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Autism Services

Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. There are many forms of autism caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences. The term “spectrum” reflects the wide variation in challenges and strengths possessed by each person with autism.

Autism’s most-obvious signs tend to appear between 2 and 3 years of age. In some cases, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Some developmental delays associated with autism can be identified and addressed even earlier. Autism Speaks urges parents with concerns to seek evaluation without delay, as early intervention can improve outcomes.

The following “red flags” may indicate your child is at risk for an autism spectrum disorder. If your child exhibits any of the following, please don’t delay in asking your pediatrician or family doctor for an evaluation, or reaching out to your local Community Mental Health Service Partners (CMHSP) for an initial screening

  • No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter
  • No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions by nine months
  • No babbling by 12 months
  • No back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving by 12 months
  • No words by 16 months
  • No meaningful, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating) by 24 months
  • Any loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age

Southwest Michigan Behavioral Health and our CMHSPs are committed to assisting families find resources and services to assist them in supporting the unique needs of their children that present with the Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis. We do this through the use of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) service providers who are contracted with the individual CMHSPs throughout the region.

ABA is an intensive, behaviorally-based treatment that uses various techniques to bring about meaningful and positive changes in the communication, social interaction, and repetitive/restrictive behaviors that are typical of ASD. Each child will have an individualized Intervention Plan that breaks down desired skills into manageable steps to be taught. Each ABA Plan is designed for the individualized needs of the child and will include an average of 5 to 25 hours of direct interventions per week depending on medical necessity. These services are intensive and can be provided either in the home or in a clinic setting. ABA interventions require parent/guardian training and participation. ABA treatment can be used to address skills and behaviors relevant to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. ABA focuses on increasing:

  • Language skills
  • Social skills
  • Communication skills
  • Following instructions
  • Peer interactions
  • Academic/cognitive skills
  • Following typical daycare/classroom routines
  • Self-help and daily living skills

In order to be deemed eligible for the Medicaid/Healthy Michigan/MICHILD Autism benefit and begin utilization of Applied Behavioral Analysis services, please utilize the following process.

Step 1: Screening for ASD is completed by the child’s primary care physician or the your local CMHSP Access Center (see below for CMHSP contact numbers)

  • Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT)
  • Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ)

Step 2: Complete the Diagnostic Evaluations to verify the child has ASD. This process takes approximately 3 hours and is completed during two appointments. Once completed, the results are sent to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for review/approval.

  • Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-2 (ADOS-2)
  • Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R)
  • Developmental Disabilities Clinical Global Assessment Scale (DD-CGAS)

Step 3: Identify a preferred ABA provider and work with them the CMHSP to Develop the Plan of Service. This is completed by assessing the strengths of the child and develop goals the child will focus on during the ABA services with the family and team.

  • Individual Plan of Service Development (IPOS) completed with the IPOS case holder (Supports coordinator/Case Manager/Independent Facilitator) and reviewed quarterly
  • Skills Assessments (ABLLS or VB-MAPP) Completed every six months while ein treatment by BCBA or qualified Behaviorist

Step 4: Begin ABA services with ABA Behavior Technicians:

  • Clinic or Home Setting
  • Individual or Group
  • Services are supervised (1 hour per 10 hours) by Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) or other Qualified Behaviorist
  • Parent Training

Additional supports: The child can work with their Supports Coordinator/Case Manager to connect to additional services they may be eligible for, such as:

  • Speech Therapy
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Respite
  • Community Living Supports
  • Physical Therapy
  • Medication Management

Individual Community Mental Health Service Partner Access Lines:

  • Integrated Services of Kalamazoo – 269-373-6000
  • Woodlands (Cass County)– 269-445-2451
  • Summit Pointe (Calhoun County)– 269-966-1460
  • Van Buren Community Mental Health – 269-657-5574
  • Riverwood (Berrien County)– 269-925-0585
  • Pines Behavioral Health (Branch County) – 517-278-2129
  • St Joseph County Community Mental Health – 269-467-1000
  • Barry County Community Mental Health -269-948-8041

Additional Resources and Information

State of Michigan Resources:

Federal Resources:

Evidence-Based Practice & Research Information:

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