POOLER, GA – Georgia will soon become the 41st state to mandate insurance for children with Autism.

38 states have Autism Insurance laws. Six states including Georgia have passed Autism bills. Ohio is thinking about it, and five states have no plan to pass any autism bill.

Georgia’s bill is named for Ava Bullard of Lyons.

Ava’s family led an aggressive campaign to persuade lawmakers.

Now that campaign is now changing the future for thousands of children in the Peach State.

At age 2 Ava Bullard was trapped in a dark world, unable to speak.

Her parents took their life’s savings and money from fundraisers in Toombs County to get treatment for her Autism.

“I was told put her in Special Ed by the pediatrician. Put her in Special Ed, but I have family and a community that believed in her potential.” says Anna Bullard, Ava’s mother.

8 years later Ava is a therapy success story.

“When I started working with her it was in kindergarten and she definitely had trouble in a larger group of children,” said Holly Brant, Early Autism Project Clinic Director. “(She) worked with social skills and even some language development and even being able to work in a larger group without becoming too worried or too anxious.”

Ava’s been in a regular classroom unassisted since first grade.

“She is able to complete academics,” explains Brant. “She’s able to function in that larger group environment. She’s got friends. She’s able to communicate and maintain those friendships in a great way.”

Impressed with her daughter’s improvements in class, Anna Bullard became a voice for the voiceless.

For 7 years, she pressured legislators to approve “Ava’s Law’ which would require insurance coverage for children with Autism in Georgia.

Finally, Ava’s Law crossed the finish line in March.

“The future is really bright and the potential is there for kids with autism to now access treatment that can teach them how to talk,” explains Anna. “And that really is why I fought every day,”

Ava has her own thoughts.

“I’m really happy about it because kids won’t have to leave Georgia and won’t have to travel so far,” says a smiling Ava. “They’ll be able to talk and do everything that every other child can do.”

Clinics like the new Early Autism Project in Pooler will now provide autistic children in our area with the therapy they need.

“Families will be able to have the benefit when their Open Enrollment comes and their new plan cycle changes so that’s huge,” explains Anna.

“Then we have the State Health Benefits Plan too for all the state employees,”

The Early Autism Project has been serving children since 1998. This Pooler clinic is their first in Georgia.

“And with the passing of Ava’s Law this is going to do nothing but bring families closer to be able to receive the treatment that they need,” explains Holly Brant. “That’s gonna benefit all l the families in this area. Regardless if they’re with our clinic or another clinic.”

Autism Insurance in Georgia has a $35,000 annual cap up to six years old.

Brant says the commitment to improve the lives of children with autism will mean more jobs.

“We’ve had an increase of you know different insurance companies that are now starting to provide the service and provide the benefit,” says Holly. “And with the increase in children we also have to have an increase in staff.”

The Early Autism Project will be sponsoring a support group each month that is open to everyone. Community Resources will always be presented.

Meetings will be held the first Tuesday of each month from 6:30pm-7:30pm at the EAP Pooler Clinic at 130 Canal St. Suite 404 in the Business Plaza.

*Childcare is provided and refreshments; RSVP for childcare to abullard@earlyautismproject.com

Thousands of people are also expected to celebrate the passage of Ava’s Law at the Autism Speaks Walk.

The event is Sunday April 26th at Atlantic Station on 20th street in Atlanta.

Registration starts at 8:00 a.m. followed by opening ceremonies and the walk.