RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A Midlothian Mom opens up about her frustrating journey to get her son with autism school-ready.
Many families with preschool-aged children with autism say helpful therapy is available but it's often out of reach due to long waiting lists for federal waivers and insurance denials.
Milo's mom Wendy Wender is concerned with his growth and future ability to take care of himself. She's talking to NBC 12 because she wants others to know that early intervention works but says it's not being provided.
Milo is a cutie pie. He's engaging and happy. All signs of a success story. But, Milo wasn't always calm.
Diagnosed with mild to moderate autism at 18 months, Milo was more than a handful, Wender says.
"Not to sound bad, but it would be the same as a wild animal," Wender said. "We couldn't get him to sit. We couldn't go out to eat. He had to learn to sit in a chair."
Wender has tremendous love for her son, but she had to learn patience, which she learned from therapists trained in Applied Behavioral Analysis or ABA Therapy. It's intensive and expensive and most families can't afford it.
Milo got it for about a year, but it was taken away when the federal government realized it had made a mistake.
"That's help that any child should have the right too," Wender said. "It's frustrating. The hardest part is the frustration. I feel like we don't have a voice."
Wender is speaking out, working to demonstrate that early intervention does work but says children with autism aren't getting proper preschool services, which should include ABA therapy. She's concerned about Milo's growth and future ability to take care of himself.
She believes families enduring the same struggle as she are being discriminated against.
"They are getting the bare minimum," Wender says. "They are not getting the proper education that they need. They are not getting their right to thrive as a human being our basic human rights."
"If they are able to get the therapy early in life, they can treat the autism," she continued. "By denying that, you are denying them the chance to be able to grow."
Wender says Milo's pediatrician says he's not the same child and she is impressed with how he has developed because of the ABA Therapy he did receive.
Milo wasn't talking at two. He is now and he's counting and learning social skills. But, what's next now that he doesn't have access to therapy any more has the family concerned.
"He's not able to get the help and it worries me for the future," Wender remarked. "It scares me for the future for him and other children."
Unlike many families, Milo has a lot of family support and his mom has some teaching experience and training. In the meantime, she's lobbying concerned
parents to contact their lawmakers.
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