Don't Just Be Aware: Autism Acceptance Month

April marks the start of Autism Acceptance Month, a 30-day advocacy campaign that aims to increase visibility, raise money, and share information about life as a person with autism. But the campaign didn't start as an all-encompassing push for "Acceptance."

Moving From Autism Awareness to Autism Acceptance

Originally, the month grew out of an "Autism Awareness Week" that started in the 1950s. While important to discuss, the program primarily shared information about the then-misunderstood diagnosis and sought ‌a vague "cure." This framed autism as a medical problem that needed to be solved, instead of a neurodivergent diagnosis affecting many people who live whole and fulfilling lives. 

As time passed and people with autism began engaging in self-advocacy, they could express their concerns and alter the previous campaign, moving away from the term "awareness" and other outdated forms of support.

What Makes Autism Acceptance Month Different From Previous Iterations?

The new "Autism Acceptance Month" campaign grew out of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), which was formed in 2006 by a group of people on the spectrum. ASAN sought to share more accurate information about autism and promote fair support systems for people with autism. 

It moved away from finding supposed cures or solutions to autism—instead of trying to influence the societal perceptions of the diagnosis to make public spaces more inclusive. This means the ASAN shied away from the stereotypes of the disease, which often only featured extreme or misrepresentative examples. 

The new movement still seeks support for those most affected by the diagnosis, but it carved out extra space for people who live day-to-day with the diagnosis to talk about their daily life and how it could be positively impacted by those around them.

That cultural push centered on giving autistic self-advocates the floor in the discussion of the diagnosis. The "awareness" efforts of previous years were mostly conducted by advocates who were not on the spectrum. These people might be well-intentioned, but the self-advocates turned the conversation away from cures to highlighting issues or misconceptions.

ASAN and the change to "acceptance" culminated in a petition that asked the White House to officially recognize April as Autism Acceptance Month. President Obama signed that petition on October 2, 2014, officially recognizing April as Autism Acceptance Month. 

In his letter, President Obama wrote, "I hope that during this month we raise awareness about autism spectrum disorders, show compassion towards those with the disorder, and support efforts made by families and communities to enhance the lives of all individuals living with autism spectrum disorders."

The president's recognition of Autism Acceptance Month is an important step forward for the movement. But it's still just thata step forward. There is still a lot of work to do.

Speaking Out For Autism Acceptance

Because of the petition, many organizations and advocates now can promote autism acceptance. And they can leverage the high-profile advocacy month to raise money and share their stories without alienating those in the community that don't want a ''cure". Many people with autism take pride in their diagnosis, and with the acceptance month, they can visibly express that pride while helping others in the community who struggle.

There's no doubt that there is still work to be done. But this is also an exciting time for self-advocates and their allies because they are taking control of their own message. They are making sure that the public understands what it means to have autism, rather than allowing those people without an autism diagnosis to write the narrative. The movement is growing in size and influence. And it has been achieved with no significant professional support or funding.

The movement has come so far so quickly because self-advocates fought for their own rights. In doing so, they disrupted conventional wisdom about how society should treat autistic people and challenged long-standing assumptions about what is best for them. They are changing how people view the diagnosis, from something that needs to be cured or eradicated to something that is natural and that affects 1 in 44 children in America.

So as Autism Acceptance Month begins this April, consider the history of the movement and its advocates while learning something new about the diagnosis.


Medical Necessity Assessment - 5 FAQ's (Video Recording)

Rethink Behavioral Health, an industry leader in applying technology to support therapy providers in improving clinical outcomes, has developed the first-ever research-backed protocol to help clinicians prescribe appropriate levels of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy for children with autism.

The company’s Medical Necessity Assessment (MNA) analytic provides an objective standard to help ABA therapy practitioners build individualized treatment plans. In this live discussion, the team will discuss the tool’s key benefits for ABA providers, address frequently asked questions, and answer attendees’ questions on MNA.


parents playing with children

Parent & Caregiver Engagement: The Evolution & Best Practices for Today

Even before 2020, parent & caregiver engagement was becoming an increasingly hot topic as it can not only affect clinical outcomes, but also at an operational level.

Because of COVID, the landscape has completely shifted towards telehealth which poses the question: how to involve the already busy parent/caregiver who has also had their day-to-day flipped to remote work?

