Starting On the Autism Journey

colton1Colton’s parents Dominica and Justin first thought something was different about their son when he started whispering at about 14 months old.  By 15 months, he didn’t speak at all anymore and they were certain that he needed to be checked for autism.

He was officially diagnosed at 2 years old and will be turning 3 in June.

Among the challenges the family has faced is having their families understand Colton and what autism is.

“We have found ourselves pretty lonely through this, but the biggest challenge of all is of course financial,” said Dominica.

Their insurance company first misinformed them four times that they didn’t cover autism-related treatments at all. Then when they finally got the right answer, it was still devastating.

“We are allowed only 40 visits of shared OT and Speech combined, and no behavioral services at all,” notes Dominica, adding that when Colton turns 7 years old, “we will have another battle for services.”

In Dominica’s search to find out more about their legal rights related to autism treatment, she found WAAA’s website and connected with an advocate.  Through emails with her advocate, Dominica has learned about navigating insurance issues and how to begin an appeals process with their insurance company.

“Once our insurance company finally sends out a physical denial for ABA therapy, we will begin the appeals process,” Dominica said.

Justin, Colton, and Dominica
Justin, Colton, and Dominica

Dominica has also found support through meeting with WAAA’s Supporting Parents of Autism group when she can.

“I enjoy being surrounded by powerful women who ‘get it,’ and I am still actively seeking out more neuro-diverse families to create connections with. I believe our greatest resource is each other.”

Dominica also writes about their journey on her wonderful blog at coltonsmama2011.blogspot.com.

The Birth To Three program Colton attends in Burien has been a tremendous help to Colton and his family. He went from totally nonverbal to calling Dominica “Mama” right before Christmas.

“To hear my son say ‘Mama’ made me the happiest woman in the world. I truly wanted to throw a parade. It has been the best thing so far in my life other than the day he was born,” Dominica said.

Now Colton also says “Dada” and is bursting with many other new words.

“Colton has come so far in such a short amount of time. I truly believe he is a poster boy for early intervention,” she said.

The family will continue to be involved with WAAA as they work to get their son the services he needs to thrive.  Their current challenge is to find a new therapeutic program for Colton when he ages out of the Birth to Three program in Burien.

“WAAA has already felt like a godsend. We no longer feel so alone in this fight, especially after learning from them that our insurance is violating federal laws by denying autism treatment,” Dominica said.

She urges everyone to spread the word to the many families out there going through similar struggles and contact WAAA for help.

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