Imagine this: You have two young children under the age of three, a toddler and an infant. A few months before your toddler's third birthday, she is diagnosed with autism. Ten months later she is also diagnosed with a rare white blood cell disorder. Just as she is recovering from an emergency surgery to install a feeding tube, your younger daughter starts to show early signs of autistic regression.
Four and a half years ago, that was me.
At the time we lived off-the-grid on a ranch, an hour from the local hospital and three hours from a children's hospital. In the midst of long drives to daily appointments and therapies, I found out that our individual insurance policy had an autism exclusion so would not cover anything related to autism.
My frustrations mounted. I could see a demonstrated need for more support for rural autism families. In many large cities there are autism centers that walk families through the process step-by-step and offer cutting edge evidence-based therapy services. In rural areas many parents are still advised to take a wait-and-see approach. From diagnosis to funding to selecting appropriate therapies, rural families are largely left to figure things out for themselves.
Early in our journey, I was lucky to meet Dr. Kristen Byra, a PhD-level, board-certified behavior analyst who has worked extensively with children on the autism spectrum. While I educated myself about autism insurance mandates and traced the flow of Medicaid dollars through the state disabilities system, Dr. Byra started working with my kids.
We arrived at the idea for our company, ABLE Interventions, after repeatedly failing to find an autism therapy app that could be customized for our ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) program. We started ABLE with the mission to support families in rural and underserved areas and the ABA providers who work with them. (To that end, we also wrote “Help! My Child Has Autism! A Parent’s Guide to Start, Fund and Maintain an Evidence-Based Intervention.”)
It may seem an unlikely time to launch a new business. But there are benefits to being an entrepreneur when you’ve got kids with special needs — from having flexibility and the ability to make your own schedule to creating potential future employment opportunities for your disabled loved ones.