2023 Autism Awareness Scholarship Winner!

2023 Autism Awareness Scholarship Winner!

Congratulations to our 2023 Autism Awareness Scholarship Recipient

In 2020, Lighthouse Autism Center established the Lighthouse Autism Center Autism Awareness scholarship. This scholarship is intended to provide financial assistance to an individual enrolled at a college or university as an undergraduate student in their junior or senior year, preferably in an area that we currently serve. While we had many impressive applications, McKenna Long was selected as the awardee for this scholarship.

About McKenna Long

McKenna is a junior majoring in psychology with a minor in criminology at Eastern Michigan University. She is currently an RBT at ACC at Eastern Michigan University, where she provides one-on-one therapy to children with autism. This experience has given her a deep understanding of the challenges faced by children with autism and their families, as well as the importance of early intervention and evidence-based treatments.

In addition to her work at ACC, she has also volunteered at various organizations that serve children with special needs. This includes volunteering as a camp counselor for a summer camp that serves children with developmental disabilities, where she was responsible for creating and implementing activities that were both fun and therapeutic. McKenna has also volunteered at a local center for individuals with disabilities, where she helped organize and facilitate recreational activities for the clients.

McKenna’s personal connection to autism is through her younger brother, who has been a driving force in her desire to pursue a career in applied behavior analysis. Through her experiences as an RBT and a volunteer, McKenna has witnessed the transformative power of ABA in the lives of individuals with autism and their families. McKenna is passionate about the field of ABA and is committed to making a positive impact on the lives of those affected by autism.

Congratulations, McKenna!

Learn more about the Autism Awareness Scholarship

Lighthouse Autism Center Sponsors Sensory Room at The CASIE Center 

Leading ABA Provider Sponsors Sensory Room at The CASIE Center to help support children on the autism spectrum.



Lighthouse Autism Center, a leading provider of center-based, Applied Behavior Analysis (“ABA”) therapy, announced on Monday a new partnership with the CASIE Center.  Beginning in May, all families who attend The CASIE Center will now have access to a sensory room where children with autism and other sensory disorders can benefit from a space customized to support their unique needs. As one of the largest ABA providers in the Midwest, Lighthouse Autism Center not only provides center-based autism services but works with local organizations like The CASIE Center to partner on projects like sensory rooms to support those with autism inside and outside their centers.

Lighthouse Sponsored Sensory Room

Lighthouse Autism Center has sponsored a sensory room within The CASIE Center to help children on the autism spectrum. Approximately 17% of children who visit The CASIE Center, have a developmental delay or sensory needs. The goal of this room is to create a safe environment for children who may be overstimulated and need to de-escalate. This room is painted in the same calm and welcoming colors as all the Lighthouse Autism Center locations and is filled with sensory items to help with interacting and communicating with a child on the autism spectrum. Lighthouse has a goal to bring inclusion and education to our communities in support of children on the autism spectrum.

The CASIE Center

The CASIE Center is a Child Advocacy Center (CAC), located in South Bend, IN. Serving over 1,000 children a year, in St. Joseph and Marshall County.  The CASIE Center provides a comprehensive, coordinated multidisciplinary team approach to the problem of child abuse by providing a safe, supportive, child-focused environment for victims of abuse, their families and the professionals who investigate and address these problems.

In 1991, a group of professionals saw the need to improve the child abuse investigation process by reducing the number of interviews a child must go through, limiting the number of professionals with whom the child must have contact and expediting these cases through the system.  Through the combined efforts and support of the Prosecutors Attorney’s Office, The Junior League of South Bend, Memorial Hospital and the Department of Child Service, The CASIE Center opened for business in January 1994.

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Preparing for a Trip With Autistic Children 

As with any travel plans, preparation is key. It is especially challenging when traveling with an autistic child. From finding autism-friendly destinations to transport options and even insurance, ensuring you prepare well will reduce risks and make the trip a happy experience for everyone.

Preparing for a Trip With Autistic Children 

Planning any family trip or vacation is always fun but also incredibly stressful. This becomes even more challenging when you need to prepare for a trip with an autistic child. Apart from the normal checklists any trip requires, parents who combine the challenges of autism and traveling have to consider many other factors.  

From managing your and your child’s autism-related travel anxiety to ensuring their safety and comfort in new environments, here are a few tips on how to reduce risks and increase the fun on your next trip. 

Planning the trip

The planning phase of the trip is crucial to travel for a person with autism. It requires extra attention and preparation to ensure that the child’s needs are met at every stage of the trip so that everyone can enjoy the vacation. 

Research your destination

Before you book anything, research your destination to ensure that it is suitable for your child. Highly stimulating experiences like amusement parks, playgrounds, and performance venues can be overwhelming for children, especially those living with sensory overload.  

Consider destinations like Sesame Place, the world’s first theme park to be designated as a certified autism center. They have trained staff who are knowledgeable about autism and how to provide support to individuals with sensory sensitivities as well as sensory guides to help families plan their visit and navigate the park. There are also quiet rooms where visitors can take a break from the noise and crowds and have some downtime.  

