Northwest Indiana Families for Effective Autism Treatment - IN FEAT

Indiana Services

The information and resources on the Northwest Indiana Families for Effective Autism Treatment (INFEAT) Website (The Site) are for educational and informational purposes only. Information provided through The Site should not be used as a substitute for care by a qualified Developmental Pediatrician, Pediatric Neurologist, Behavioral Psychologist, Behavior Analyst, Speech and Language Pathologist, Attorney, or other appropriate professional.

"I think my child is autistic. What should I do now? "

If you suspect your child may be autistic, there are a number of ways for you to get help. Furthermore, if you reside in Indiana, there are services available for your child which are at no cost to you. This is the good news. The bad news is, you and your child may have to wait a long time to get this help; however, it’s important not to wait for someone else to help you. You should do all you can for your child right now. You may be aware by now that the earlier you start therapies, the better your child’s overall outcome is likely to be. It’s also important to get your child signed up for all available services immediately, even if there is a long wait, because eventually, he/she may be able to make use of them.

Here are the things that we, as Indiana parents of children with autism, wish we had been told on day one:

  1. Get your child signed up for the Medicaid Waivers.

    There are three Medicaid Waiver programs which provide funding for services for autistic individuals. Your child is eligible for this government funding because he/she has a disability. Services are expensive, and not all insurance companies cover them. This is partly why these programs were put in place. Even if you do not yet have a diagnosis, call and have your child’s name added to the lists. You will not be required to provide proof of a diagnosis until your child’s name reaches the top of the waiting list. And, believe me, this will take a long time. You will have plenty of time to get a diagnosis. The sooner you sign up the better!

    The three Waivers are called the Autism Waiver, the Developmental Disability Waiver (or DD Waiver), and the Support Services Waiver.

    They are called "waivers" because the income of the parents, or caregivers, is “waived” when considering the eligibility of the child for services under Medicaid. The child becomes eligible simply by nature of his/her disability. The Support Services Waiver has a shorter waiting list than the other two. It was designed to meet some of the needs of individuals who are waiting for one of the other two Waivers. Make sure your child gets signed up for all three waivers. Once your child becomes eligible for services, you can use funds from these Waivers to pay for various therapies and other services. Even though you will wait a while for funding, it will be a great help when it arrives.

    How do I sign up?
    Contact your local Bureau of Developmental Disabilities Services (BDDS) office and ask to sign up for all three Medicaid Waivers. BDDS is a division of the Family and Social Service Administration (FSSA). Here is the contact information for the BDDS office in Northwest Indiana: 110 W Ridge Rd, Gary, IN 46408 (219) 981-5313 or 1-877-218-3053. For a complete listing of BDDS offices throughout Indiana, go to www.state.in.us. Some Area Agency on Aging (AAA) offices accept applications for Waivers as well. Here is the contact information for the AAA office in Northwest Indiana: Northwest Community Action, 5240 Fountain Drive, Crown Point, IN 46307. See www.state.in.us for a complete listing of AAA offices. The date and time your application is signed will determine your position on the waiting lists. Be sure to keep a copy of your application for documentation purposes.

  2. If your child is under 3 years of age, check out FirstSteps.

    First Steps is Indiana’s early intervention program for children with developmental delays or disabilities. First Steps serves children from birth to age three. They do not provide intensive ABA therapy. First Steps may provide access to a Behavioral Consultant, but they do not provide the intensive kind of ABA which FEAT recommends. First Steps does, however, provide other services, usually free of charge, which may be helpful. Some of these include: speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy, among others. For more detailed information on services through First Steps, go to www.state.in.us and click on Public Assistance to get to First Steps. You can also get information on First Steps from the Family and Social Services Administration, Division of Family and Children, Bureau of Child Development, 402 West Washington Street, Room W. 386, Indianapolis, IN, 46204-2739, phone (317)232-1144 or (800)441-7837.

  3. If your child is more than (or nearing) 3 years of age, you may be interested in Indiana’s Special Education Program.

    Again, Indiana’s special education program generally does not provide the intensive kind of ABA which FEAT recommends. Some special ed departments or Cooperatives may be flexible and willing to provide a similar program. However, in general Indiana does not promote or practice an ABA methodology for its autistic students. However, this does not mean that a child with autism will not benefit from a special ed placement. Simply put, it is up to the parents, and the personnel involved in a child’s specific placement, to spell out exactly what is to be taught to the child, as well as how it is to be taught. This is no small feat. It is a very complicated process, and it is best to get as much advice from other parents and professionals as you can in order to determine the best placement for your child and how to insure that your child gets appropriate services.

    Many members of FEAT, as parents of children with autism, recommend early and intensive ABA therapy for children with autism. Helping a child with autism acquire language, pre-learning skills, social skills, and early academics usually requires a great deal of special training for the instructors/therapists and intensive teaching with the child. As a general rule, these two crucial components are not available in special education placements in Indiana. For these reasons, FEAT recommends intensive in-home ABA programs over public school placements. Once a child with autism has acquired certain skills, they may benefit from a public special ed placement in an inclusive setting with typical children, or in a special needs classroom or resource room of some sort. It’s also important to clearly define what you expect from such a placement for it to be successful.

    Your local Special Education Department or Cooperative can be helpful in providing your child with a diagnosis by conducting an Early Education Screening (FEAT recommends you also get a diagnosis from a doctor). For more information on Indiana’s Special Education services, including their screening/diagnostic services, contact the Special Education Department or Cooperative in your area..

    The Hammond School system has it’s own Department of Special Education. You can contact them at: The School City of Hammond, Special Education Department, 41 Williams St., Hammond, IN, 46320, phone (219)933-2400.

    The Gary School system has it’s own Special Education Department as well. You can contact them at: Special Education Department, Lincoln Achievement Center, 1988 Polk St., Gary, IN, 46407, phone (219)881-5493.

    The East Chicago school system Department of Special Education may be reached at: Special Education Department, East Chicago, IN, 46312, phone (219)391-4080.

    The other communities in Northwest Indiana are served by Cooperatives (a Cooperative is an agency which serves children with special needs from various surrounding communities).

    Special needs children who reside in Munster, Schererville, Dyer, and St. John are served by the Westlake Special Education Cooperative, 212 E. Joliet St.,Scherervillee, IN, 46375, phone (219)865-1171.

    Special needs children living in Highland, Griffith, Crown Point, Lowell, Hobart, Lake Station, the Lake Ridge portion of River Forest, Merrillville, and Hanover Township(Cedar Lake) are served by the Northwest Indiana Special Education Cooperative (NISEC), 2150 West 97th Place, Crown Point, IN, 46307, phone (219)769-4000 or (219)663-6500.

    Children who live in Porter County are served by the Porter County Educational Interlocal, 750 Ransom, Valparaiso, IN, 46385, phone (219)464-9607.

    If none of the aforementioned agencies serve your area, you can contact the Indiana Department of Education, Division of Special Education, Room 229 State House, Indianapolis, IN, 46204-2798, phone (317)232-0570. They will provide you with information on local special education services available to your child. You can also access this information on the Division of Special Education’s website, www.doe.state.in.us/exceptional.

    Additionally, the Division of Special Education can provide you with a current copy of Article 7, the Special Education Rules for the state of Indiana. There are also consultants on staff who can provide answers to your questions, and help explain your child’s rights regarding educational services.

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