April is Autism Awareness Month, also referred to as Autism Acceptance Month. April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day. Years ago, the conversation around Autism Spectrum Disorder was much different from what it is currently. Today, there is more open dialogue around Autism and Autistic people. In 2023, programs will be offered to caregivers, there are guides on how to live with Autism, and public places are becoming more accessible to Autistic people.
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
According to the CDC, Autism Spectrum Disorder is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. The CDC states that scientists believe there are multiple causes of ASD and because there is much to learn, ASD is still being studied today.
A diagnosis can be hard to obtain for any age and there are often no physical signs of this disorder. In fact, the most common signs of ASD are usually problems with social communication and behavior. Autistic people typically communicate, interact, and learn differently than most other people.
Autism usually appears in early childhood but can be diagnosed well into adulthood, especially for older generations. Early diagnosis can help a person receive resources that allow them access to opportunities and help them to live to their full extent.
When children are diagnosed with Autism, many parents are unsure where to start when it comes to caregiving. The World Health Organization developed the Caregiver Skills Training for Families of Children with Developmental Delays or Disabilities.
This program is free and teaches caregivers everyday skills to help their children. These include using routines to build social, communication, and living skills. Problem-solving and self-care skills are taught to help “build confidence, reduce stress, and improve their overall well-being- all while learning how to support their children better.” There are 15 modules that usually take around 2.5 months to complete.
Living as an Autistic Person
Different Autistic people have different support needs. Many times, Autistic people must advocate for themselves when it comes to their needs and accessibility. The Autism Acceptance website, has given examples of how Autistic people might need help with everyday tasks.
Public places are even creating spaces that are meant for Autistic people. For example, Disney World has an entire guide for planning a trip for those with Autism. While at Disney World, there is a list of places that provide a quiet place when experiencing sensory overload. Even sports stadiums are adding sensory rooms or sensory kits for Autistic people.
How AFSPA Can Help
The Foreign Service Benefit Plan covers Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) assessment and treatment at 90% of the Plan allowance for in-network providers and providers outside the 50 U.S., and 70% of the Plan allowance for out-of-network when provided by behavioral health providers. Assessment or treatment with ABA requires prior approval. To get prior approval, you, your representative, your physician, or your hospital must call us at 800-593-2354 before admission or medical services requiring prior approval are rendered. Read more about this in Section 3 of the FSBP Plan Brochure.
According to Autism Speaks, behavioral analysis helps explain how behavior works, how behavior is affected by the environment, and how learning takes place. FSBP also covers behavioral therapy, which helps increase social, communication, and language skills in Autistic people.
In addition, FSBP covers outpatient physical, occupational, and speech therapy visits for the diagnoses of autism and developmental delays at 90% of the Plan allowance for in-network providers and providers outside the 50 U.S., and 70% of the Plan allowance for out-of-network providers. You can read more about what FSBP covers for other mental health and behavioral health services on page 75 of the 2023 FSBP Plan Brochure.