Here is a comprehensive list of questions you can forward to any prospective destination to assess their readiness to host you and your child: 

  • Can you tell me how long the wait times are? 
  • Where can we find our room or seat? 
  • How long does the program, event, or attraction typically last? 
  • What sets your location apart from others like it? 
  • Do you offer sensory guides for your guests? 
  • What type of training do your employees undergo, if any? 
  • Are there any times when staff members won’t be available to assist me? 
  • Do you have any employees who specialize in autism? 
  • How many people are usually around? 
  • Is the street typically busy? 
  • What kind of view can we expect from our room or seat? 
  • How noisy is it usually? 
  • Is it generally quiet during the night? 
  • Is it hot and humid outdoors? 
  • What material are the seats/linen made of? Cloth, leather, or plastic? 
  • Is it possible to receive a menu beforehand? 
  • Am I allowed to bring my own food? 
  • What kind of food substitutions are allowed? 
  • How far away is our room from the pool and kitchen? 
  • Do you use scented detergent or cleaners in the rooms? 
  • Where is the garbage and waste collected, and how often is it done? 
  • Is there a designated area where I can take my child if they become overwhelmed? 
  • How easy is it to get to that space? 
  • What safety procedures do you have in place in case of a medical emergency? 

Special travel insurance

Autism travel insurance is a type of travel insurance that’s specially designed to provide extra coverage and protection for people with autism when they’re traveling. Beyond normal travel coverage, special autism travel insurance can also cover additional expenses that may arise due to autism-related incidents.

For example, if someone who is autistic experiences a behavioral or sensory meltdown during their trip, the insurance can help cover any costs associated with that incident, like the cost of a hotel room or a medical professional’s assistance. 

Autism travel card

An autism travel card is a special card or document that autistic children should carry when they travel. It helps to let transportation officials and other service providers, like hotel staff, know that your child is autistic and might need some extra help or accommodations during their trip. 

The card usually has basic information like their name, age, and picture, along with details about their sensory needs, communication preferences, and any other support they might need. Combine the card with a list of your child’s specific issues so that if they get lost or wander off, adults who find them are able to respond accordingly.  

Different organizations or agencies might have their own version of the card, but they all serve the same purpose. 

Preparing your child

This is perhaps the most important aspect of the trip. Both you and your child may be entering an unfamiliar environment which can spark anxiety and serious behavioral reactions.  

Ensuring that your child is well prepared and ready to tackle these new challenges and changes to routine and environment will go a long way to making their and your trip enjoyable. 

Create a schedule and social story 

Detailed schedules should include the travel process, holiday activities, meals, and breaks. This will help your child feel more comfortable and reduce anxiety. 

It’s a great idea to illustrate the schedule in a picture and/or word social story. This will help them understand what to expect and feel more comfortable with the unfamiliar experience. 

Include pictures or descriptions of all aspects of the trip, especially when you combine autism and air travel. Make sure to illustrate security processes, the terminal, the airplane, hotel/accommodation, activities etc. You can also add sensory experiences that your child may encounter during the trip, such as ear-popping during takeoff and landing. 

These concepts require reinforcement. A useful technique is to get your child to explain the schedule back to you repeatedly. You can also mark the departure date on a calendar at least three weeks before and get them to mark each day off. 

Additional training

If you find your homespun efforts are falling a little short, then consider travel training for autism, a program that helps autistic children learn how to travel in a more structured way. It teaches them many of the skills and knowledge they need to be able to navigate the trip, while also helping prepare you as a parent. 

Travel training programs can vary depending on the specific program, but they usually include a mix of classroom instruction and hands-on training. These could include exposure therapy where the child can be acclimated to certain sensory stimuli like sand, snow, escalators, or even the feel of wearing a bathing suit. 

On the way

Release pent-up energy 

Travel often requires long periods of sitting still and being quiet, which can be challenging for children who have a lot of energy. To help your child relieve any pent-up energy before departure, encourage them to engage in high motor activity. 

Activities that involve gross motor movements, such as running or jumping on a trampoline, for approximately 20 minutes, can be especially helpful. This type of activity can help your child release energy and reduce feelings of restlessness, making it easier for them to remain calm and comfortable during the journey. Many airports now have child play spaces that would be ideal for a pre-flight activity session. 

Bring items of comfort along

Comforting items from home, such as a favorite blanket or toy, help your child feel more at ease in unfamiliar surroundings. You should also consider not washing certain items to keep the smell of home constantly present as a comfort in times of distress.  

Sensory supplies 

A good idea is to keep a bag of supplies in the car based on what you know about your child’s needs and their sensory sensitivities. Consider giving your child a small backpack with items they can access on their own as well. 

Include sensory blockers like headphones to help with noise hypersensitivity. Other helpful items for sensory relief can include portable fans, hand sanitizer, and moisture-wicking towels. 

While you’re there

Once you arrive at your destination, it is important to reinforce much of the preparation that was done with your child and ensure that the venue/accommodation can deliver on what was presented. You also need to be prepared for any eventuality you may not have considered.  

Establish a routine

On arrival, it is important to remind your child of all the preparation that was done and then establish a routine for the rest of the vacation. Use all the tools you would at home to make them immediately comfortable in the new space, and put up the schedule you prepared as a visual reference.  

Plan for sensory breaks 

Your child may need breaks from sensory stimulation, so plan for quiet or calming activities during the trip. This can include activities like reading, drawing, or playing with sensory toys. Assuming you booked at a certified autism center, the resort, hotel, or park may offer specially-designed facilities for this.  

Inform all service providers

Let hotel staff and tour guides know about your child’s needs in advance so they can be prepared to provide any necessary accommodations. It is, however, important to remind them when you arrive and during the stay, as staff can rotate, or your instructions may not make it all the way down to the cleaners, waiters, and other service staff.  

Have a backup plan

With all the planning and preparation in the world, there will always be situations that you cannot anticipate. In these cases, you need an emergency backup plan to mitigate any unforeseen stimuli, changes, or triggers that could overwhelm your child. 

