WAAA was started out of necessity by a mother whose children with ASD had been denied autism-related health insurance and the special education support they desperately needed.
Led by Arzu Forough in 2007, we began a grass-roots campaign to find and enlist the help of other families with autistic children in every ZIP code across the state.
Hundreds of these people lobbied and volunteered what time they could — intermittently representing thousands of families over several years — while also trying to keep their own families out of crisis around the health, education, and financial stresses associated with raising a child with autism.
By 2012, our steadfast efforts began paying off. Our legal action in several key cases led to the state of Washington providing autism benefits for all public employees, Medicaid providing autism coverage for all low-income families in Washington, and three prominent private insurers providing coverage in several individual cases.
WAAA also successfully petitioned the federal healthcare reform program to require coverage for autism therapies. On the education side, we have lobbied for school districts to include autism supplements in IEPs, with moderate success to date.
WAAA gained not-for-profit status in 2012. Our thirteen-person staff (nine of them part-time) continues to serve an average of 2,800 families per year in insurance navigation. WAAA has also been expanding its services to help families ensure their children with ASD receive an effective education. These services include education peer to peer mentorship, seminars to teach parents about their children’s rights to special education, and legislative advocacy for educational change.