Find out that and more as attendees can expect to discuss:

  • Shifts in Parent Engagement Expectations by Generations
  • Strategies/Best Practices to Maintain Parent Engagement
  • Realities of Parent Engagement During COVID
  • The Future of Parent Engagement

and more!


Featuring:

  • Stacy Taylor, MA, BCBA, President/Clinical Director of Advance Behavior & Learning
  • Leah McNaughton, SLP, Practice Manager at RL Therapy California
  • Sara Litvak, MA, BCBA, CEO of Behavioral Health Center of Excellence

To watch the webinar, please fill out your information below:


Enjoying the Holidays During a Pandemic

Rethink experts have compiled this guide for families raising children with learning, social and/or behavioral challenges. We suggest following the recommendations of your public health officials for guidance on holiday gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the winter holidays approach, you might be wondering how to balance supporting your child’s learning, social and/or behavior challenges and adapting to the unique circumstances of celebrating during a pandemic. Our team has compiled a list of ideas we think you’ll find helpful.

There are many holidays across cultures, worldwide, during the latter months of the year. This time of year is often filled with fun, family, great food, nostalgic movies, traditions and maybe even presents. This season can also create a wave of stress – a lot of stress. There are more people to see, more events to attend and prepare for, more decorations and distractions, time off from school/work/therapies – the list goes on.

Now with 2020 being in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we may also have to deal with modifications and changes to our usual celebratory routines. This can be hard for some kids (and adults, too!).

Holidays often requires extra preparation, organization and logistical planning in order to keep stress to a minimum. Let’s take a look at some examples of how families can maximize the holiday cheer this year:

PREPARE AHEAD

Teach valuable skills your child will benefit from having now, so he/she can participate in holiday activities. These include:

  • Motor skills – Practicing spinning a dreidel, crafting, unwrapping and wrapping presents
  • Language skills – Using manners (Please, thank you), following instructions (Don’t touch!)
  • Academic – Budgeting and purchasing presents, baking, counting up on an Advent calendar
  • Social skills – Turn taking, sharing, gift giving, playing games, having a conversation with unfamiliar people
  • Self-help skills – Tolerating winter clothing, trying new foods, sitting at the table
  • Physical distancing – Role playing safe distances
  • Mask wearing – Practicing wearing masks for increased durations of time

PLAN TRADITIONS CAREFULLY

DECOR TIPS:

  • Set presents out right before opening to reduce temptation
  • Involve your child in decorating
  • Add decorations slowly or scale back what you put out if change is difficult for your child
  • Be mindful of safety (plastic vs. glass ornaments, fake vs. real menorah candles)

CELEBRATION TIPS:

  • If you won’t be celebrating in-person with others, consider telling your child sooner rather than later to help him/her cope with a possible upset
  • Consider writing a social story (an illustrated teaching story in first-person) to help your child understand
    how this year’s holidays may be different
  • Get your child involved in brainstorming “distance” holiday games and festivities that might be fun to do over video conference, or select alternative activities to do at home
  • Practice attending religious ceremonies via video conference so when your holiday comes, your child will be more familiar to this format
  • If you plan to attend religious ceremonies in-person, practice going, stake out a spot and plan an escape route if this is not a regular occurrence for your child
  • Practice being around more stimuli (smells, candles, music, etc.)
  • Place a picture of the gift’s recipient instead of name tags on gifts, so your child can participate in gift giving independently if he/she cannot read
  • Wrap up toys/gifts your child already owns if your child is overwhelmed by new/unknown items, so he/she can still participate with others
  • Prepare an event book of past pictures/descriptions to help your child anticipate this year’s festivities, especially if they will look similar
  • Use a visual schedule/calendar to set expectations for things such as when a Christmas tree is coming/going, the dates of Kwanzaa, etc.

KEEP BEHAVIOR PROTOCOLS RUNNING:

  • Work with teachers/therapists to help you prepare and suggest ideas to maintain skills
  • Ask for help from your support network to keep protocols consistent (child-care workers, etc.)
  • Keep exclusive reinforcers handy (items, toys, snacks that are highly motivating but are restricted) for long car rides and behavior expectations during events
  • Use visuals such as sticky notes or a reminder on the refrigerator of what behaviors you are working on with your child and what they are earning, as it’s easier to forget during holiday time

THE DAY OF THE HOLIDAY OR CELEBRATION:

  • Define social expectations for your child if you will be around other people and if there are any rewards associated with appropriate behavior
  • Define social expectations for the caregivers to alleviate confusion and frustration (e.g., take turns between child monitoring/play facilitation vs. family/friend socializing)
  • If mealtime is difficult for your child, give yourself permission to eat ahead of time to avoid food struggles
  • Brief family members of any special requests (pets out of the room, lower the music, need a quiet place for a home base, etc.)
  • Give yourself a pep talk. You are prepared and doing the best you can. This is your holiday, too!

