What Is Autism?

Autism | What Is Autism | Autism Class Action Lawsuits | The Maher Law FirmAutism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are terms used to describe a complex disorder of brain development.

Autism is a disorder of neural development or “neurodevelopment disorder” (an impairment of the growth and development of the brain or central nervous system).  The term neurodevelopment disorder, sometimes refers to a disorder of brain function that affects emotion, learning ability and memory.

Autism covers a wide range of disorders including:

Difficulties in Social Interaction - Inability and/or a lack of desire to interact with peers

Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication - Applies to the process of communicating through verbal or non-verbal cues.  Non-verbal is wordless relying on mostly visual cues.

Repetitive Behavior - A wide range of specific forms of abnormal repetition including motor stereotype, rituals, compulsions, obsessions, sameness behaviors, echolalia, and self injury have been associated with this disorder

Autistic Disorder - An extremely disabling syndrome associated with multiple co-morbid conditions

Rett Syndrome - Characterized by autistic behavior, gait ataxia, stereotyped movements, seizures and generalized growth and mental retardation, possibly associated with disorders of central biogenic amine synthesis.

Childhood Dis-Integrative Disorder - CDD is sometimes considered a low-functioning form of Autism.  It is a rare condition characterized by late onset (3 years of age) of developmental delays in language, social function, and motor skills.

Pervasive Development Disorder - PDD refers to a group of five disorders (non-specified PDD including atypical autism, Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Rett Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder -CDD-) which are characterized by delays in development of multiple functions including socialization and communication.

Asperger Syndrome - AS is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests.

Early studies showed that Autism was an effect of genetics or heritability (if the heritability of a condition is high, then the condition is considered to be primarily genetic), but today controversies surround the genetic basis and question other causes such as, heavy metals (waste-derived fuels and pollution), pesticides and childhood vaccines.

About Autism | Autism In Children

There is no one cause of autism.  There are a number of gene changes/mutations associated with autism, such as autism risk genes and environmental factors.  Autism risks are modestly increased with the following factors;  advanced parental age at the time of conception (both the mother and the father), maternal illness, difficulties during birth (oxygen deprivation to the baby).  Some research shows that the risk of autism can be reduced if the mother takes prenatal vitamins and eats a diet rich in folic acid both before and after conception.

Kids with Autism can have trouble “making sense of the world”.  It is sometimes hard for children with autism to talk, listen, understand, play, and learn.  Symptoms of Autism for kids can be anywhere from mild to severe.  Kids with sever Autism can get very upset by loud noises, while kids with mild Autism may not mind loud noises and may only need a little help getting over them.  Kids with Autism might:  have a hard time expressing emotion, have trouble learning the meaning of words, do the same thing over and over, move his/her arms or body in a certain way, have trouble adjusting to change.

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) 1 in 88 American children are on the autism spectrum.  It is estimated that 1 out of every 54 boys and 1 out of every 252 girls has autism in the Untied States.  Boys are 4 to 5 times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls.  Families who have children with autism are finding it increasingly difficult to engage in activities outside the home due to the fact that children with autism are prone to wandering.  A new study shows that nearly half of the children with autism have at one time disappeared,  reportedly missing long enough to warrant concern.   Click here for the full story.

More children are diagnosed with autism each year affecting over 2 million individuals in the U.S and tens of millions worldwide.  Government autism statistics suggest that prevalence rates have increased 10 to 17 percent annually in recent years.

Sadly, in the state of Florida, children with disabilities such as autism and who have medically complex conditions are being placed in facilities that are failing to provide proper care.  According to the Civil Rights Division’s investigation of the state of Florida, “Hundreds of children are currently segregated in nursing facilities throughout Florida.  They are growing up apart from their families in hospital-like settings, among elderly nursing facility residents and other individuals with disabilities.  They live segregated lives – having few opportunities to interact with children and young adults without disabilities or to experience many of the social, educational and recreational activities that are critical to child development.”          To read the full report from the U.S Department of Justice click here.

Autism Medical Insurance Coverage

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Labor and The Treasury jointly issued new rules providing parity (equality) for consumers enrolled in group health plans.  The Mental Health Parity Act was created so that companies would be required to provide coverage for Autism therapy.  ”The rules we are issuing today will, for the first time, help assure that those diagnosed with these debilitating and sometimes life-threatening disorders will not suffer needless or arbitrary limits on their care,” said Secretary Sebelius.  ” I applaud the long-standing and bipartisan effort that made these important new protections possible.”  ”These rules expand on existing protections to ensure that people don’t face unnecessary barriers to the treatment they need.” said Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin

Although, providing necessary therapy has proven to be both difficult and expensive for families of children with autism.  Companies traditionally haven’t covered autism therapy, despite the states Mental Health Parity Act requiring them to do so.  In fact, last spring, several families got together to file class action lawsuits against Group Health, Regency and Primera insurance companies, asking them to remove the “annual treatment limits” and not deny coverage after a child turns seven years old.  ”When you’re looking at a year of therapy and you have 12 visits, that goes pretty quickly, your benefits are maxed out in the first three months.” said Jennifer O’Neal, a mother of an autistic son.

The Autism Society believes all government and non-government entities must understand that any health-care reform must not preclude individuals with developmental disabilities from life-changing therapies.  In addition, for health-care to be effective, autism must be viewed as a whole-body condition that requires medical and non-medical treatments.

Autism Class Action Lawsuits

Class action lawsuits filed against insurers demand equal coverage for Autism, mental-health conditions and all other neurodevelopmental diseases.   Demanding that Autism and other neurodevelopmental disabilities be treated by health insurance companies like other chronic medical conditions.

Group Health Cooperative, has announced that it is suspending coverage limits.  This applies to neurodevelopmental therapies, behavior modification programs, visits with mental health practitioners and therapists.  ”Group Health’s decision to suspend limits retroactively to June 1st was remarkably great news”. said Sean Corry, a longtime advocate for mental health parity.

At The Maher Law Firm, it is our desire to educate and empower parents, educators, doctors, therapists and community partners in the spirit of advocacy and commitment to those with Autism and their families.  We consider it a privilege to represent families of special needs children.  If you or a loved one has questions concerning an Autistic family member, please don’t hesitate to phone us at 1-866-481-8667 or contact us here.