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The Fox Theatre is hosting a special “Sensory Friendly” showing of their latest new Sesame Street Live Show – “Can’t Stop Singing”. While there aren’t any changes to the show itself there will be some extra supports for those with children challenged by Sensory hurdles. They describe the show as  ….

The presentation will not differ from the theater’s regular performance. However, the theater is providing production notes to parents ahead of time, to prepare their children for what to expect, should anything be a potential trigger. Quiet areas will be set up inside the venue to allow families to take a break for a few minutes and extra spacing will be incorporated in some seating areas to allow for room to move around. Gluten-free concession food options will also be made available. 

MY GREAT KID

 

While it might still be too much for some children, it’s a great opportunity for those of you who might’ve been wondering if your child could make it through this kind of show. Discounted tickets, gluten free options, quiet areas, extra space, production notes and a more understanding venue are all GREAT supports to take advantage of.

For a downloadable pdf of the flyer please click below

Sesame Street Live Sensory Night @ The Fox Theatre

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Today the  Michigan Autism Insurance Reform law went into effect – YAHOOOOO ……

BUT WAIT, NOT SO FAST

Remember folks, the insurance companies didn’t WANT this law. As a matter of fact they spent a lot of time and money fighting to keep it from getting implemented. Much as we’d like to think that now that the law is a reality they’d be our allies in helping our children get the help they need the reality is that, well, they’re going to be more like a bratty toddler stomping their feet at bedtime …….

So, much like the parent of a bratty …. or “spirited” …. child how do we have to respond?

WE ENFORCE THE LAW, HOLD THEM PUBLICLY ACCOUNTABLE

AND BUST THEM HARD WHEN THEY DON’T COMPLY!

Need proof the insurance companies are not that concerned about making your life easy?

Here’s a screenshot from my search today (Oct 15th)of a major insurance company’s list of providers at 12:28 pm ……

 

Hmmm……no BCBA’s. Gonna make getting ABA for my child pretty tough considering without a BCBA I can’t get it covered.

Well, then SURELY I’ll be able to find a Speech or OT therapist right?

Nope! Sorry! Out of luck my friend.

So is there such a shortage of providers in the state of Michigan that the insurance companies simply can’t find any?

NO.

Is there a shortage of providers in the state, compared to where it needs to be based on the numbers in the state, …. yes.

HOWEVER, and this is a BIG HOWEVER the insurance companies have not made getting providers for these new treatment areas a big enough priority and worse then that, they’ve so ridiculously low balled providers that they’re now having to scramble and renegotiate rates to get them on board.  They’re hiding behind excuses like “there was a misunderstanding” on the rates but the reality is that the “misunderstanding” was that the insurance companies thought they’d be more successful strong arming providers.

Why does this matter for parents?

The insurance company delays and foot dragging means fewer children can be helped, waiting lists will be longer, delays greater and the implementation of this legislation will be dragged out. Does anyone really think if the law would have included a $1 million fine for every day that the insurance companies didn’t have an appropriate number of therapists/BCBA’s on board we’d be seeing these …. shortages?

Yeah, me either.

Ok, so does this mean YOUR child can’t get help or therapy? NO!!!

Does this mean that your therapy won’t be covered? ABSOLUTELY NO!!!!

Does this mean you’re going to have to battle old school with your insurance company?

Sadly…..in many cases ….. YES!

So how do you fight Goliath?

Here’s a starter’s guide from first hand experience battling insurance companies both as a parent and a provider.

Let’s start here …….

