What promise does Ohio hold for this autistic boy?
Parents say a scholarship program may help where Oklahoma falls short

By Michael McNutt Published: May 30, 2008
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Time is critical, mother says
Hall said her family has no choice.

"It's going to be at least another year before this gets considered and then maybe another six months to a year after that before it's implemented,” she said. "Dougie doesn't have time.

"When you're looking at any kind of neurological disorder, you have to think in terms of what's best for the child in critical phases,” she said.

"Those neural connections are forming at the most rapid rate when a child is between zero and 6 years old. … This golden triangle of when my son's brain is the most malleable will soon be over. He doesn't have time — he needs these interventions now to be functional.”

Hall said she and her husband, who is a critical care nurse, are fortunate that they have "portable” jobs. She will continue to work on a project she's been involved in at OU — she'll be paid by one of the grant partners instead of being on the university's payroll — and her husband should have no problem finding a job in Cincinnati, where the family is relocating, she said.

"For every family like us, there are probably 30 to 40 Oklahoma families who could never dream of picking up and leaving.”

Private school has helped Dougie
Hall said her family has drained nearly all its savings to send her son to a private school for treatment. Their son has flourished at the Rubicon School and Learning Center in Edmond since he started going there in August.

"It's a wonderful school,” she said. "They have done a wonderful job with him. We've seen a turnaround; it's not money down a rat hole. It has absolutely changed his life.”

Before he started the school, Dougie knew about 10 words and was not toilet-trained, she said. Dougie now knows how to use the toilet and "his vocabulary is close to 500 words and he is saying small sentences using a subject, a verb and an object,” Hall said.

He has received physical and occupational therapy at the school and some behavioral treatment as well as learning to develop social skills, she said.

"It's been quite expensive for us, and there's no help,” Hall said

In Ohio, the state provides up to $20,000 a year for either private schools or autism treatment, she said.

The family has private insurance, but it doesn't cover behavioral therapy for autistic children, she said. Her policy does cover speech, language and occupational therapy, but it's limited to 20 visits a year.

"That doesn't begin to cover what an autistic child needs,” Hall said.

Dougie, who was diagnosed as having autism about two years ago, goes to school five days a week and receives the equivalent of 12 visits a week, she said.