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Poor families can access expensive child autism therapies after federal boost

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Low-income families with children with autism will be able to access more intensive therapies previously only available to wealthier citizens thanks to a new stream of federal funding.

KSTP reports the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid has approved the additional support for kids with autism whose families are on the state's Medicaid program, Minnesota's Department of Health Services announced.

Services covered under the new program will help improve social interaction, communication and behavioral regulation skills at a young age. The benefit will be rolled out in the summer, and it will cost $15 million split between the state and federal government.

MPR News says this will help pay for an "early intervention strategy" for children with the developmental disorder, which will give them one-on-one therapy not always available to Minnesota's poorer residents.

The radio station notes that some of the therapies under the program are only available to middle and higher income families with more extensive health coverage, as therapies can cost as much as $100,000 a year.

The Star Tribune notes the breakthrough in access to autism therapies is down in no small part to Somali immigrant mother Idil Abdull, who has been fighting for five-years to gain coverage to intensive early interventions.

"I wore them down," she told the newspaper. "This wasn’t a case of 'Minnesota Nice.' I let my emotions for my son and for the thousands of other poor kids with autism drive what I was doing."

The timing of the announcement is fitting, because Thursday is World Autism Awareness Day.

The world is marking it by taking part in a "Light it up Blue" drive by Autism Speaks, shining blue lights on thousands of landmarks, businesses and homes across the globe.

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