In 1997, as an undergraduate special education student at Marshall University, Jill Scarbro-McLaury began working with a remarkable family who had contracted with national experts to implement an in-home Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program for their preschool aged son Mike, who had multiple disabilities, including Autism. Through an intensive 1:1 ABA program Mike made significant progress and learned to communicate, read, write, and play. Seeing Mike’s progress moved Jill to attend the world’s first graduate program in behavior analysis at the University of North Texas. Her graduate training and work with privately hired consultants allowed Jill to learn from numerous experts and children of various ages and abilities. After finishing her master’s degree and becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst in 2004, Jill started an ABA consulting business for families and school districts in the Dallas / Fort Worth metroplex.
Jill returned to West Virginia in 2006, making her southern West Virginia’s first Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Mike’s family was one of the first to hire her as a consultant. Realizing that public school was not meeting his needs, it became clear that Mike, and people like him, required and deserved an alternative. Thus, Bright Futures was born as a school for Mike with original team members Terri Leffler and Alexis Spence running the “school for one.” Additional core team members, Sarah Dooley, and Beverly McCoy joined the team in 2010 and 2011.
Even though ABA had become the gold standard treatment for autism, there was virtually no funding for ABA programs. Insurance companies refused to cover any treatment for autism, school systems would not provide ABA services without litigation, and few families could afford to pay for private services. As a member of Mountaineer Autism Project, a nonprofit, grass-roots advocacy group, Bright Futures team members partnered with parent advocates and other ABA providers in the state to bring about systems change to provide access to ABA. After a four-year campaign, legislation was passed in 2011 that required the Public Employees Insurance Agency, the West Virginia Children’s Health Insurance Program, and some private insurance companies to cover treatment for autism, including ABA. Because of the legislation, Bright Futures was able to expand and open a clinic in 2012.
In the spring of 2017, Bright Futures will open it’s doors in a newly renovated, state of the art home in Winfield, located between West Virginia’s two largest population centers, Charleston and Huntington. The center will open with eight certified behavior analysts, and a licensed speech and language pathologist. The new facility will enable Bright Futures to continue careful, sustainable growth towards becoming a comprehensive therapy and educational center.