This could include returning to your hotel room for a break or finding a quiet, less stimulating activity. To avoid unnecessary anxiety and distress, be prepared to stop any activity immediately to limit the impact on both you and your child.  

Lighthouse Autism Center, a partner on your autism journey

Planning for any changes in your child’s life is a challenge. Let Lighthouse Autism Center help you navigate these spaces through their innovative programs and products like their Lighthouse Fusion ABA Therapy and the numerous autism resources they house on their website. 

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

If There’s No Epidemic, Why Do Autism Stats Keep Climbing? 

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnoses seem to be on the rise. Why is this? We investigate what current data reveals about autism rates, the disparities that exist, and why the statistics don’t necessarily tell the whole story. 

If There’s No Autism Epidemic, Why Are the Autism Statistics Climbing? 

Having just emerged from the throes of the COVID pandemic, it’s fair to say that we have become acutely aware of the many medical conditions that afflict us as a society. More recently, though, we are witness to another perceived crisis, the autism epidemic.  

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects a person’s communication, social interaction, and behavior. It’s called a “spectrum” disorder because it affects people in different ways and to varying degrees.  

Some people with ASD may have difficulty with social cues or communicating their wants and needs, while others may struggle with repetitive behaviors or intense interests in specific topics. ASD is typically diagnosed in childhood and can affect a person throughout their life. 

According to multiple reports from the CDC and other medical journals, autism spectrum disorder statistics show sharp increases in the last few years. Yet experts say there is no need to be alarmed and that there is no epidemic. Let’s look at the data and investigate why the numbers continue to rise, and why experts remain calm. 

What the data says

According to several studies reported by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as well as medical journals like Pediatrics and Autism Research, autism facts and statistics show a marked rise in the number of ASD diagnoses in children between the ages of 4 and 8, both in the USA and the rest of the world. 

Autism in the USA

A study published in the journal Pediatrics found that the rate of autism among children in the New York and New Jersey metropolitan areas tripled between 2000 and 2016.  

In the CDC’s 2021 follow-up report on autism in the USA, statistics showed similar increases to what was observed in New York and New Jersey. In 2016, one in 54 children had been diagnosed with autism by age 8, compared to 1 in 150 in 2000. 

Another study announced by the CDC in 2023 showed that the number had jumped significantly to 1 in every 36 children. This was up from 1 in 44 in 2021. 

Autism across the world 

A recent study published in the journal Autism Research revealed that the global prevalence of ASD has increased to around 100 in 10,000 (or 1 in 100) children. This is a significant rise from the 2012 global prevalence report, which estimated that 62 in 10,000 children had ASD. 

What are the reasons for the rise in numbers? 

So what do these statistics on autism really mean? And why don’t the experts seem to be worried? The answer, it appears, is layered. There are a number of factors that contributed to autism seeing an increase in statistics, but most of them point to better reporting rather than an increase in the actual number of cases. 

Better diagnoses

According to the team who conducted the New York and New Jersey study, the increase in autism spectrum disorder diagnosis is mainly due to the advancements in diagnostic capabilities and a greater understanding and awareness of the disorder. This is especially prevalent in diagnoses of ASD in children without intellectual disabilities.  

The study showed the percentage of 8-year-olds diagnosed with autism in New York and New Jersey without intellectual disabilities had increased more rapidly than those with intellectual disabilities. From 2000 to 2016, the percentage of those without intellectual disabilities increased five times, while the percentage of those with intellectual disabilities increased only twice. 

This is primarily attributed to advancements in diagnostic techniques rather than an increase in cases. 

The increase in autism prevalence in other parts of the world is also attributed to improvements in public awareness and healthcare systems that respond to autism. 

Now, children are diagnosed at an earlier stage, and regions such as Africa and the Middle East, which were previously underrepresented, have made progress in measuring autism prevalence. 

Racial and gender disparities

The New York and New Jersey study also showed that although the gap has decreased, there are still racial disparities in autism diagnoses. In the past, Black and Hispanic children were diagnosed with autism less frequently than white children.  

The recent analysis revealed that Black children without intellectual disabilities were 30% less likely to be diagnosed with autism than white children. 

According to a neurodiversity scholar at the College of William & Mary, too many marginalized individuals who belong to racial or gender minority groups may not receive an autism diagnosis due to less effective screening tools.  

As diagnostic tools and expertise continue to improve, more individuals from these groups may receive a diagnosis, leading to an increase in autism diagnoses overall. 

Autism in women and girls

Studies have shown that autism is often underdiagnosed in girls and women, as well as in people with less visible symptoms. The latest CDC report shows a 4-to-1 ratio of male-to-female diagnoses, but some scholars are not completely convinced that this accurately reflects the reality on the ground. 

In other research, some academics found that there are often more autistic female students than male students in college groups. And as one social worker has shown, many women are diagnosed with autism later in life, often after they’ve become mothers or grandmothers. This suggests that there are still many girls and women who are going undiagnosed today. 

As these diagnoses increase, so will the overall number of cases. 


According to one analysis, around 83% of the risk of developing autism comes from inherited genetic factors. The study pointed out that autism is likely influenced by 2,000 to 3,000 genes, but only about 100 of them are consistently linked to the disorder. 

It was also shown that older parents are more likely to have autistic children, and recent trends show that more people are waiting longer to have children. This is flagged as another possible contributor to the increase in ASD prevalence. 

Lighthouse Autism Center makes life better

Given the increased awareness of ASD prevalence in the USA, it is important to seek out support systems and resources to help families with autistic children. The vast repository of autism resources and LAC’s innovative and groundbreaking Lighthouse Fusion ABA Therapy provide autistic children with the ideal path to holistic well-being. 

