Wisconsin Early Autism Project
About the Wisconsin Early Autism Project...
What type of agency is WEAP?
What geographical area does WEAP serve?
The Wisconsin Early Autism Project, Inc. is based in Madison and has satellite clinics in Eau Claire, Green Bay, and Milwaukee. (The information provided on this page is related to the Eau Claire clinic/office.) The Eau Claire clinic covers a large geographic area. It currently serves clients in 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 remaining counties, but the Eau Claire office serves the largest geographic area.
What is the history?
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, we have expanded to have the satellite clinics in Madison, Eau Claire, Green Bay, and Milwaukee.
How does your agency interact with schools, parents, and youth?
Schools-Some of the clients are school-aged. WEAP accompanies parents to IEP meetings if requested to assist with collaboration. They conduct periodic observations at school if they are given permission by the school, or at least attempt occasional email/phone correspondence. This allows them to see if skills they are working on in therapy (listed below- under youth) are generalizing to a school environment.
Parents- They are constantly working with parents. As their clients are minors, parents are the ones taking the steps to getting their child involved in their services as well as taking necessary steps to maintain involvement. They adapt 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. WEAP encourages a high level of parental involvement as they typically only have 3-4 years of intensive therapy time with a client.
Youth- They work primarily with preschool-aged children. Siblings may be involved in parts of therapy sessions as clinically appropriate. During therapy sessions, line therapists and behavior treatment technicians work on understanding language, communicating with and relating to peers, building age appropriate and symbolic play skills, and increasing conceptual thinking and cognitive skills.
How is WEAP funded?
WEAP is funded through a few different options. Starting this year, children have newly been able to access treatment through Medicaid. Prior to this, treatment was funded through a state waiver system (Children’s Long Term Services waiver) that funded 3 years of intensive (over 10 hours per week) of therapy services. Children who are currently receiving services under the CLTS waiver are transitioning systematically over to Medicaid funding. Instead of a 3-year intensive time period, Medicaid requires a re-authorization every 6 months.
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, as 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.
What services do they provide?
WEAP provides individualized, intensive, in-home ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy services to children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders. They offer outpatient consultations, diagnostic evaluations, and psychological evaluations (consists of cognitive, language, and adaptive behavior assessments). They offer social skills groups when a particular geographic area has a need and interest in the groups. The Eau Claire clinic is not able to offer services in some counties due to their rural nature and their inability to hire and retain line level staff members who are qualified. Most of their 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. They also have weekly clinical staff meetings at their office as well as parent and line therapist training classes.
How do individuals access your services? Are there certain requirements one must fulfill in order to be eligible for these services?
Individuals hear about our agency 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 our agency would contact our 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 our agency as a provider for services. If they do select our agency, the funding source is determined. A child’s services can typically begin within a couple months (time is required to hire a therapy team, parents must attend a parent orientation meeting). However, due to the funding change there may be an extended wait time to get started as all children on the state’s waiting list became eligible for funding as of Jan 1.
To be eligible for services, a child must have a diagnosis of an Autism Spectrum Disorder (Autistic Disorder, PDD-NOS, Asperger’s Syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorder). A child’s age is also a consideration. Due to Medicaid 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.
How is this agency evaluated and by whom?
This agency is a licensed mental health clinic and participates in an audit every other year. It 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.
Describe the agency's link to the IEP process.
WEAP's clinical staff attends 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. These skills include understanding language, communicating with and relating to peers, building age appropriate and symbolic play skills, and increasing conceptual thinking and cognitive skills.
Describe the agency's link to the transition process.
Autism Awareness Ribbon: http://theautismblog.seattlechildrens.org/autism-awareness-month-2015-events-and-activities/
Eau Claire, WI map: http://townmapsusa.com/d/map-of-eau-claire-wisconsin-wi/eau_claire_wi