Eli Shannon is a loving and vibrant ten-year-old. He likes reading, drawing pictures, and playing in the park near his home in Smyrna. When Eli was two, he was diagnosed with autism. Because of his condition, he sometimes displays difficult or harmful behaviors, like gritting his teeth, trying to leave without permission, or head-butting others. His single father, Wilson, not only works two jobs to support Eli and his three siblings, but he has also been a tireless advocate to help Eli get the treatment he needs.
Eli gets a treatment called Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy, which helps him deal with his problem behaviors. ABA therapy really helped Eli, and for a period of time, Eli’s therapist was able to gradually decrease the amount of ABA Eli received. However, last year Eli faced many significant changes in his home life, which caused his problem behaviors to increase. In response to these increases, Eli’s ABA therapist suggested that Eli would benefit from additional ABA hours to help him deal with the changes at home. ABA is designed to evaluate and help alleviate environmental factors like those that were affecting Eli.
In spite of his worsening condition, Eli’s TennCare HMO said that Eli did not need the additional hours. Eli’s ABA provider filed a TennCare appeal for him and called the Tennessee Justice Center for help. After reviewing the case, TJC decided to advocate for Eli and represent him at a hearing about his ABA therapy in December. Wilson courageously talked about Eli’s needs and his dangerous behaviors in front of the court.
Unfortunately, an administrative law judge ruled in January that Eli did not need the services, but Wilson and TJC won’t give up fighting for Eli and are continuing to pursue his appeal.
As a TJC Father of the Year, we recognize Wilson’s tenacity and willingness to go the extra mile for his kids. Wilson says it was a nerve-wracking experience to go to a hearing and fight for Eli. “It is hard to think that someone else has control of my child’s ability to get care he needs. It’s a struggle, but it’s worth it for Eli.”
Wilson believes that Eli is worth fighting for and that every child with autism should have access to the health care he or she needs. TJC is proud to recognize Wilson Shannon as a Father of the Year.
Photo credit: Lindy Buss