More em­ploy­ers pur­su­ing autism ben­e­fits

Con­sul­ta­tion, train­ing drive en­gage­ment, loy­alty for em­ploy­ees who have spe­cial-needs kids


Par­ents of chil­dren on the autism spec­trum of­ten need help find­ing re­li­able care­givers, ac­cess­ing cer­ti­fied ther­a­pists and learn­ing how to best com­mu­ni­cate with their chil­dren — in ad­di­tion to a host of other needs.

That’s why Re­think Ben­e­fits, a New York-based cog­ni­tive care firm, of­fers ser­vices such as th­ese to em­ploy­ers in­clud­ing Mi­crosoft, Ama­zon, AOL and Vi­a­com to help em­ploy­ees cope with th­ese bur­den­some chal­lenges.

Ac­cord­ing to Mike Civ­ello, vice pres­i­dent of ben­e­fits at Re­think Ben- efits, em­ploy­ers know that a sub­set of their em­ploy­ees prob­a­bly need help for their chil­dren on the autism spec­trum and those who have de­vel­op­men­tal de­lays or learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties.

“There’s def­i­nitely in­creased de­mand on em­ploy­ees who are strug­gling with the gaps in their child’s care, and em­ploy­ers are re­ally start­ing to get their heads around this is­sue,” he says.

While the num­ber of em­ploy­ers of­fer­ing autism ben­e­fits is still small, but grow­ing, com­pa­nies that do pro­vide such sup­port have seen in­creased loy­alty and en­gage­ment from em­ploy­ees who have spe­cial-needs kids, Civ­ello says.

Re­think Ben­e­fits of­fers an e-learn- ing-style plat­form that teaches par­ents how to teach their spe­cial needs and ver­bally-chal­lenged child. Re­think trains par­ents how to teach the child to com­mu­ni­cate via flash cards or point­ing to pic­tures on an iPad. “He or she can in­di­cate to the par­ent sim­ple things like, ‘I’m hun­gry’ or ‘I’d like this spe­cific toy’ or ‘I’d like to go out­side,’” Civ­ello says.

Autis­tic chil­dren will most likely have been pre­scribed th­ese ser­vices, such as ap­plied be­hav­ioral an­a­lyt­ics or ABA, but Re­think aims at help­ing the par­ents com­mu­ni­cate with their chil­dren.

“A lot of par­ents don’t know how to do that,” Civ­ello says. “They might be work­ing with a ther­a­pist but the ther­a­pist is fo­cused on the child specif­i­cally.”

The ben­e­fit provider also pro­vides on-de­mand ac­cess for par­ents to speak with a board cer­ti­fied be­hav­ior an­a­lyst via phone, e-mail or video chat. While they are not de­liv­er­ing ther­apy to the child, par­ents can speak with BCBAs to re­view the child’s cur­rent de­vel­op­men­tal lev­els, spe­cific learn­ing strate­gies and their IEP.

And it’s not just tech­nol­ogy firms that are pur­su­ing th­ese ben­e­fits, ma­jor re­tail­ers such as Costco, Lowes, Nord­strom, REI and Zap­pos have also hired Re­think. “In re­tail, ev­ery hour missed typ­i­cally for most em­ploy­ees is an hour un­paid,” Civ­ello says.

One client is fi­nan­cial tech­nol­ogy firm Inuit, which of­fers Re­think to its em­ploy­ees around the globe. Al­though around 70 In­tuit em­ploy­ees have signed up for Re­think, that is 80% of In­tuit em­ploy­ees and their fam­i­lies that would qual­ify for the ben­e­fit, says Sarah Le­cuna, global ben­e­fits leader at In­tuit.

“Be­cause this pro­gram is global, coun­tries that have lim­ited to no sup­port for chil­dren with spe­cial needs are now able to ac­cess ex­pert ad­vice and con­sult with ex­perts at any time,” says Le­cuna. She says em­ployee re­sponse has ranged from “re­lief to life chang­ing, and an over­all feel­ing that In­tuit truly looks out for our em­ploy­ees and their fam­i­lies.”

In­tuit also part­ners with Cog­ni­tion Builders, a firm that works with adults and chil­dren with de­vel­op­men­tal de­lays to help them de­vise daily rou­tines and gain greater in­de­pen­dence through life-skill plan­ning.

“In­tuit also matches up to $650 into the de­pen­dent care flex spend­ing ac­count to help par­ents with the cost of child­care and camp aids. By the end of the sum­mer, we will also have added equine and mu­sic ther­apy to our med­i­cal plans, and will be ex­pand­ing our well-be­ing re­im­burse­ment to cover track­ing de­vices and respite care,” Le­cuna says.

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