DURING THE FESTIVITIES:

  • Stake out a quiet spot for your child to find retreat, if needed
  • Introduce your child slowly to family/friends
  • Use a concrete visual aid (e.g., an ornament) to signal when it’s someone’s turn to open a gift if impulsivity is a challenge for your child
  • Watch for behavioral precursors, as they may come up more quickly in stressful situations
  • Give tasks/jobs so your child feels included (e.g., helper in the kitchen)
  • Allow staggered gift giving or reserve for later if your child gets overwhelmed
  • Inform unfamiliar/new people of your child’s needs and how to act around them
  • Watch for safety hazards as not all environments or homes are child/baby proofed the way your child is used to at their own home
  • Reserve special one-on-one time for your child to help him/her feel safe
  • Allow breaks or give special roles during eating if your child cannot sit for long periods (e.g., the “roll passer” or the table interviewer)
  • Enjoy yourself!

Overall, this time of year can be sprinkled with stressful scenarios and, while we can’t prevent everything, practicing, preparing and planning ahead can help to make for a more enjoyable holiday season for everyone. We invite you to reflect on some of these tips to see how you can personalize them to your family and the holidays you enjoy. As always, don’t forget to check back into your Rethink account or sign up for you’re a free virtual consultation to further discuss how to make this season a stress-free one for your family. Happy Holidays!

RESOURCES

How to prepare your child with special needs for Chanukah

13 Holiday survival tips for your child with special needs

How an autism family prepares for Thanksgiving


Image of Luvelle Brown

Empowering Students to Address Social Injustice [VIDEO]

We would like to speak out after a difficult two weeks of watching the pain of racism on display in many communities. The violence and racism that took the lives of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, are wrong.  Unfortunately these specific acts are part of a long list of senseless acts of racism in our culture and communities.  

We stand by our Rethink employees, business partners and greater community as we call for an end to racism, inequity and social injustice.

Our Mission at Rethink is to inspire and empower individuals with developmental disabilities and those who support them.  We believe that through knowledge and education we can change the world and help those around us to heal.  

Here is a brief video we created on teaching children to respond to social injustice, which you are welcome to share with others:

Please take care of yourselves, your families and your colleagues.  We need to support each other now more than ever, and if there is anything we can do to support you as a Rethink partner, please let us know.


Remote ABA Therapy Webinar

ABA Telehealth Webinar: How to Support Families Remotely

Recorded on: Thursday, March 19th, 2020

Helpful Resources:

In response to the current COVID-19 pandemic, Rethink will be holding a special webinar to help ABA providers support the clients and families they serve through this time of uncertainty.

This webinar will be an overview of ABA telehealth strategies to support families remotely.  We will include best practices from seasoned clinicians in our employee benefits division, who coach and train parents remotely.  An overview of billing codes for telehealth services will also be provided by our business solutions team.

Expect to discuss:

Real-life lessons of a BCBA who has done remote consultation/telehealth with parents

  • Best practices for engaging parents as partners in the treatment process
  • Some tips to remember when starting this type of work will be provided
  • Utilizing video conferencing to work with families

Clinical utilization of the Rethink parent portal, specifically:

  • How to grant parents/guardians access to their child’s Rethink account
  • Resources and Trainings for parents
  • Updating programming and behavior plans to focus on parent training and data collection

Practice Management utilization of Rethink, including how to:

  • Update your Rethink system to account for telehealth modifiers
  • Schedule telehealth
  • Update session note templates for telehealth
  • Where telehealth will be indicated on the billing export

This webinar is free and does not offer CEUs.


Picture of Erin and Diana

Translating Medical Necessity Criteria for ABA Providers

Long-standing research on the effects of ABA services to treat ASD indicates that treatment intensity may greatly influence the response to treatment in children.

As such, clinicians should carefully calibrate and adhere to dosage recommendations.

