Family says MT law helps them manage son's autism


KALISPELL, Mont. - The latest studies indicate more and more children have autism. Studies say that one in 68 are somewhere on the spectrum. That is about a 30-percent jump in the last two years.

Child development workers estimate more than 300 Flathead County residents have autism.

Clay Weber lives with autism, but his parents can afford intense therapy, because of a Montana law.

"It was a huge relief because we felt like Clay's disease was actually recognized as a medical condition, and we felt like he was finally getting recognized as having a disability that deserves treatment that can help him," said Mindy Weber, Clay's mother.

The 2009 legislature passed Brandon's Law, requiring insurance companies to cover autism treatment. Weber remembers when they had to pay $15,000 a year out of pocket.

"Financially put a lot of food versus therapy into the equation when were figuring that out," said Weber.

And that's not all, the $15,000 only paid for the bare minimum of treatment -- just enough to keep Clay progressing. Now that insurance covers Clay, he's able to have more therapy. He's been progressing at the Child Development Center for three years.

"Just going from very, very little language, no social skills. Having a hard time going into new places with new people, but he's come to a point now where he can have five, six-word utterances, asking for things without even being prompted," said Ema Hermosillo, Clay's autism trainer.

"He has a lot more words, he's very happy. He loves going to therapy and he's just made a ton of progress with being able to have the behavioral therapy since he's been able to," said Weber.

Montana is in the minority. Only 10 states in the United States have passed similar autism reform bills. For Clay, the treatment it provides is life-changing.

Brandon's Law requires insurance companies to cover up to $50,000 for children up to the age of 8, and then $20,000 for children 9 through 18.