  • Realize you’re going to have to battle and your notes will be the key to holding folks accountable and getting answers. Insurance companies love running folks in circles  and you need a roadmap to keep from getting confused and lost. Soooooo, pull out that brand new notebook and write “INSURANCE COVERAGE NOTES” across the cover in big letters. This is now your official transcript and record of EVERY call and exchange you have with the good folks at the insurance company. For those who like a more tech answer there’s a number of note taking and organizing programs out there (my personal favorites are Evernote and Workflowy*). What you use isn’t nearly as important as the fact that you use something to keep it all straight and organized!
  • What do you record? EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!
    • Phone Calls
      • Time of call
      • Duration of call
      • Name(s) of people you talked to and their departments, even their personal extension if you can get it.
      • Questions you asked them and their answers. Since it’s common when dealing with insurance companies to get different answers from different people it’s not a bad idea to make sure you put WHO told you WHAT next to their comment.
      • If they say they’ll send you something or get back with you …. find out WHEN and write it down.
    • Letters/Emails/Texts/Pony Express/Smoke Signals
      • Anything you get in non-voice format DATE the literature the day you get it and file it with your stuff
      • If this is something you’ve been waiting to receive it’s a good idea to go back into your notes and put a “rec’d: date” next to it in your notes. This lets you know when you review your notes that you actually GOT what they sent you
  • If you don’t already have one get either a filing cabinet or (if you’re optimistic) a small filing box. Seems like overkill? Not for a moment my friend because you are going to have a TON of paperwork, bills, letters, explanation letters, denial letters, approval letters, reports, etc. that you’re going to  HAVE TO KEEP TRACK OF AND BE ABLE TO FIND. If you try to do this on the fly you’ll not only get buried and confused you’ll realize that the one CRUCIAL letter you HAVE to have …… probably got lost in the back of your car and tossed with a crumpled Happy Meal box.
So, what do you ask when you call the insurance companies to get  young junior the therapy he needs?
First of all, remember that the person you’re talking to on the other end of the phone isn’t making the rules and doesn’t want to give you a hassle (usually). Many times they’re also your best ally in trying to get the help, information and coverage that you need. Rules are rules, but you’d be SHOCKED how much can get covered or how much easier your process can be IF you have an ally on the other end of the phone. So…..
  • Be nice
  • Be polite
  • Stay calm
  • Say “please” and “thank you”
  • Be firm but nice
  • Be persistent but nice
  • Be a pain in the butt? Sure, but do it nicely
  • Remember, your goal isn’t winning an argument it’s getting your child covered (good GOD is this a hard one to remember!)

Here’s a starter list of questions ….. customize as you need to ……
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Autism Insurance Reform Comes To Michigan!

Michigan Autism Insurance Reform Has Passed

Autism Insurance Reform Is Signed Into Law By Lt. Governor Brian Calley!

When: April 18th, 2012

Where: The Governor’s Mansion – Lansing, Michigan

F.A.Q. Regarding The New Laws

The Three New Michigan Autism Insurance Reform Bills

S.B. 981

S.B. 414

S.B. 415

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MIRS BREAKING NEWS: Autism Insurance Reform Package Clears Senate — 1:15 p.m.

The Senate today passed a three-bill package on autism insurance coverage championed by both Gov. Rick SNYDER and Senate Majority Leader Randy RICHARDVILLE (R-Monroe).

The bills are SB 0414, SB 0415 and SB 0981. SB 0414 passed 29-9, with all the no votes coming from Republicans. SB 0981 passed 28-10.

Sen. John GLEASON (D-Flushing) lauded Lt. Gov. Brian CALLEY, whose daughter has autism, for taking the lead on the effort.

“You have become the face of this issue . . . because you were bold enough, really courageous enough, to put your family issues before 10 million Michiganders,” Gleason said.

The package moved out last week from the Senate Health Policy Committee (See “Autism Coverage Bills Sent to Senate Floor,” 3/8/12).

Senate Appropriations Chair Roger KAHN (R-Saginaw) lost amendments to the bills that would sunset the proposed law on Jan. 1, 2015.

“What is so difficult about a sunset?” he asked. “It allows us the opportunity to revisit the issue.”

On SB 0981, Kahn’s amendment capped spending at $30 million. He said it would limit “the amount of damage this bill will do in attempting to do good.” That also failed.

He raised his concerns about revenues coming in below estimates, as he’s done for several years. He said the bills are “important to me,” but it’s important not to “rob” those suffering from ailments like hemophilia from funding, as well. He said that the administration’s estimate could be low, arguing that similar legislation cost $80 million in Minnesota.

