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Autism services expand in McLean County

The newly opened Place For Children with Autism on South Prospect Road in Bloomington is the latest addition for young children on the autism spectrum who need services.
Place For Children with Autism
The newly-opened Place For Children with Autism on South Prospect Road in Bloomington is the latest addition to serve young children on the autism spectrum.

Services for those with autism in McLean County keep increasing. The not-for-profit MarcFirst has added space and programs several times in several years. Now, the for-profit sector is moving into Bloomington-Normal, too.

"As more children are getting diagnosed with autism we are opening more and more centers. The whole field has grown," said Carli Lapin, director of clinical outreach for The Place For Children With Autism. The company has 13 centers in the Chicago area, one in Champaign, and a new one on South Prospect Road in Bloomington. Lapin said they provide ABA- accredited therapy for kids ages 2-6 who have a diagnosis of autism.

"We are really going to be focusing on getting communication up," she said. "We are known to help children with autism communicate and hopefully that is verbal communication. We are going to work a lot on getting social skills up through play though structured activities, unstructured activities and we're going to work a lot on toilet training."

Lapin said her firm has a good track record of cooperating with other providers, such as Marcfirst, in serving children.

"We're happy to have speech therapists. Occupational and physical therapists come in our center and work with our kids so we can all work collaboratively together. We work with doctors to do diagnostic evaluations, so it is a team approach," said Lapin.

She said insurance companies cover ABA therapy, and there are some grants available for those who can't afford it on their own. She said Medicaid does not fully cover the therapy, so people need a separate Affordable Care Act insurance policy to bridge the gap. She said her company will work with parents during regular enrollment periods like the one under way until mid-January to get a separate policy other than Medicaid.

The capacity of the Bloomington location is 21 children. Lapin said each child will have an adult therapist and teacher in the classroom-like setting.

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.