When Mike was born in 1990, his parents quickly realized that he was no typical boy. Though the challenges they knew he would face were great, they – like any parent, were determined to get him the very best help to allow him to achieve to his greatest potential. They spent hours, days, and weeks researching, spoke to and contracted with nationally known experts, and ultimately concluded that the best option for Mike was to set up an in-home Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program.
Mike made significant progress though the intensive 1:1 ABA program that his parents set up for him. Despite the odds, Mike gained the skills that would allow him to read, write, play, and communicate with his friends and family. In 1997, an undergraduate special education student from Marshall University named Jill joined his team, and the wheels started to roll faster and dreams got bigger.
Amazed at the progress Mike made before and during her time working with him as part of his ABA program, Jill felt compelled to attend the world’s first graduate level program in behavior analysis at the University of North Texas. Her work there and with privately hired consultants allowed Jill to learn from multiple experts in the field and other amazing children of various ages and abilities. Jill went on to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst in 2004, and began an ABA consulting business for families and schools in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. In 2006, those famous country roads led her home, where she became the first Board Certified Behavior Analyst in southern West Virginia.
Mike’s family was one of the first to hire her after her return to West Virginia. Jill helped new members of Mike’s team learn the ropes of ABA, just as Mike’s parents had done with her. Before long, it became clear to everyone that public school was unable to meet Mike’s needs, and with the help of original team members Teri Leffler and Alexis Spence, each of whom went on to receive their BCaBA, Bright Futures was born as the “school for one” in the kitchen of Jill’s grandmother’s house. Shortly after, the small group grew larger with the additions of Sarah Dooley in 2010 and Mike’s mom, Beverly McCoy, signed on full time as she completed her BCBA. It was around this time that Mike’s school for one moved from Granny’s kitchen into a spare classroom at a local church.
Although ABA is the gold standard in treatment for autism, funding sources were nearly non-existent. Insurance companies refused to cover treatment or autism, most schools refused to provide ABA services without lawsuits, and even fewer families could afford to pay for private services on their own. Bright Futures team members partnered with parents and other ABA providers in West Virginia to form Mountaineer Autism Project, a nonprofit grass-roots advocacy group. After four years of work, their efforts were rewarded when West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed a bill mandating most insurance plans to cover treatment for autism, including ABA. With the significant improvement in access to funding for ABA treatment, Bright Futures was able to expand beyond that church classroom, and opened its own clinic in 2012 in Hurricane, West Virginia.
Greater access to funding meant greater demand for ABA services, with more families turning to Bright Futures for the best help for their children, and more team members coming aboard to provide exactly that. It didn’t take long to outgrow that original clinic location, and in June 2017, Bright Futures moved to a custom renovated new home not far down the road in Winfield, West Virginia, between the state’s two largest population centers in Charleston and Huntington. This new facility allows Jill, Teri, Alexis, Sarah, Bev, and all the newer folks who have joined along the way to continue providing the best care for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other developmental delays.
Although Mike graduated from Bright Futures a few years ago, he still stops by daily to help out where needed. He also lends a hand in training new staff from time to time and with general quality control. Mike helped bring all of the staff at Bright Futures together in one way or another, which makes him a big piece of our puzzle, and consequently a big piece in the puzzle for each and every family we are able to help. Our new facility is and will always be his home as well as ours.