“Members should know this is an increase and ongoing cost, undefined but certainly increasing substantially,” Kahn said.

Richardville won amendments to each bill that would make the law go into effect on Oct. 1.

SB 0415 sponsor Sen. Tupac HUNTER (D-Detroit) said today “marks an important milestone in the Senate, but more importantly, for Michigan families.” He said he was approached five years ago by a constituent whose child has autism, which inspired him to introduce legislation.

An attempt by Sen. Rebekah WARREN (D-Ann Arbor) to add mental health parity to the bill via a substitute was shot down on a 18-20 record roll-call vote. She said it would “enhance this compassionate legislation.” She said she is “proud” to vote for the autism
Click here to read the exciting conclusion ….

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“We shouldn’t look at this as a mandate, but a moral public responsibility,”

- Sen. John Gleason, D-Flushing

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This afternoon there will be a vote in the Senate Health Policy Committee on the Autism Insurance Reform legislation. Should it pass out of committee the hope is that it will be on the floor of the MI Senate within a week for a full Senate vote before heading over to the House, where the process will start over again.

Supporters of the legislation are hopeful while opponents are doing everything they can deny, block or change and weaken the legislation.

Which brings up the question I’ve gotten repeatedly the last couple of weeks  …..

“Who the heck wouldn’t want to see children with Autism receive coverage?”

In an effort to answer this question, while also addressing some of the “WHY” behind the “WHO”,  I dove into the testimony that’s been given to the MI Senate Health Policy Committee regarding this legislation. The result of this research is listed below …..

Business Interests Opposing 

The Economic Alliance for Michigan (members include Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan)

SBAM | Small Business Association of Michigan

Voted Best Lobbying Organization | Michigan Chamber of Commerce

Grand Rapids & Detroit Chambers of Commerce (amongst other groups)

  • Talking Points Cheat Sheet
  • Will only extend coverage for less than 1/4 of Michigan’s families
  • Will increase costs and leave more Michiganders uninsured
  • Diminish and erode employer and collective bargaining rights
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Yesterday was slightly disappointing in that there was neither a Senate floor vote (ok, we knew that would be a long shot) or even a Healthy Policy Cmte. vote (this we were hoping would have happened).  The good news is that there was a fantastic turnout for the hearing with a standing room only audience at the start of the session and a lot of great testimony submitted.  I’ve included the meeting minutes below for those of you who were unable to make the meeting, along with a link under that one that has links to all of the testimonies submitted both in favor and opposing this legislation (though not all of these people were able to testify yesterday).
I’d encourage you to take a couple of moments to peruse some of the testimonies to get a feel for the facts, stats, stories and emotions behind this legislation. For those who’d like a good summarized explanation of the need for this legislation with the dollars and impact of this legislation I’d particularly recommend Dave Meador’s testimony and Powerpoint presentation, it’s a great cheat sheet to the facts regarding this legislation.
Next up? The Senate Health Policy committee will be reconvening next Tuesday at 12:00pm were indications are that the bills will, at least, be coming up for a committee vote. Keep your fingers crossed ….

For those who’d like more notes from yesterday’s hearing please feel free to check out the My Great Kid Facebook page where I posted notes throughout the hearing and the Autism Alliance Facebook which is another great source of updates and information throughout this legislation battle.

 

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At the end of November I posted a piece here asking if our politicians had forgotten about our kids.  While I haven’t been posting a lot lately – for a host of reasons, most personal and that will be changing now – I felt the need on the one year anniversary of the MI Senate, and big money interests therein, blocking Autism insurance legislation that would have meant an end to discrimination against children and families in MI facing Autism.  As you can probably imagine I got some feedback from that post – mostly positive – including some people assuring me that some of the folks I’d listed HADN’T forgotten.

