As a company, we are determined to do the right thing, to the best of our ability, in every situation. This mandate is an integral part of our culture and the foundation from which our entire operation is built.
One of the ways we accomplish this objective is to offer ATG families as many resources as possible to support them at every turn. To highlight the many resources available to families of children with autism, we sat down with Maria Guzman, who is the Client Services Manager at ATG. This is our conversation.
Q: Thank you for speaking with us Maria. Before we begin, could you talk a little bit about your role at ATG?
Maria: Absolutely. As the Client Services Manager, I am responsible for managing the relationships our team has with our clients. That means touching base with families and therapists on a regular basis and making sure that everyone has the information and resources they need. I do bi-weekly check-ins with all of our therapists to see how things are going in every area of their job, from working with their clients to managing the technical systems that organize their caseloads.
These check-ins are important to ensuring that our BCBAs feel supported and are able to offer their clients the most current information and resources. I also send out regular surveys to our staff and families to make sure we are aware of any gaps that need to be filled.
Q: From your perspective, what is the biggest resource that ATG offers families?
Maria: I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that the biggest resource we have to offer families is ourselves. I’ve been with ATG for 4 years and I’ve seen our team grow and evolve into something that offers tremendous support for families.
Together, we are a vast resource of knowledge and expertise that families can rely on for everything from managing the cost of care, to obtaining the right level of care for their child, and even helping to coordinate ABA Therapy with the child’s entire care team.
One thing that families realize when they first start working with us is that we are all invested in the quality of care that is available to their children. I spend a lot of time talking with families to ensure they are receiving the level of support they need. But, I’m not their only advocate– each client has a complete support team to coordinate all aspects of their treatment
Our billing department is a tremendous resource. Crystal Ciszek, our Director of Operations & Business Development, is familiar with all of our families and supports them in a variety of ways. Our therapists are highly trained and well supported by our entire organization so that they can deliver the highest quality of care. From the top down, our organization is structured to try and take as much of the burden off the shoulders of families as we can.
Q: One of the biggest burdens to families with special needs children is often financial. How is ATG helping families manage the costs associated with care?
Maria: One of our biggest resources, especially at the moment, is our Grant and Hardship Program. As the cost of healthcare continues to rise, we are committed to supporting families by helping them identify and apply for grants as well as offering an in-house financial hardship program.
For certain grants, we can actually apply on a family’s behalf, which is something we try to offer as much as possible. Most of the families we work with already have so much going on that if we can do something for them, like applying for a financial assistance grant, we are more than happy to take it off their plate.
For other grants in which we cannot apply on the family’s behalf, we are there to guide and support them every step of the way so that the family is assured that they are doing everything correctly.
There is a multitude of grants out there, many of which are designed to meet the needs of specific situations. We are constantly tracking these grant opportunities and bringing them to the attention of families that need them.
It’s important that we provide these resources because a lot of the families that come to us are struggling with out-of-pocket healthcare costs. They want to provide their child with the highest level of care, but many simply can’t afford the costs associated with those services. So, we work really hard to help them obtain the financial assistance they need.
In some cases, we can help our families obtain grants that will cover 100% of out-of-pocket costs. However, in situations where grants do not cover the full out-of-pocket costs, we offer an in-house Hardship Program which helps to disperse costs and spread them out into predictable monthly payments that they can plan for and afford.
Just the other day, I spoke with a mom who was crying with relief because she didn’t think they were going to get approved for a grant, and they did. This is one of the other ways we are there for our families – they know that they can call us at any time with questions, concerns, and worries and we will help them through it. The whole process of managing the costs of care can be stressful and overwhelming and we really want families to know that they are not alone. We are here to help them in any way we can.
Q: Besides helping families with the financial burden of care, ATG also offers round the clock call support. Could you share a bit about that resource?
Maria: We recently instituted a 24/7 call center that offers parents the opportunity to call anytime and speak to a real person rather than an automated system or having to leave a voicemail and wait for a callback. We don’t want any calls to get lost in the system and ensuring that our families have round the clock access to speaking with a real person helps us accomplish this.
The call center also helps us manage emergencies. Emergencies don’t always happen within normal business hours, of course. Having the 24/7 call center means that when something urgent comes up with one of our families, we will know about it right away and can respond.
Q: Besides the essential service of ABA therapy, what resources do The Autism Therapy Group’s BCBAs provide for families?
Maria: Our BCBA’s are highly trained professionals who are passionate about what they do and care deeply about the children they work with and their families. They are deeply invested in the total care of the children they work with and understand that in most cases ABA therapy is only one aspect of care.
In addition to ABA therapy, our BCBAs are there to provide parents with the information they need to make informed decisions about their child’s care in every situation – school, other therapies, social circumstances, and so on. They are available to attend IEP meetings, help coordinate care across other therapies like speech therapy and OT, and even provide information and support to psychiatrists.
One of the reasons our BCBAs can offer such a high level of support to their clients is because they receive such a high level of support from ATG. All of our BCBAs are in close contact with their supervisors and a mentor. ATG provides them with a highly structured training and career path and ensures that they are never overloaded with an unmanageable number of cases.
Because our therapists are so well supported, parents can be assured that their child is getting the highest possible level of care.
Q: Are there any other resources that parents should be aware of?
Maria: Another valuable resource is our relationship with diagnostic service providers. Sometimes, families have a hard time getting their child diagnosed because of long waitlists or other barriers. Believe it or not, some diagnostic centers have wait lists of a year or longer.
With our relationships, we can refer a client to one of our partners, and they are often able to get a diagnostic evaluation done within a couple of weeks. Diagnostic evaluation is an extremely important part of getting their child the level of care that they need. Insurance companies, grant programs, schools – everyone requires a reliable diagnosis before they can offer support to families seeking care for their child. In addition, some insurance companies require updated diagnostic evaluations every couple of years. As part of our service, we help families manage this documentation, alerting them when a new evaluation is needed and working with our partners to make that happen.