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Update 1/1/24: 

How can members obtain an autism evaluation starting Jan. 1, 2024?

Starting January 1, 2024, significant changes in the evaluation and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) will be implemented to allow more comprehensive and accessible diagnostic evaluations.

Members in Michigan and other states can opt for evaluations through Approved Autism Evaluation Centers (AAEC) or independent providers, including a range of medical professionals. 

The new approach validates ASD diagnoses according to DSM-5-TRSM criteria and includes a bridge authorization for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) treatment, facilitating treatment access while awaiting comprehensive evaluation. This policy update is aimed at streamlining the diagnostic process and enhancing treatment opportunities for individuals with autism.

In Michigan, insurance companies mandate an official autism assessment from an Autism Assessment Evaluation Center (AAEC) before approving ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy services. However, long wait times at AAECs (1-2 years or longer) prompt most parents to seek an earlier autism assessment from a qualified health professional trained in the ADOS or ADOS-2 protocol. This allows parents to initiate ABA therapy sooner by obtaining a bridge authorization through their insurance carrier.

A “qualified health care professional” is someone trained to conduct diagnostic evaluations using approved methods and protocols. Such professionals may include pediatric neurologists, developmental pediatricians, board-certified pediatricians, board-certified child psychiatrists, fully licensed child psychologists, or medical doctors experienced in diagnosing ASD.

bcbsm criteria for autism aba therapy Source: 

How To Get A Bridge Authorization For Autism ABA Services In Michigan

To obtain a bridge authorization for ABA services in Michigan, follow these steps:

  1. Receive an official diagnosis and report from a qualified health care professional.
  2. Have your Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) submit a plan of action for ABA therapy to your insurance carrier to request an “ABA bridge authorization” for services. This allows your child to start receiving ABA therapy while waiting for an assessment at an AAEC site.

BCBAs are professionals certified by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) and qualified to design, implement, and evaluate behavior-analytic interventions for individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities. They also ensure that ABA therapy is based on the latest research and best practices in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis.

We recommend contacting an AAEC center to join their waitlist while simultaneously scheduling an autism testing appointment with Dr. Kat Lewitzke PsyD or another qualified health professional of your choice. This approach ensures your child receives necessary ABA services without wasting any more valuable time.

You can find a complete list of Approved Autism Evaluation Centers below and here.

Find An Approved Autism Evaluation Center in Michigan

List Updated 8/27/2023

  1. Beaumont Center for Exceptional Families

    18501 Rotunda Dearborn, MI 48124
    Phone: (313) 996-1960

  2. Beaumont Children’s Hospital Center for Human Development

    30503 Greenfield Rd. Southfield, MI 48076
    Phone: (248) 691-4744

  3. Central Autism Assessment & Treatment Center (CAAT) (Central Michigan University)

    1101 Health Professions Bldg. Mt. Pleasant, MI 48859
    Phone: (989) 774-3904

  4. Covenant Center for Autism

    2919 E. Wilder Rd. Bay City, MI 48706
    Phone: (989) 671-5738

  5. Easterseals Michigan

    2399 E. Walton Blvd. Auburn Hills, MI 48326
    Phone: (248) 475-6400
    4065 East Hills Court SE Grand Rapids, MI 49546
    Phone: (616) 942-2081

  6. Helen DeVos Behavioral Health Clinic – Spectrum Health

    35 Michigan St., Suite 5201 Grand Rapids, MI 49503
    Phone: (616) 267-2830

  7. Henry Ford Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities

    1 Ford Place Pediatric Admin, 4B Detroit, MI 48202
    Phone: (313) 972-9009

  8. Hope Network Center for Autism

    2875 Eyde Parkway
    1st Floor East Lansing, MI 48823
    Phone: (844) 969-0252

  9. Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital

    235 Wealthy Street SEGrand Rapids, MI 49503
    Phone: (616) 840-8807

  10. Michigan Medicine (formerly, University of Michigan

    Health System)

    *Multiple locations see link above.