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

How Do I Know if My Insurance Covers ABA Therapy?

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is a necessary medical expense to help our autistic children thrive. But do our health insurance providers cover ABA therapy? Let’s find out how to check your coverage, how your coverage works, why you might not be covered, and how to get the best out of it.

How Do I Know if My Insurance Covers Aba Therapy?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a well-known and understood condition, yet we often don’t know whether our health insurance providers cover the treatments our autistic children need to thrive in the world. This is especially true of insurance coverage for ABA therapy. 

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is a treatment that helps people with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities improve their behavior and communication skills using behavioral principles. 

ABA typically involves working with a licensed ABA therapist, who designs and implements a personalized treatment plan for your child. The frequency and duration of therapy sessions may vary depending on their specific needs. Obviously, these treatments and sessions cost money. 

So does your insurance actually cover ABA therapy? To avoid any nasty surprises when we submit claims against our health insurance policy for ABA therapy, it is important to know the answer to this question beforehand. You’ll need to know your coverage works, why you might not be covered, and how to get the best out of your coverage. 

How does ABA coverage work?

Health insurance coverage for autism, and more specifically, ABA therapy insurance, is dependent on a few things. Firstly, you need to understand the type of health insurance plan you have.

In the past, there were very few formal regulations governing ABA therapy for autism and insurance coverage. More recently, however, state and federal governments introduced laws to ensure more uniform coverage across plans and divided the plans into two specific types: self-funded plans and fully insured plans.


These plans are regulated by federal laws rather than state laws. Under this plan, your employer decides what is covered and what isn’t. These plans are not mandated to cover ABA therapy, but as a result of federal mental health parity law requirements, ABA coverage on self-funded plans is increasing.

Fully insured

These are the most common plans offered by employers and must comply with state laws regarding coverage of ABA benefits. Under this type of plan, the insurance company decides what is covered and what is not covered, subject to state regulations. All 50 states mandate that these plans cover ABA. 

The following list will give you an idea of how fully insured plan regulations differ from state to state.


ABA therapy is covered if provided by a supervised, Board Certified Behavior Analyst.


A plan covering physical treatments must also cover mental health services. ABA is considered a covered treatment.


ABA therapy and necessary items or equipment needed for treatment are covered.


ABA therapy is covered under state-regulated plans. If you were diagnosed with a developmental disability at age eight or younger, you are eligible for coverage. If you’re over 18, you will still receive coverage as long as you’re still in high school. Coverage for autism in Florida is capped at $36,000 per annum, with a lifetime limit of $200,000.


ABA is not explicitly covered in Georgia.


In Indiana, ABA is not explicitly covered, but treatment for autism and related disorders can’t be subject to limits or deductibles.


ABA therapy is covered under MassHealth Standard, CommonHealth, and Family Assistance. There are age limits, but private, fully funded options are available too.


ABA is not explicitly mentioned, but treatment for autism spectrum disorder can be capped at $50,000 per year for children under eight.

New Hampshire

Coverage for autism is covered under state-regulated plans. Coverage is capped at $36,000 per year for individuals aged 0 to 12 and $27,000 per year for those aged 12 to 21.

It is crucial, however, to check your plan properly. While all 50 states include ABA therapy and autism treatments in their base requirement, some may not enforce full coverage as part of the state regulation. 

How to find out if you’re covered

The first step is to establish which type of plan you’re on. Call your employer’s health insurance representative (usually the HR department) to find out exactly which plan you are on. Once you know if you’re on a self-funded or fully insured plan, you need to find out if you have ABA insurance coverage.

When talking to your health insurance representative about insurance for ABA therapy, you need to ask the following questions: 

  1. Does my current plan cover the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of autism spectrum disorder?
  2. Does the plan cover ABA therapy?
  3. Can I obtain a copy of the Summary Plan Description (SPD) to review coverage details and specific exclusions in writing? It’s crucial to document coverage in writing for future reference.

Choosing a new or different plan

If your current plan does not offer sufficient cover, consider changing your plan. Most employers offer multiple plans, while some even offer both self-funded and fully insured options.

If you have the option of a fully insured plan, you should inquire about the state that regulates the plan, which is typically the state where the company is headquartered rather than your place of residence. 

You should also ask whether it is a small group or large group plan. You can then check whether the state that regulates the fully insured plan mandates coverage in the type of plan offered by your company.

Child-only insurance

Young children with autism often require up to 40 hours of ABA therapy per week, making a child-only insurance plan a wise financial decision. This will allow your child to receive the recommended amount of therapy necessary to reach their full potential.

You can go through the Healthcare Marketplace to obtain a child-only insurance plan. The ABA benefit is included in the “Essential Health Benefits” package, which is mandatory for all Marketplace plans in Texas and Colorado.

It’s important to note that Healthcare Marketplace plans can only be purchased during designated Open Enrollment periods.

How to get the most out of your coverage

Once you have selected a plan that suits your needs and budget, you should spend time interrogating the details of ABA therapy for autism and the insurance coverage per benefit. Knowing how your plan works will empower you to extract as much value as possible without incurring additional costs. Here are some benefits and rules you should keep in mind when using your insurance. 


The deductible is the amount you need to pay before your insurance starts contributing. You’ll have to pay this every year.

Copayment or coinsurance

You’ll either have a copay or a coinsurance. A copay is a fixed amount you pay per visit, including for ABA therapy. Coinsurance is a percentage of the total charges you’re responsible for paying after you’ve paid the deductible.

