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NH Autism Report: Forget "Rain Man"

May 15, 2008

Concord, NH - It's time to forget actor Dustin Hoffman's quirky character in the movie "Rain Man" - and find practical and affordable ways to help the growing number of real-life New Hampshire children who live with autism. That's the conclusion of a new report by the New Hampshire Commission on Autism Spectrum Disorders. The Commission was formed in 2007 to make recommendations for care, treatment and quality-of-life issues for children and adults with ASD, and their families.

Once considered a rare condition, it is estimated that one out of every 150 children born today will be diagnosed with ASD. This requires local school districts to invest in special treatment and education programs. Commission member Kirsten Murphy believes the community is stepping up, but worries that private insurance companies are not carrying their share of the burden.

"Do you want to see an increase in property taxes from the levels we're already paying, or would you rather that your insurance premium was a little tiny bit higher? Frankly I would rather see a shared group of payers working toward better treatment, than continue to ask my local public school to do something it's really not designed to do."

The Commission acknowledges treating children with ASD is expensive, but Murphy says investing in early treatment reduces lifetime costs and pays dividends down the road.

"We need to provide intensive early treatment so that we have individuals who graduate from high school, and perhaps go on to higher education, to become a meaningful part of our workforce."

The Commission recommends that insurance companies help pay for medically necessary treatments, such as one-on-one teaching, as well as speech and occupational therapy. Some insurers are resisting, questioning whether those treatments are medical or educational, and citing higher costs for employers and ratepayers.

View the Commission's full report online, at http://iodserver.unh/edu/bds32.pdf.

John Robinson/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - NH