results of the study."

Researchers will be further investigating that and several other implications the study raises.

The study's conclusions build a strong case as to why insurance coverage for autism diagnosis and treatment is so important, Whiffen said. "What if we could have nearly 50 percent in the very good social outcome without them needing any assistance to state services? What if an additional 40 percent reached the middle outcome, but many still went on to live independently?"

Other research shows — and many Utah families can attest — that the percentages having good social outcomes without ever needing state services is possible, she said. "This creates a very strong case for early intervention and the need to allocate more monies to our state programs and preschools."

E-mail: jthalman@desnews.com

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