Out-of-pocket maximum

This is the highest amount you’ll have to pay in a year. Once you reach it, you won’t have to pay any other out-of-pocket expenses for ABA therapy for the remainder of the year. Like your deductible, the out-of-pocket maximum resets each year.

Documentation requirements

Experts recommend that a good insurance plan requires ongoing documentation of your child’s progress. Your child’s Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) will need to submit documentation to show that the treatment is effective. A Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) will review the progress reports. Although you are not responsible for creating these reports, they are a crucial component of ABA therapy.

In-network practitioners

Use therapists and Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) who are in-network with your insurance provider.


Make sure to submit all necessary paperwork before beginning ABA therapy sessions to be certain the costs have been authorized. Failing to do so could leave you responsible for paying the entire bill. A formal diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and a comprehensive behavior assessment are generally required for ABA therapy.

Lighthouse Autism Center covers your autism treatment needs

Lighthouse Autism Center meets the requirements of most health insurance plans. Through diligent use of your insurance, you can take full advantage of our Lighthouse Fusion ABA Therapy and the many other autism resources available from the Lighthouse Autism Center. 

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Lighthouse Autism Center Shining Example: Brantley

In the time that Brantley has been at Lighthouse Autism Center, he has made so much progress! When he first started, Brantley required assistance with functional communication, daily living skills, toileting skills, and transition skills. Prior to enrolling at Lighthouse, these were all goals his mother wanted him to work on.

Brantley’s Progress at Lighthouse Autism Center

  • Now, Brantley uses functional communication to request things he wants and is able to hold conversations.
  • Now, Brantley is able to transition to different activities and ask for more time with preferred items and activities when he is not ready to transition.
  • Now, Brantley independently uses and requests to use the bathroom.

Lighthouse Autism Center Staff Perspective

“I can’t even begin to explain how proud I am of Brantley! Brantley is an incredibly smart kid. He will do an outstanding job at school! Not a day goes by that he doesn’t bring a huge smile to my face! He will be a fantastic addition to any school!”

– Sarah Spicer, Registered Behavior Technician at Lighthouse Autism Center

“I’ve loved getting the chance to work with Brantley. Since working with him, I’ve seen him make so much progress. He is such a funny, smart, and amazing kid. He loves giving hugs, telling jokes, and making everyone laugh. With his wonderful personality, he will fit right in at school.”

– Payton McDonald, Registered Behavior Technician at Lighthouse Autism Center

At LAC, we are seeing incredible progress made by our learners every day.

Lighthouse Autism Center Staff Spotlight: Katie

Meet Lighthouse Autism Center’s Staff Spotlight of the Month: Katie

Katie is a Registered Behavior Technician Trainer at our Kalamazoo East Center and has been with Lighthouse Autism Center since April of 2022. She graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelors degree in Human Biology. Katie enjoys Yoga, hiking, making jewelry, reading, and spending time with her five nephews and two nieces who keep her on her toes.

What made you decide to apply to Lighthouse?

I wanted to make a positive impact on my community. I was already working in the world of ABA in Grand Rapids. I was looking for an opportunity to grow, and Lighthouse was/is the most perfect fit. 

What is your favorite part of working at Lighthouse Autism Center?

My favorite part of working at Lighthouse Autism Center is my co-workers, the positive work environment, but most importantly THE KIDS!! My experience at Lighthouse has been nothing but great. I have felt supported, encouraged, and given ample feedback in order to grow into the RBT Trainer I have become. 

Do you have a favorite memory from your time here?

There are so many!! My all time favorite though would be running music groups and watching all of the kiddos have a great time and dance their hearts out.

What advice you would like to share for those interested in a career at Lighthouse Autism Center?

Working with kiddos is not always easy, they have big emotions just like we do, and it may be difficult to communicate how they are feeling. Approach every situation with patience and compassion. Some days will be tough, however, the most rewarding part is witnessing hard work pay off when a kiddo is able to independently finish a 5 piece puzzle, or independently request an item using a full sentence, or independently play a board game from start to finish with a peer. Those wins make all of the long days worth it.

Ready for a career where you can make a difference?

Transitioning From ABA to School – Lighthouse Autism Center 

It’s difficult to know when, or even if, you should move your autistic child from ABA therapy to a mainstream school. We take a look at all the different elements you need to factor into your decision so that you can make the right choice for your child and family.

Moving From ABA Therapy to a Mainstream School 

As a parent to a child with autism, you don’t have to worry about asking yourself whether you understand “what is school readiness” or “why is school readiness important” if you’ve been working with an ABA therapy provider. ABA therapy is an important tool in helping your child gain the specific skills they need to ready them for a transition into a traditional schooling environment and to ensure they tick all the boxes on a school readiness checklist.  

However, there is still a lot for you as a parent to understand if you’ve been thinking about when to transition your autistic child into a mainstream school, and you may even have doubts and questions about the process (you can also find out more about autism with our dedicated autism resources).  

This is why we’re going to take a closer look at why the move into a traditional school is important for so many children with autism, the pros and cons you may need to consider, and many other important elements related to this transition. 

Can my child with autism fit into a regular school?

As a parent, the first question you’ll probably ask long before you make any decisions is “Will my child manage in a regular school environment?” The good news is that an overwhelming majority of autistic children are placed in a typical school environment. The article “Educating Autistic Children”, written by Aubyn Stahmer and Laura Schreibman from the American Federation of Teachers, shares how 89% of autistic children attend regular public schools (even if the time they spend in a regular classroom may vary depending on their individual needs).  

