Wisconsin Early Autism Project
Who We Are
We are the Wisconsin Early Autism Project (WEAP). Our agency is a program and clinic for the treatment of children with autism. All of the treatments are based on the work of Dr. Ivar Lovaas, who is the pioneer of an intensive behavioral approach with proven best outcomes. Most of the work takes place in client homes, although clients and their families do come to the office in Eau Claire for diagnostic evaluations, initial screening appointments, bimonthly treatment plan review meetings, and yearly psychological evaluations.
History of our Agency
WEAP was founded in 1995 in Madison, Wisconsin by Dr. Glen Sallows and Dr. Tamlynn Graupner as a replication site for the work of Dr. Ivar Lovaas. Dr. Sallows studied directly with Dr. Ivar Lovaas at UCLA. Dr. Lovaas is known for his groundbreaking work in the field of early behavioral intervention and discrete-trial teaching. Over the past 20 years, WEAP has expanded to serve hundreds of families in Wisconsin and other states. WEAP has even expanded to offer clinical services through Early Autism Projects in Vancouver B.C. and Malaysia. WEAP’s goal is to improve outcomes and have a positive impact on the lives of children challenged by autism.
WEAP provides individualized, intensive, in-home ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy services to children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders. We offer outpatient consultations, diagnostic evaluations, and psychological evaluations (battery consists of cognitive, language, and adaptive behavior assessments). We also offer social skills groups when a particular geographic area has a need and interest in the groups. We offer parent training as well. The treatment program is based on the needs of each child. The therapists present material in a fun way that children can easily master. The curriculum addresses the major deficits common in autism, which are: understanding language, communicating with and relating to peers, building age appropriate and symbolic play skills, and increasing conceptual thinking and cognitive skills. WEAP therapists work one-on-one with each child, monitoring emotional responses in order to correctly match the difficulty of the material and method of instruction to the child’s ability.
Individuals hear about WEAP from diagnosing physicians, birth-to-three providers, county social workers, word-of-mouth, or completing an online search. A family interested in pursuing services with WEAP would contact the intake coordinator. At that time, the intake coordinator would gather some basic information and determine if the child already had received an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis. If so, the family would bring their child into the clinical office for an initial screening appointment. If not, the family would bring their child into the clinical office for a diagnostic evaluation appointment. Following these appointments (and assuming a diagnosis is given in the instance of a diagnostic evaluation-not all children who come in receive a diagnosis), the family makes a decision as to whether or not they would like to select WEAP as a provider for services. If they do select WEAP, the funding source is determined. The state waiver currently has a waiting list and also requires a child to have a disability determination. This entire process can take over a year. If a child has insurance coverage, services can typically begin within a couple months (time is required to hire a therapy team, parents must attend a parent orientation meeting). To be eligible for services, a child must have a diagnosis of an Autism Spectrum Disorder (Autistic Disorder, PDD-NOS, Asperger's Syndrome, and Autism Spectrum Disorder). A child's age is also a consideration. Due to state waiver requirements and clinical recommendations for number of therapy hours, a child who is 6 years of age or older at the time of intake would not currently be eligible to participate in our program. Part of the reason for this is that the compulsory school age in Wisconsin is 6, so a child that age must participate in school, and cannot have shortened school days in order to receive in-home therapy.
Interaction with Schools, Parents, and Youth
Some of our clients are school-aged. Our agency will accompany parents to IEP meetings if requested to assist with collaboration. We will also conduct periodic observations at school if given permission by the school, or at least attempt occasional email/phone correspondence. This allows us to see if the skills we are working on in therapy are generalizing to a school environment. WEAP is constantly working with parents. Since many of our clients are minors, parents are the ones taking the steps to getting their child involved in WEAP as well as taking necessary steps to maintain involvement. WEAP adapts their interactions to the parents' availability and involvement level. Some parents are involved with what is going on during daily therapy sessions while others are updated during weekly team meetings. We encourage a high level of parental involvement as they typically only have 3-4 years of intensive therapy time with a client. WEAP works primarily with preschool-aged children. Siblings may be involved in parts of therapy sessions as clinically appropriate.
Our Link to the IEP/Transition Process
The clinical staff attend IEP meetings, when invited by a client parent, to speak to the child's progress during in-home therapy and share strategies that have been successful in increasing and decreasing behaviors. When allowed, clinical staff perform school observations a couple times per year to see how skills targeted at home are generalized in the school environment.
WEAP is funded through a few different options. One option is a state waiver system (Children's Long Term Services waiver) that funds 3 years of intensive (over 10 hours per week) of therapy services. This option is used by many families in the area. Another option is private insurance. Wisconsin has an insurance mandate that requires insurance companies to pay for autism therapy services and funds 4 years of intensive services. There are some loopholes associated with insurance coverage in some cases; however, every insurance policy is different. Sometimes families who have services covered by insurance also have the state waiver funding as a back-up, in the event of a policy change or loss of coverage. A less-used option is private pay for services. This is often not used, because the recommendation for therapy hours is so high that the cost is prohibitive for most families.
WEAP is a licensed mental health clinic and participates in an audit every other year. WEAP also has involvement with county social workers/service coordinators and those individuals may make informal evaluations of our agency. There are specific rules and guidelines that must be adhered to depending on the funding source. In addition, higher-level clinicians have ethical codes associated with their specific credentials that are followed.
The address of the clinic/office in Eau Claire is 2125 Heights Drive Suite 2F, Eau Claire WI 54701. WEAP is based in Madison and has satellite clinics in Eau Claire, Green Bay, and Milwaukee. The hours of operation for the Eau Claire office are Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm. The geological area served in the Eau Claire region are: Eau Claire, Chippewa, Dunn, Pepin, St. Croix, Pierce, Polk, Barron, Washburn, Clark, Trempealeau, Jackson, Monroe, Juneau, Adams, Wood, Portage, Marathon, Lincoln, and Taylor counties. The other clinics divide up the remaining counties.