When I first began to travel across the country speaking to families about insurance coverage for ABA therapy, I was nervous because I wasn’t sure that I would be able to answer all of their questions.  Even though I worked in the health insurance industry for many years, I had no real experience with public speaking or trying to explain the complicated landscape of insurance in connection with the new laws that apply to ABA therapy.

As it turned out, my many years spent interpreting insurance laws had laid the ground work and prepared me for this important job of advising our families on where to turn and what to do.

Before each trip to each state I visited, I would spend a great deal of time reviewing the laws of that state.  I hoped that I was on track as each law has its own particular nuance.  I was most familiar with California as that is where my background is.  I was concerned about the variations from state to state, but what I found was that an insurance law is an insurance law.  If you understand the basics you can understand the intent and application.

What surprised me was not how much I was able to convey, but how much I learned from my audience.  I was there to train the parents on the new legislation they needed to become familiar with and they in turn helped train me to provide information that they and other parents needed to know.

Every place I went brought me new families and new questions.  I came to educate but I walked away educated by my audience and every discussion armed me with new topics for my next presentation.  Parents would talk to me about their specific issues and through those conversations I learned what the parents needed to know.  Most were common sense questions and issues, but I didn’t even think of them until a parent would stand in front of me and say:  “This is what I am encountering.  How can I handle this?”  It was with each personal encounter that I was able to better understand the needs of my audience and focus my talks on exactly what they needed to know in order for them to get the most benefit out of the funding options (aka insurance) available to them.

The one thing I noticed early on (but maybe not early enough) was that when folks come to a work shop like the ones we make available, they truly come only because they have one or two questions that they want to get an answer to.  Seeing this, I always planned for an extra hour after the presentation to talk to them one on one; but I also noticed that allowing questions throughout the talk has been invaluable to other parents in the audience because they don’t know what they don’t know.  What that means is that I would see one parent ask a question and see five other sets of parents’ eyes widen as they realized they were in the same situation and would need the same answer down the road.

Having the insurance discussion is important but almost as important is listening to the parents’ questions.  This part of our talks has helped me and other parents immensely, and I believe it has allowed my audience to get the most out of a boring two hours of listening to an old lady talk about insurance.


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