For many cash-strapped North Carolina families, getting therapy for their children with autism is not affordable because insurance providers are not required to cover it.
But Wednesday, the NC House passed a bill requiring private insurance companies, as well as the state health plan, to cover costs of diagnosis and treatment of autism - up to age 23.
Twelve-year-old JP is autistic. He leads the family in prayer before dinner. However, that simple task did not always come so easy.
"He was non-verbal until age five until we introduced applied behavior analysis,” says Patti Young, JP’s mother. “He's come a long way. I'm proud of him. He's a good little boy."
"It’s really big,” Young says. “I mean, we've been waiting for this for years.”
Young works as a therapist for autistic children. She says treatment, starting at a young age, is vital.
"It allows people that could possibly end up institutionalized stay in the society, stay in the community with their families."
Nationally, 1 in 88 are diagnosed with autism. In North Carolina, 1 in 70 are diagnosed. But despite the prevalence, the state lags behind 32 other states, including Virginia, that cover autism treatment.
"I applaud Virginia,” Young says. “I applaud South Carolina, but we need to get on the bandwagon and give our folks what they need."
The bill now heads to the senate for consideration.