A lighthouse fundraiser for autism awareness

HANNIBAL, MO. — Many have marveled at the beauty of the overlook when standing next to the lighthouse in America’s Hometown. Now a local mother wants to use that resource for a cause and for good health.

Marlene Rodenbaugh has an autistic child.She, along with the help of her friends and supporters started a group called, “Shining the Light on Autism.”And they’ve come up with a plan that’s fitting to their namesake.

These 244 steps soon will be climbed in honor of children with special needs. A group called “Shining the Light on Autism” is planning a lighthouse challenge to raise money for an all-inclusive playground at Huckleberry Park. You’ll have a chance to climb the steps up to the lighthouse on Cardiff Hill, not to mention other activities for the whole family.

via Shining the light on autism lighthouse challenge : News : ConnectTriStates.com.

Program could smooth a hard road to college for student with Down syndrome

A new program in Missouri is aimed at helping students with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities experience college and build skills that will take them from home to independence and employment.  It’s called THRIVE – for Transportation, Health, Responsibility, Independence, Vocation, Education. Read this Kansas City Star story about a possible participant in the THRIVE program.

Ask Mary Warm about her hope for her future, and she cocks her head. The bushy ponytail swings, the smile spreads across her face.

“I love kids, being around kids and hanging out with them, so I want to be a teacher,” said Warm, 18, a junior at Archbishop O’Hara High School in Kansas City.

For most teens Warm’s age, her goal is fairly easily reached with good grades in high school and four years of hard work in college. But for Warm, who has Down syndrome, a chromosomal disorder resulting in cognitive disabilities, it’s not as easy.

But the University of Central Missouri’s THRIVE program, which starts this fall, could well be a big step toward making it easier after she graduates from O’Hara.

via Program could smooth a hard road to college for student with Down syndrome – KansasCity.com.

Missouri Lawmakers Push to Mandate Autism Insurance Coverage for Kids

A group of Republican lawmakers joined Gov. Jay Nixon on Thursday to push legislation that would require insurance companies to provide coverage for certain therapies for autistic children.  Lawmakers attempted this last session but concerns about the cost of a mandate ended up killing the bill in the House. Those concerns remain but Nixon pledges 2010 will be the year that autism coverage becomes mandatory in Missouri.

As the mother of two boys with autism, Elizabeth Obrey has seen the progress that regular therapies can produce.  Her 4-year-old Chase now plugs through his A-B-Cs.  Her 7-year-old Nathan is opening up, beginning to read.

Their schooling is not cheap.  Even with insurance and a $500 monthly co-pay, Obrey pays thousands of dollars each year out of pocket for classes at Rivendale Center for Autism in Springfield. It is an overwhelming financial burden.

“When we moved, we sold a house and a business and that money, instead of reinvesting it in a house, it went to their therapies,” said Obrey.

With Nixon’s backing, a bipartisan group of lawmakers is pushing legislation that would not only mandate insurance companies provide coverage — up to $72,000 a year — but prevent them from refusing or restricting therapies.

“We know that 1 in 100 kids are being diagnosed, and we know that 1 in 58 boys born today will be diagnosed,” said Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale.

“As many of us know, autism is one of 12 major neurological disorders and the only one of those 12 that’s excluded from coverage by insurance carriers.  We believe that is grossly discriminatory and a civil rights issue,” said Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst, R-Valley Park.

Obrey said she talks to many parents who would jump at the chance to put their children in a program like Rivendale but who have no financial option to do so.

Arguments against the bill are a concern about the financial burden that could be placed on small businesses and the impact a mandate could have on already rising healthcare insurance premiums.

“This is another mandated benefit and, just like any other mandate, there is a certain amount of cost to require companies to provide that coverage, and, the smaller the group, the larger the impact,” said Rep. Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho.

For Obrey, even without coverage, she’ll sacrifice for her sons, because there’s no price for a chance at normalcy.

“I do think that our children are being excluded,” she said.  “If my child had cancer, would you pull chemo from them?”

Via Missouri lawmakers push to mandate autism insurance coverage for kids