Today the Michigan Senate Healthy Policy Committee, headed by Senator Jim Marleau, will be taking up the three new Autism legislation bills.  If the committee supports the bills and votes them out of committee favorably it will go to the Senate floor for a vote …. possibly as early as today.  The Lt. Governor, along with others, have been working behind the scenes to ensure that this time when the legislation comes up it succeeds. Estimates say that as many as 15,000+ children in Michigan face Autism.  That’s 15,000+ futures on the line starting today.

But let’s be honest, it’s more than that. Many of those children have siblings. Siblings who also see their futures changed with a sibling diagnosed with Autism. Siblings whose lives change as their family has to pour tens of thousands of dollars annually into therapies and interventions and go tens – if not hundreds of thousands – of dollars in debt to help their brother or sister. Children who watch their parents desperately try to do everything they can to fund that therapy – going without things for themselves, work additional jobs, skip vacations, reduce Christmas and birthday presents, etc. – to give more to the child that needs more.

You see, while Autism forces these children to face challenges which drastically impact every area of their lives Autism doesn’t just impact a child. Autism impacts the whole family. Autism  impacts our schools. Autism impacts our communities.

Facing these challenges doesn’t make these children “less than” any other members of our community but it does mean that they need more help. These parents aren’t looking for a hand out. WE parents are not looking for freebies. We’re looking for the protection and coverage that we’re paying for when we purchase insurance for our children. In a perfect world the insurance companies would protect and help these children because it’s the RIGHT thing to do. They’d protect and help these kids because it’s the moral thing to do. They’d help and protect these kids because it’s what they’re parents are paying them for. But ….. it’s not a perfect world, so today we’re asking the State legislature to begin the process of passing a law that will stop insurance companies from cheating these kids, bankrupting these families and adding billions – yes BILLIONS – to the burden of taxpayers.

Today is the time to do the right thing.

Today we’ll find out if our Politicians have forgotten.

Let’s hope it’s a good day!

To find out more about the Autism legislation battle please check out our Autism Insurance legislation page by clicking here!

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HILARIOUS! 25 Ways To Tell You’re A Grown Up

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One year ago I (along with a lot of other parents) was in the state capitol in Michigan advocating almost around the clock for three days for passage of Autism Insurance Coverage for Children in the state of Michigan.  Doesn’t seem like it would be a particularly hard thing to convince someone of, does it?  You have a child with a medical diagnosis.  A child with a real neurological condition.  A child that with early treatment and intervention has a great chance to overcome many of the hurdles that their medical condition would otherwise impose on them over the course of their lifetime.  To put it more bluntly, you help these kids and you give them a more promising, productive, rewarding future.

In the midst of what seemed like the final days before Spring Break in a middle school, we (the parents, therapists, children, etc. advocating for this legislation) watched as the legislators … many in their final days as legislators … ate cake and pizza and sang songs karaoke style on the floor of the Senate (seriously).  It was truly as if they’d gotten all of their work done early and were just counting down the final hours of their tax payer funded terms before they could all go home for Christmas break (you see Virginia in Michigan our Senators and Representative collect full-time paychecks but don’t necessarily put in full-time hours or work year round).  One of the things they forgot to do though was give the kids and families in Michigan battling Autism a chance to get their children the life changing help they need.  In what amounted to politics and political gamesmanship at its best (dirtiest?) the bill was blocked and kept as far away from the floor as it could because many (even those opposing it) knew that if the bill got to the floor of the Senate there were enough votes for it to get passed.  That would have been a life changing moment for thousands of kids and families in Michigan. But alas, it was not to be.

[click to continue…]

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We just got our confirmation from Santa that our annual “Special Kids Santa Event” at 12 Oaks Mall will be taking place on December 4th this year from 9:00am to 10:45am.

During this special reserved time families of children with Autism and other special needs have the ability to take the time they need in a more relaxed environment to visit and take pictures with Santa.  Professional [click to continue…]

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This Is Your Life Do What You Love ….


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While teachers are losing their jobs, estimates are that the recall election of MI Rep. Paul Scott cost about $1 million dollars (source: MIRS). 

Wow a $1,000,000.00 fight over a Rep. seat because, in large part, of his stances on Education Reform. I wonder how many educational improvements, teachers/admin salaries, new school resources could have been purchased with that $1,000,000 ?

