BR boy's winning battle with autism inspires action

Liam and Shelly Hendrix
Liam and Shelly Hendrix

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Like most 16-year-olds, Liam doesn't mind spending some time on the couch watching TV. He  also loves learning about sea creatures. I asked him, "What's your favorite sea mammal?" "Dolphins. " Liam is a poster child for how far a child who has been diagnosed with autism can come. He loves to cook.  Like many 16-year-olds, Liam has a job at McDonalds. Just like when he's cooking at home, it requires him to interact and perform specific tasks.

Liam's mom Shelly Hendrix says it hasn't always been able to do that.  "When he was two years old he was either screaming or crying."  At 17 months, Liam lost all interest in trying to speak. He wouldn't point or even try to make eye contact.  Today he can have a conversation with anyone. She says, "He's more interested in talking about the things he's interested in, but the fact that he's having a conversation at all is a miracle." A miracle his mom believes is directly linked to years of very specialized therapy.

It's treatment not all families can afford for their autistic children.  Shelly says, "I work with families all across the country whose children are the same age as Liam who aren't able to do that."  A director for the nationwide organization Autism Speaks, Shelly pushes for laws that extend or expand insurance coverage for families with an autistic child.

Sitting on the sofa, Liam beams as he talks about an upcoming Scouting Jamboree, When asked, "Are you going camping with your dad this weekend?" His response, "Yes, cause I'm a new Boy Scout since 2010." Liam is proud to be Boy Scout. Ask him, he'll tell you about it. His progress has been so remarkable, his mom calls it a recovery. Sadly, not every child with autism will respond to therapy as well as Liam. To Shelly Hendrix and Autism Speaks that doesn't matter. She says every family should able to afford to give their autistic child a chance to get better.

A bill that would expand insurance coverage for autism therapy from 17 to 21-years-old is being considered by Louisiana lawmakers during the current legislative session.  It passed with a unanimous vote in committee this week.

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