Studies have concluded that adhering to prescribed treatment dosages, aligned with published research, improves outcome mastery and increases adaptive behavior skills.

Legislative advocacy and policy development efforts in the elimination of managed health plans perceived prescriptive authority over medical necessity determination have been a priority of many clinicians, lawyers and policymakers.

However, understanding the health plan’s role in medical necessity and utilization management, as well as limitations in the ability to conduct well-controlled research on the intensity of treatment recommendation remains a challenge.

Despite best practice standards and available research supporting proper dosage recommendations, the variability in dosage recommendations may still be negatively influenced by a variety of factors.

These include, but are not limited to:

  • A complex language barrier between the clinician and the health plan
  • Lack of clinician training in what is medically necessary
  • Unlawful or otherwise ineffective mandates enforced by funding sources
  • Limitations in applied research 

Prescription fidelity affects both the clinical and operational sides of the effective delivery of autism services.

As the field of Autism Services has continued to grow, the appropriate measures of clinical quality remain embedded in providing the adequate intensity of service on the individual patient level.

The drastic under-prescribing of care, that is industry-wide, affects the ability for patients to receive optimum results.

It also creates additional administrative costs and burdens on autism providers, which results in scaling and fiscal management challenges.

To continue the conversations related to the medical necessity of autism treatment, the development of a medical necessity review tool may lend guidance for clinicians.

This will help them move toward consistency in considerations of medical necessity justification and appropriate dosage.

To register for this event: Click Here


ABA Therapy Claims Billing

ABA Therapy Billing Services From Rethink

ABA therapy billing services are now available to all Rethink Behavioral Health customers!

Prior to our billing services, Rethink customers only had the option of self-billing solutions. We have listened to our customers to fill a gap when it comes to billing for your ABA therapy services. 

Big or small, our ABA therapy billing services are built to scale

We believe that ABA practitioners should focus on providing care, not spending time reviewing payor contracts or following up on payments. While our ABA data collection tools, RBT training modules, scheduling and billing software improve your operations, billing departments may lag behind. A common reason billing becomes a burden due to external forces is when payor requirements are updated, and you get notified when you receive denials.  

You may have lots of questions, so we’ve listed some of the common concerns and thoughts our clients have below. Review them for help determining whether or not our services are right for your clinic.

Do you currently have an internal biller? 

If you answered yes, the next question you should ask yourself is “Does your current biller have the capacity to handle more work?” If you answered no to either one of these questions, then our solutions are a great fit for your organization.

Do you struggle in keeping up with payor requirements?

If you answered yes, then our billing solutions are definitely a great fit for you. Furthermore, if you are looking to diversify your payor mix in order to increase your clientele base, our team will help onboard your company with the new payors. Please keep in mind, we cannot negotiate contracts on your behalf as we are an extension of your team not a representative of your organization.

Are you looking to improve your cash flow?

While this is a silly question as most people will say, “Yes!”, one of the biggest benefits our customers see when they use our billing services is that we may help improve cash flow.  

Here's how...

We bill on a weekly basis and post payments once a week. In addition, our team reviews all denials and rejections. During our review, we analyze the reason behind the denials and we will address them with you to create improvements to reduce them. 

Is your billing department holding you back from scaling your business?

Customers that use our practice management solutions are able to scale their business without the worry of technology failing them. The benefit of technology is that it can scale as fast as you can hire and train new talent. Billing departments are vulnerable to scaling issues as it takes time to find the right resource. When you leverage our billing services, you can virtually scale your business as fast as you'd like without the worry of being backlogged with billing responsibilities (how awesome!? 🙌).

Do you want to ask somebody questions about billing or how to improve your process?

As an ABA therapy business owner, trying to keep up with client demands, insurance requirements, staffing efforts and other administrative burdens are not easy. Let alone, trying to create strategies around billing improvements. When you use Rethink’s billing services, you will have your own billing specialist will provide you transparent billing reports. Your billing specialist is your dedicated resource, they are there to help you grow and answer any questions you may have. 

For example, if our billing specialist notices is an increase in denials, they will start at the review of the data that is being collected by your team. If they notice inconsistencies in the data that are being collected they will notify you and provide you with guidance on how to improve. 

How much does this cost?

Our cost structure is aligned to the size of your organization and the volume of insurance claims. We would be happy to schedule a call to discuss options with you! To schedule a call with us click this link.