The Edmond Sun
January 26, 2011
EDMOND — EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a two-part series. In Friday’s Edition of The Edmond Sun will be coverage of state Rep. Randy Grau’s efforts to include autism coverage in the state’s high risk insurance pool.
People don’t fully understand the reality of an insurance company saying, “‘We’re not going to help you with your kid,’” Eric Littleton said.
All of the wall glass in Littleton’s Edmond home has been removed as testament to his little boy’s shattered life in the spectrum of autism. Anything that could be broken has been removed.
Solomon was 5 years old in 2008 when he contracted the rare neurological disease Landau-Kleffner syndrome. Eric and his wife Marci saw their twin son’s normal life deteriorate with a loss of motor skills.
Solomon began periods of sweating and crying or screaming for no reason, Marci said. He began having panic attacks that appeared like little tantrums.
“These panic attacks — he would actually take off running across the house banging into walls,” Eric said. “His heart rate would spike, his face would get beat red and his eyes would start bulging. He would start screaming at the top of his lungs.”
Soon Solomon could no longer feed himself, toilet or dress himself. His parents, twin brother Isaac and younger sister Grace appeared as strangers.
“In June of 2009 Solomon spoke his last words,” Eric said.
Today his panic attacks have stopped. Solomon has regained some ability to recognize his parents but remains unable to speak or perform tasks most children his age take for granted. With soft brown hair and big blue eyes, Solomon looks at you quickly before turning away.
Autism is a developmental disability that typically appears in children before age 3, according to the Autism Society of America. A complex neurobiological disorder, it impacts areas of the brain responsible for social interaction and communication skills.
One in 150 people has autism with one in every 100 boys affected, according to the Centers of Disease Control. Autism is a quiet epidemic growing at a rate of 10-17 percent per year, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Eighty percent of these children are under the age of 14.
Solomon’s care involves a specialized multidisciplinary approach for applied behavioral analysis, occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy.
The Littletons take Solomon to a clinic in Wichita, Kan., for therapy at the Erin is Hope clinic. The board of directors of Erin is Hope announced recently it would like to bring a satellite campus to Edmond for children on the autism spectrum.
“We’re looking for sponsors of this project to help bring Erin’s Hope here,” Littleton said.
Eric said he will accept any type of help possible for Solomon. His son’s early therapeutic intervention is slowly improving his life. But Solomon’s out-of-pocket cost for his 35-40-hour a week therapy costs the Littletons between $5,000 to $7,000 a month.
The Littleton’s have exhausted their savings and earnings, broke without health insurance because their insurance company does not cover Solomon’s therapy, said Eric, owner of Littleton and Associates, a Realty company.
“For some reason there seems to be a disconnect and there’s not a moral outrage about this,” Eric said. “If you take the four leading pediatric diseases in America today, your child is more likely to be diagnosed with autism.”
In its second day of session, it took the House Economic Development Committee less than three hours in 2009 to kill any hope that Nick’s Law would be voted on by the House. Parents of children living with autism appeared disheartened while leaving the Capitol building that day.
Nick’s Law would have provided insurance coverage for the early diagnosis testing of autism and medications until the child becomes 21 years of age. A financial cap would have covered $50,000 of behavioral therapy per year without lifetime caps in the House plan.
State Rep. Mike Brown, D-Tahlequah, has filed HB 1624 to bring Nick’s Law to a vote of the people. With a large favorable response from a SoonerPoll last year showing 79.5 percent of all Oklahomans favoring passing of this measure.
A state actuarial report determined that Nick’s Law could raise insurance premiums from 7.8 percent to 19.8 percent.
In 2007, the Council for Affordable Health Insurance, a research and advocacy association of insurance carriers, reported insurance mandates regarding autism will have little impact on the cost of health insurance premiums for consumers. The report assessed the incremental cost of state-mandated benefits for autism in 10 states would be less than 1 percent.
The Oklahoma State Education Employees Group Insurance Board announced its own study revealed that Nick’s law would have 1 percent or less impact on claims.
“I told all the lawmakers I’ve met with I’m not wanting to play a zero-sum game where it’s my way or the highway,” Littleton said. “I think most of the families in our situation feel the same way. We have real strong opinions about what’s happened to our families.
“We think insurance companies should be required to pay. But ultimately, I’ve told people this before that my son is sick. He needs help and I don’t have the luxury of standing on principle.”
FOR MORE information about Solomon Littleton and Landau-Kleffner syndrome, visit http://littletonandassociates.com/gold_custom2.asp.