  11. MidMichigan Health Pediatric Center

    32 S. Homer Rd. Midland, MI 48640
    Phone: (989) 492-7766

  12. Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services

    300 68th Street St, SE
    P.O. Box 165 Grand Rapids, MI 49548
    Phone: (616) 258-7500

  13. University Center for the Child and the Family (UCCF) (University of Michigan)

    500 East Washington St., Suite 100 Ann Arbor, MI 48104
    Phone: (734) 764-9466

  14. University Pediatricians Autism Center

    21600 Novi Rd. Suite 800 Novi, MI 48377
    Phone: (248) 305-6172

  15. UP Health System Marquette –Specialty Clinic

    580 W. College Ave. Marquette, MI 49855
    Phone: (906) 225-4778

  16. WMed Pediatric Autism Center (WMedPAC)

    1000 Oakland Drive Kalamazoo, MI 49008
    2nd Floor, Department of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine
    Phone: (269) 337-6400

  17. Acorn Health

    940 N. Center Ave.
    Gaylord, MI 49735
    Phone: (844) 244-18181000 E. Paris SE, Suite 160
    Grand Rapids, MI 49546
    Phone: (844) 244-1818
    1363 Douglas Dr., Suite 104
    Traverse City, MI 49696
    Phone: (844) 244-1818

  18. BRAINS

    3292 N. Evergreen Dr. NE
    Grand Rapids, MI 49525
    Phone: 616-365-8920

We offer Autism testing services at both our Clarkston and West Bloomfield locations. Typical wait times for an evaluation appointment is 60-90 days out. Please fill out our contact form and we will be in touch with you within 1-2 business days.

*If you require results right away, we do offer private pay expedited services outside of clinician normal business hours only twice a month. For more information please visit our expedited services page.

Steps To Take If Your Insurance Covers ABA Services in MI

This guide is intended to assist you in understanding the process to have your child assessed for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), establish their eligibility for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services, secure insurance coverage for these services, and eventually access ABA services.

The diagram below illustrates a potential scenario: if your insurance policy mandates an AAEC evaluation but has a waitlist exceeding two months, you’re permitted to pursue a temporary ‘bridge’ evaluation. This evaluation can be conducted by a qualified healthcare professional, and it allows you to initiate ABA services while you wait for the official AAEC assessment.

Bridge Evaluation and Authorization For ABA Services

Steps To Take If Your Insurance Does Not Cover ABA Services In MI

The diagram below provides a roadmap for what to do if your insurance plan doesn’t include coverage for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services. Firstly, you should reach out to your employer’s Human Resources department and inquire whether they can opt to include ABA services in their healthcare contract. If your employer declines to include this coverage, you may explore the following alternatives:

  1. Check if your child qualifies for coverage through Medicaid.
  2. Consider purchasing an additional insurance plan that includes ABA services.
  3. Consult with an advocacy organization for further advice and assistance.

Approved Autism Evaluation Center Frequently Asked Questions

How Many Approved Autism Evaluation Centers Are Available in Michigan?

There are roughly 18 Approved Autism Evaluation Centers (AAEC) located throughout Michigan. You can find a complete list at this link: Approved Autism Evaluation Centers in Michigan.

What Is the Typical Wait Time for an Autism Evaluation at an AAEC Site?

While it’s hard to give an exact timeframe, our clients often report waiting between 1 to 2 years for an evaluation at an AAEC site.

What Steps Can I Take If I Don’t Want to Wait That Long for an Evaluation?

If you’re looking to expedite the process, we recommend scheduling an autism assessment with a qualified, licensed provider. Such a provider can issue a “bridge authorization,” allowing you to access Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services while you wait for your AAEC evaluation. This ensures you don’t miss out on valuable treatment time. 

This Process Seems Complicated. Could You Outline the Steps to Receive ABA Services While Waiting for My AAEC Appointment?

Absolutely, waiting for 1-2 years for services is far from ideal, especially given the condition at hand. We always emphasize to families that early intervention is crucial; the younger the child receives treatment, the better the outcomes are likely to be.

Step 1: Schedule an Autism Testing Appointment with a qualified provider. This initial assessment is known as a “Bridge Evaluation.”

Step 2: If the diagnosis confirms autism, provide the diagnostic report to your Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). They will then submit this report to your insurance company to initiate a bridge evaluation, allowing you to start receiving ABA services.

Free Michigan Autism Resources: Screener, Tools, and More:

We understand the importance of timely and accurate autism assessments. That’s why we offer a free autism screener test on our website. This tool below is designed to help you gauge whether further diagnostic psychological testing may be necessary. Our aim is to provide a comprehensive and professional approach to assist individuals in their journey toward understanding symptoms and seeking appropriate treatment. If you or someone you know may be experiencing symptoms of autism, we encourage you to take advantage of this free screener test on our website today.

>>Autism Screener<<

Front desk staff may not always have the appropriate clinical expertise to answer questions about your unique situation. That’s why we provide quick and efficient consultations with experienced clinicians.