There’s no doubt that it may not be as easy for many children with autism to adapt to a mainstream school, but they can make the switch from an ABA therapy program with the right skills and support. 

Should my child with autism transition to a school environment?

But as you’ve undoubtedly realized yourself, just because your child can attend a mainstream school doesn’t automatically mean that they should. There are various pros and cons for a child with autism entering the traditional school system that you need to consider first. Let’s unpack the advantages and disadvantages that your autistic child may experience in a mainstream schooling environment. 

The pros of attending a mainstream school

There are many advantages to moving a child  with autism into a regular school. These include: 

  • A child with autism may feel better knowing they are included in a regular school with other children, even if they know they are different from their peers. 
  • A mainstream school environment will help them develop the social skills to navigate life both during and after school, directly from their peers 
  • It will help your child with autism develop relationships outside of their immediate family or therapists they work with in other programs 
  • Public schooling is not only free, but many public schools offer support to help an child with an autism diagnosis make progress in a traditional classroom, such as Individualized Educational Plans (IEPs). 
  • Your child will play an important role in helping neurotypical children better understand neurodivergent children through their daily interactions. 

The cons of attending a mainstream school 

However, just as there are advantages, there are also disadvantages that may affect an child with autism in a regular school. These include: 

  • Your child may feel left out in a mainstream school if their social skills are lacking. 
  • Neurotypical children may not understand the differences children with autism have which could lead to isolation or difficulty connecting to peers. 
  • As much as a mainstream school may offer some degree of support to your child with autism, there may be a lack of teaching resources and academic support to empower your child’s success at school. Though teacher may have the best of intentions, they might not have the resources to support your child the way they want to. 
  • Your child’s confidence may suffer if they aren’t able to keep up academically with their peers. 
  • Depending on their symptoms of autism , your child may struggle with handling the day-to-day tasks of a regular day at school, such as making sure you’re at the right class on time or navigating a large school building. 
  • Negative experiences may lead to additional negative outcomes as your child with autism grows older.  

Ultimately, it depends on your child as an individual 

It’s undoubtedly difficult to weigh up these pros and cons, but ultimately, the decision to move a child from ABA therapy into a mainstream schooling environment very much depends on your child and whether they meet the requirements for school readiness. While some autistic children have great difficulty adjusting to regular school life, it may be much easier for others to adapt to traditional schooling offerings. 

Signs that your child with autism is ready to start mainstream school 

While you are likely working with your ABA provider who can help you gauge when your child is ready to make the move into a mainstream school, it’s also important to better educate yourself on this important time in your child’s life. The article “When Is a Child Ready for Mainstreaming?” written by Yael Goldmintz-Rosenbaum, Ph.D., and Susan J. Schwartz, MAEd, covers this topic for the Child Mind Institute, an independent nonprofit that works with children struggling with mental health and learning disorders.  

In this piece, they identify four important factors to keep in mind when deciding to move your child into mainstream schooling, which we go through in detail below. 

School Readiness Checklist

These are the four elements that you should consider part of your school readiness checklist for your autistic child: 

1. What grade is your child going into? 

There are specific years when children are introduced to new academic challenges, and these could be very difficult or even too much for an autistic child to handle. It’s important to make sure that your autistic child has the necessary skills to meet these demands before you move them into a specific grade at a regular school. 

2. Can your child meet expectations in the new class?

An child with autism who may not  have the cognitive skills to match their peers may become demoralized, resulting in them falling even further behind. It’s recommended that your child undergo testing to see what their cognitive and academic strengths and weaknesses are to make sure they are put into a grade in a regular school environment where they are able to perform adequately. 

3. How resilient is your child?

If your child has the mental and emotional fortitude to push through and overcome their challenges, then they might be able to manage a mainstream school environment despite any academic or social weaknesses they may have. However, a child who isn’t quite as confident in this regard might need a more supportive schooling environment. 

4. Is your child comfortable being an advocate for themselves?

If your child is able to speak up and let the teacher know they don’t understand and they need help, they are more likely to manage in a traditional classroom. Children who aren’t quite so confident may not be able to express themselves properly and struggle with the learning process as a result. 

How to support your autistic child during this process 

One of the most important things to remember once you’ve decided to place your child in a mainstream school is that your ABA provider will be there to assist you. They will play a role in ensuring that your child with autism understands all the things to do to get ready for school, and some providers specifically teach goals to achieve school readiness skills in mock classroom set-ups. Your ABA provider should also engage with the school you’ve chosen to ensure it is properly equipped to meet your child’s needs and support the IEP as needed 

By working with your autistic child, ABA provider, and your chosen school, you’ll be able to help your child make the move from ABA therapy to mainstream schooling as easy as possible. 

Ensure your child is ready for a mainstream school with Lighthouse Autism Center

At Lighthouse Autism Center, we offer the Lighthouse Fusion ABA therapy program, a unique program that combines the best elements of ABA and speech therapy to ensure that your autistic child can achieve the best outcomes. We also provide a variety of autism resources to help you better understand autism and any issues related to it. 

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

What You Need To Know About IEPs – Lighthouse Autism Center

IEPs are an important educational tool that can help autistic and other special-needs children develop the skills they need to navigate life. We explain what IEPs are, who is involved in their development, whether your child qualifies for an IEP and the benefits an IEP can provide.

Learn About Individualized Education Programs

Parents of  children with autism may have heard discussions of an IEP for their child, or may already be involved in the IEP process but are unsure of their role in it, or what qualifies a child for an IEP. In this blog, we’ll take a look at exactly what IEPs are, how they work, who’s involved in the IEP process, and how they can help your child. 

