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Changes to DDD’s ECA Program

Changes to the Early Childhood Autism Specialized Habilitation Program


By the Arizona Autism United's family support team


The Early Childhood Autism Specialized Habilitation (ECA) program has recently undergone some changes that families need to be aware of in order to receive the services most appropriate for their child(ren).

If you’re asking yourself what is ECA all about, this service is based on the model of Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI), which involves Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).  ECA was formerly known has "Hab-M."  It is provided together with habilitation services, and includes highly qualified program supervisors to conduct skills and behavior assessments, develop treatment plans and goals, train parents and Habilitation Providers, and provide ongoing program supervision.  Supervisors conduct home visits once or twice a month to help parents and Habilitation Providers successfully teach the child.  For children that received an authorization for this program after September 1, 2017, the amount of supervision from a clinical supervisory team has increased from 150 hours to 250 hours through the two year duration of the program. Children that are already enrolled in the program and have an authorization for 150 supervision hours, may be able to get additional hours to total 250 for 2 years. ECA is intended for young children diagnosed with autism or at-risk.  Some children start the program at age 2 or earlier, and may continue through age 5 or 6 or until the child enters first grade.

These services are authorized by the Arizona Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD).  To be eligible for funding, families must be approved through Arizona Long Term Care Services (ALTCS).  AZA United is available to assist families at no cost through the process of applying for ALTCS eligibility and requesting ECA services through DDD. To qualify, families typically must request ECA before their child reaches 4 years old.  However, this is where the changes begin! Parents now have the opportunity to request ECA services prior to their child turning 5! This is a great relief to families whose child may have not been diagnosed until later in their toddler years.

This program is evidence based and in high demand. Because of this, DDD is now able to provide families with habilitation hours until a qualified vendor is able to complete the initial assessment for ECA to begin. Habilitation is authorized to families once their support coordinator has completed a habilitation assessment to determine the amount of service hours needed. Habilitation will end when ECA begins, as a specialized habilitation that includes supervision will be instated.  Receiving habilitation prior to ECA is of great benefit to families because if a family has an active habilitation provider, that individual can transition into the ECA team.

The ECA program is without a doubt a beneficial program to early learners that can yield great results when partnered with parent involvement. My son recently completed his journey within ECA and today, we now have more good days than bad. Our family exited the ECA program feeling much more confident in our skills to manage our child’s habilitation services and goals.

If at any time you have questions about ECA or other services offered by DDD and ALTCS, please feel free to contact Arizona Autism United. We are always happy to help guide you in navigating the systems of care.

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