Start Early program supports Wisconsin families

Start Early familyWe often get calls here at Easter Seals Southeast Wisconsin from parents who recently received an autism diagnosis for their child. Their first question is usually, “what do you recommend for my child?” That’s quickly followed by, “how is it funded?” Conversations usually start with talking about the importance of early intervention services and the Make The First Five Count Campaign. Best outcomes are a result of early intervention services, many of which range from 20-40 hours a week. As you can imagine, 40 hours of therapy is costly … right around $50,000 to be exact.

Some insurance policies cover autism therapy; however the majority of children are utilizing Medicaid funding. Here in chilly Wisconsin the wait list is approaching two years. When we let families know their child may not be eligible to receive services for another two years, we feel terrible. After brainstorming ways to support families in another capacity, we’re thrilled to be launching our new Start Early program.

Start Early is targeted for families who recently had a child diagnosed and are unable to start services right away. It’s an intensive, four-week class that gives families the tools to help their child while they are on the wait list for services. Classes focus on the basics of autism, how to target communication, handle maladaptive behaviors, IEPs (Individualized Education Programs), toilet training and other topics that we feel are the main things parents may struggle with at first.

The biggest benefit of the Start Early program is that families will have access to current, research based information on how to begin teaching their child skills! In addition, parents will learn that all behaviors serve a function, making it not only easier for them to manage problem behaviors, but also to understand why they are occurring. During each session, families will attend a 90 minute presentation followed by time to work one on one with a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. During this time, the family will be able to practice the techniques they were taught during the presentation. Families will develop familiarity with the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), which will make the transition into receiving services easier for both parent and child.

Parent training is a key piece of Easter Seals Southeast Wisconsin’s in-home ABA program. Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) and Senior Interventionists work to train the line interventionists to best implement the programs, but they also work with the parents to explain why ABA is effective, what the programs accomplish, and the functions of all the behaviors a child can display. The families that we serve love to share amazing stories of their children excelling and learning new skills both during and outside of therapy sessions. Start Early will allow families to have that information up front, before they finish the long wait for waiver funding.


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  1. Patricia Wright Says:

    Bob – Thanks for sharing some of the details of your Start Early program. I consistently hear stories about families “waiting” to start intervention – waiting for providers to be available, waiting for a second opinion about diagnosis, waiting for funding to become available. We know that early intervention promotes best outcomes – fantastic to hear that you are supporting families to do jsut that – Start Early.

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