SALT LAKE CITY — Thousands of dollars per year in health treatments and countless heartaches — those are just two of the hardships facing families with autistic children. And as the Utah legislative session kicks off, one proposed bill could help ease both of those concerns.
Twenty-nine states have some form of law on the books that requires health insurance companies to pay for the treatment of autistic children. One Layton family is taking steps to ensure Utah is the 30th.
Mirella Petersen and her family know the statistics: one in 77 children born in the state of Utah has some form of Autism. Her five-year-old son Jaden is one of them.
Peterson, the president of the Utah Autism Coalition, hopes to get a bill passed in the state legislature that would help thousands of Utah families coping with an autistic child.
"I've been very impressed, actually, to see their receptivity of the legislators when they actually start to learn what it looks like for members of their districts," she said.
Aside from the emotional hardships, treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorders can cost tens of thousands of dollars per year.
I love the question, 'Which one has autism,' because a lot of times you can't tell.
Utah is currently one of 21 states with no legislation requiring health insurance providers to pay for autism related treatments. If passed, House Bill 69 would change that.
"I know parents throughout the state who have mortgaged their homes, have lost their homes, have mortgaged their other children's financial futures just to provide that opportunity for their child with autism," Petersen said.
Jaden goes through a treatment 25 hours a week called applied behavioral analysis. Petersen said it has helped tremendously over the past year.
It can cost up to $50,000 per year, though — a price tag most families cannot afford.
And while Jaden's treatment has proved remarkably successful, Peterson is not stopping by only helping her child..
"I love the question, 'Which one has autism,' because a lot of times you can't tell," she said.