Not to mention the 1,000′s of man (and women) hours spent on the recall ….. wonder how many kids could have been helped if we could have mobilized all that effort into the classrooms?

The kicker is that Rep. Scott was replaced as Chair of the House Education Committee by Rep. Tom McMillin …. who’s even MORE conservative than Rep. Scott….. so in the end, was it really worth $1,000,000?

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We’ve had such a great response to the Wrightslaw Conference and so much fantastic support from the business community that we’ve decided to add a special BONUS to this conference for FREE!!!!

FREE March 11th Pre-Conference Friday Night  “Experts Sessions” We’ve gathered some of the top experts in this state to share their expertise on a variety of Parenting and Education topics which will help you, help your child and help your family.  Trainings and sessions with these experts frequently cost hundreds of dollars but they’ve agree to share some of their expertise with you on this special night … FOR FREE. Don’t miss out!!!

  • Stephanie Cork – RLAC – “Orton-Gillingham & Other Reading Intervention Strategies For Special Needs Children”
  • Tom Kendziorski – The ARC of Oakland County – “Social Security, Transitions and Planning A More Secure Future For Your Child”
  • Jamie McGillivary – Beaumont HOPE Center & Healing Haven – “Stress Reduction For The Special Needs Family”
  • Aubry Dodge – Behavioral Consultant – “Fixing Wrong Behaviors: Functional Behavior Analysis & Behavior Intervention Plans”
  • Dean Norton -  Mac Professionals – “The IPad Educational Revolution & Education Technology”
  • Dr. Linsk – Integrative Medicine & Pediatrics – “The What & How of BioMedical Interventions For Kids With Special Needs”
  • Dr. Wycoff – Wycoff Wellness Center - “Another Way Of Looking At, Understanding & Treating Allergies”

This Friday night “Pre-Conference” Experts Night is our thank you to all of you and a rare opportunity to get some great information from some of the top experts in their fields FREE OF CHARGE. So please join us for this special night.

Click here to view a flyer for this event – Friday Night Speakers – please feel free to download it or share it with your friends!

*** You don’t need to have a ticket to the Wrightslaw Conference to attend this special Friday night speakers night.

 

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“Lights UP, Sound Down—Sensory Friendly Movie Program”

with a Special Showing Of

“Rango”

On March 5th, 2011 @ 9:15am

This monthly program is open to all families & children BUT is specifically designed for families & children with Autism and Sensory Issues which make watching a movie during prime time hours challenging. During the movie the theater will be a little bit brighter (that’s the Lights Up part) and it will be a little bit quieter (that’s the Sound Down part). This special showing is specifically designed (with the help of parents that understand these challenges first hand) to allow families and children with Autism and related challenges to enjoy a REAL movie in a REAL movie theater.

* Concessions will be available for purchase. If you have a child on a special diet, please call : 734-612-3934, for details!

Canton Cinemas – (map)

From Goodrich Cinemas :

Goodrich Quality Theaters is proud to present Lights Up, Sound Down. Lights Up, Sound Down gives families with children who have special needs the opportunity to enjoy their favorite movies in a comfortable, sensory – friendly setting with the lights turned up and volume turned down in the auditorium.

We recently have had requests from local autistic groups and played special screenings with positive feedback in our theaters located in Lafayette, IN and Canton, MI. We are excited to expand this program to more locations.

We offer a screening once a month of first run movies on Saturdays at 9:15am.

Available at select locations: Canton Cinema (Canton, MI), Grand Haven 9 (Grand Haven, MI), Hamilton 16 IMAX (Noblesville, IN), Holland 7 (Holland, MI), Lafayette 7 (Lafayette, IN), Portage 16 IMAX (Portage, IN), Quality 16 (Ann Arbor, MI), Randall 15 IMAX (Batavia, IL), and Savoy 16 (Champaign, IL).

Regular Matinee prices apply. Ask about Concession Discounts for groups of 15 or more!

 

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