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Jaclyn Kelley / Eyewitness News
Email: jkelley@wwltv.com | Twitter: @jkelleyWWL

NEW ORLEANS -- Parents will often do whatever it takes when it comes to their child's health, and for parents of children with autism, it can be very difficult.

A September federal ruling will now give parents access to a critical type of therapy.

At 2 years old, Kimberlee Owens' 6-year-old son, Finn, was diagnosed with autism.

'He wasn't talking, he wasn't looking people in the eye, he wasn't playing with toys like typical kids do, so there was clearly something wrong,' said Owens.

After the diagnosis, Finn began speech and occupational therapy provided under Medicaid, but he wasn't making any progress.

So, he began Applied Behavioral Analysis Therapy, better known as ABA Therapy.

'Two weeks after starting ABA Therapy he started imitating sounds and from then on we haven't stopped,' said Owens.

Lois Simpson, the executive director for the Advocacy Center, said ABA Therapy is vital because it has been so successful in helping autistic children and adults improve in areas of like learning, reasoning, and communication.

'Everybody that has researched this has said this is the one that seems to work the best for people with autism,' says Simpson.

The only problem was that the state would not provide ABA Therapy under Medicaid. Like many parents, Owens was not able to afford the amount of hours recommended by doctors.

'It's about $90 an hour and your doctor is telling you need 30 hours a week of therapy, so it's impossible,' said Owens.

The advocacy Center filed a lawsuit in federal court arguing that the state had a responsibility to provide the therapy to parents with Medicaid. It has been years of litigation, but this month a judge ruled in the group's favor.

'It's been a struggle because for a long time the state was saying they didn't have the therapists, there weren't therapists to take these kinds of cases,' Simpson said.

Since the ruling, Finn has been doing intensive ABA Therapy, and although it has only been three weeks, Owens say she can already see a difference.

'Just little things that are kind of hard to put into words, but he is definitely making progress and we couldn't be happier,' Owens.

Medicaid will cover ABA Therapy for children with autism up until the age of 21.

Parents who want to learn more about how they can get this therapy for their children are encouraged to contact their case manager.

Parents can also call the Advocacy Center at 504-522-2337 and ask for Jeanne Abadie. She is the compliance specialist in charge of making sure the state is following through with the ruling and can help parents start the process.

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