What is an IEP? 

IEP stands for Individualized Education Program. It is a specific type of education program that is aimed at helping special needs kids and is a part of the PreK-12 education system. This means an IEP aims to address the education needs of special-needs children from 3 to 21 years old, when in a public school system. 

The IEP must lay out achievable educational goals for a child for a school year, while also outlining what services will be necessary and available to achieve these goals.  

How does an IEP work?

The creation of an IEP consists of several phases.  

The process begins with an assessment and eligibility phase that aims to identify whether your child qualifies for special education services. This is usually initiated by a teacher (who must get consent from a parent or guardian) or a guardian who recognizes the child may be struggling with learning.All parents have the right to request their child be evalutated for an IEP. The evaluations and assessments are typically conducted by a multidisciplainary team within the school system.  

After the assessment is completed and it is determined by a group of qualified professionals that a child qualifies, the creation of the IEP itself will begin. The IEP will aim to create specific, detailed, and measurable short- and long-term goals, take into account any educational accommodations or modifications that are required, as well as ensuring that your child has all the support services they need. This may include supportssuch as occupational or speech therapy, assistive technology, additional time on tests, or transportation. 

As your child works through their IEP, progress will be recorded and feedback provided to you. An IEP is regularly reviewed to ensure that it adapts to your child’s needs as your child grows. These reviews are usually annual but could occur more frequently, depending on your child. Parents can also request to meet with their IEP team at anytime throughout the school year.  

Usually, from the age of 14, the IEP will also start to include post-school transition goals. The IEP will then look at what services are needed to help your child achieve these objectives and be ready for adult life. 

Who is involved in the creation of an IEP?

An IEP is a team effort that requires input from a child’s parents and education specialists. Other highly qualified health practitioners, such as behavioral specialists, psychologists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists, may also be required to assess your child’s needs.   

As a parent or guardian, you will have an opportunity to review the IEP and provide feedback. This way, you can flag any issues you have with the IEP with the people involved in putting it together and work on producing a program that best suits your child. 

It’s important to get as many of the original team involved in the IEP’s creation as possible for IEP reviews. 

How does a child qualify for an IEP?

There are 13 criteria that make a child eligible for an IEP under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These include: 

  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) 
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) 
  • Developmental delays 
  • Emotional disorders or disturbances 
  • Intellectual disabilities 
  • Physical disabilities 
  • Sensory impairments, such as hearing or vision impairments. 

A child is also covered if they are affected by multiple disabilities that are listed under the IDEA. 

The benefits of an IEP

Now that you understand how an IEP works, you might be wondering if it’s worth all the effort. Here are the benefits that an IEP offers to children who need it. 

Can help a child with special needs achieve better educational outcomes by providing an opportunity for success

Without access to additional supports in a traditional learning environment, children with special needs may be constantly behind their peers, not because they lack the ability to learn, but because material isn’t being taught in a way that works for them. An IEP can provide the child with an education that suits their needs or style of learning. 

It is a planned and structured system for learning for a special needs child

For the child, parent, or guardian, it’s reassuring to know that you can go into each lesson knowing what to expect from an educational program and how it is going to be presented. You can also look ahead to see how the educational process will unfold for your special needs child, and you also have an idea of each person’s role and what is expected of them. 

Has advanced measurable objectives to track progress more accurately

While all educational programs have some metrics that allow you to monitor a student’s progress, many IEPs take things a step further with SMART goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented, and Time-bound. This means that very detailed goals will be created for the child to reach, as opposed to aiming for any improvement in general. For example, a non-SMART goal would be that a child’s reading speed will improve, versus a SMART goal that says a child’s reading speed will improve to 150 words per minute. This elevates IEP goals and objectives above the goals and objectives of a traditional educational program. This also means that progress can be tracked and available to the parent at their request. 

Ensures a quality education is provided

An IEP is more than an ordinary educational program. IEPs fall under the IDEA, meaning there are even stricter requirements that will ensure a special needs child receives a high-quality education. For example, an IEP must be planned and taught by professional educators and other highly qualified individuals.What is written into an IEP is considered law, and must be follwed by the team working with the child.  

It caters specifically to the needs of an individual child

Not only is an IEP created that caters to the specific strengths and weaknesses of an individual child in mind, but many IEPs ensure that a special needs child gets additional one-on-one time with a teacher to improve their educational outcomes. 

Help your autistic child gain the skills they need at Lighthouse Autism Center

Lighthouse Autism Center is the home of the unique Lighthouse Fusion ABA therapy program, a special program that combines the best of ABA and speech therapy to help your autistic child achieve their goals. These, when combined with our in-depth autism resources, can provide your autistic child with a solid foundation to develop their skills so that they can successfully navigate through life. 

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Medicaid Waivers and Autism – Lighthouse Autism Center

Medicaid helps millions of people across the United States to gain access to much-needed health services using special Medicaid waivers. These waivers allow states to provide services to those with specific needs, including low-income families that have an autistic family member. Learn more here.

Everything You Need to Know About Medicaid Waivers & Autism

If you’re in need of financial assistance for your autistic child, you may be able to get that help from Medicaid’s waiver program. Join us as we take a look at what Medicaid is, what they are, how a Medicaid waiver could help your autistic child and how you can apply for assistance.

What is Medicaid?

According to the official Medicaid website, “Medicaid provides health coverage to millions of Americans, including eligible low-income adults, children, pregnant women, elderly adults and people with disabilities. Medicaid is administered by states, according to federal requirements. The program is funded jointly by states and the federal government.”

In a nutshell, it’s a public health insurance program for those who can’t afford to pay for specific health-related services on their own. 

While certain federal government rules apply to all Medicaid programs, the programs are run by each state, meaning that specific rules may differ depending on which state you live in.

What is a Medicaid waiver?

A Medicaid waiver is any exception that’s made to existing Medicaid rules in order to cater for a certain individual’s or group’s specific needs. For example, if you’re disabled or have a chronic illness, instead of having to move into an institution to receive assistance, this waiver may make it possible for you to receive assistance in your own home. Each state decides how to implement waivers in order to meet the needs of its citizens. 

Different types of waiver programs

There are many different types of Medicaid waiver programs depending on where you live. That said, three types of waivers are most commonly used across the United States:

Section 1115 waivers

This type of waiver allows a state to experiment with different methods for operating their Medicaid programs, such as using new methods to provide care or additional funding. Basically, any program that can improve assistance to those who need Medicaid can be tested under this waiver.

Section 1915(b) waivers

This type of waiver allows a state to provide its own care delivery system which a Medicaid beneficiary is required to use. While this may sound restrictive compared to allowing a beneficiary to use any Medicaid provider of their choice, care delivery programs that are run under this waiver must demonstrate that it’s more cost-effective, efficient and represents the overall values of the Medicaid program.

Section 1915(c) waivers

This type of waiver allows a state to provide long-term care services to an individual in their own home or community instead of requiring them to seek care at an institution. 

How can a Medicaid waiver help autistic children?

Medicaid can provide financial assistance to families that need help meeting the needs of autistic children. In July 2014, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) federal agency made it clear that states are required to provide services to help treat Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in children who are eligible for Medicaid and are under the age of 21. This is done through the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment (EPSDT) benefit.

However, this does not mean that all autistic children will automatically qualify for Medicaid. While there is a Medicaid waiver for autism, the qualifying criteria may differ from state to state and you’ll need to apply for Medicaid to find out if you meet the requirements for assistance through the program. 

How do I apply for Medicaid?

Before you apply, it’s important to know who’s eligible for Medicaid assistance since there are specific requirements one has to meet in order to become a Medicaid beneficiary. Firstly, you must either be a citizen of the United States, a United States national, or have the relevant immigration status in order to qualify. Secondly, once you’ve met this baseline requirement, you need to find out if you qualify for Medicaid in your state. Other factors, such as household income, the size of your family, and age, will play a role in whether your application is successful or not. If you have any questions, you should reach out to your state Medicaid agency to learn more about Medicaid eligibility.

Since your application will be processed at state level, it may be useful to find out more about applying for Medicaid in your state on the Medicaid & CHIP How-To Information page on the Medicaid website. 

Lighthouse Autism Center is ready to help your family

At Lighthouse Autism Center we provide Lighthouse Fusion ABA therapy, an approach which combines ABA and speech therapy techniques to create a unique program which helps to improve your autistic child’s outcomes. You can also make use of our helpful autism resources to improve your understanding of autism and how to approach life with an autistic child. Contact us to learn more about how the Midwest’s leading autism therapy institution can assist your family.

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Lighthouse Autism Center Staff Spotlight: Natalia

Meet Lighthouse Autism Center’s Staff Spotlight of the Month: Natalia

Natalia is a Registered Behavior Technician at our Castleton Center and has been with Lighthouse Autism Center since July of 2022. She graduated from Butler University with a Bachelors in Organizational Communication and Leadership. Natalia loves dancing and originally came to Indiana from Florida on a dance scholarship at Butler University!

What made you decide to apply to Lighthouse?

I applied at Lighthouse Autism Center because I love working with kids and seeing them grow! It’s been so exciting seeing them accomplish different tasks.  

What is your favorite part of working at Lighthouse Autism Center?

My favorite part about working at Lighthouse is meeting the different kids and learning all about them. I have enjoyed every second working with the Lighthouse staff, BCBAs and the Senior Therapists who have all made it so special. They are always there for you when you have questions. Each day I’m excited to go into work and see what my learner and I accomplish.

Do you have a favorite memory from your time here?

My favorite memory is working with Senior Therapists Farris and Katie when I first started training. They made me feel so welcomed and taught me everything I know today. I am so thankful for them.

What advice you would like to share for those interested in a career at Lighthouse Autism Center?

I would advise any future workers for Lighthouse to always ask questions! There is so much to learn and the staff here is always there to help you! 

Ready for a career where you can make a difference?

Lighthouse Autism Center Shining Example: Everlee

Meet Lighthouse Autism Center’s Child Spotlight of the Month: Everlee.

Everlee has made so much progress since starting at Lighthouse Autism Center! When she first started, she struggled with communication skills, social skills, daily living skills, such as independently eating and using the toilet, as well as transition skills.

Everlee’s Progress at Lighthouse Autism Center

  • Now, Everlee is vocally asking for preferred items using one-word phrases.
  • Everlee has increased her social skills with family, adults and peers.
  • Everlee has increased her daily living skills with toilet training and eating independently with utensils.
  • Everlee has increased her transition skills in the center, in the community, and in the home.

Lighthouse Autism Center Staff Perspective

Everlee started attending Lighthouse in April 2021. Since then, we have seen an increase in communication skills by being able to ask for items and activities. Her social skills have also drastically increased! She plays appropriately with peers, responds to greetings, and so much more! We have seen her blossom into the young lady that we see in the center every day and we are so excited to see her growth in the future!

-Arlyne Vargas, Junior Program Manager at Lighthouse Autism Center

At LAC, we are seeing incredible progress made by our learners every day.