Supporting Caregivers of Children with Special Needs: Amazon Success Story

A webinar focused on supporting caregivers of children with special needs. With Rachel Schacht from the National Business Group on Health, Dianne King from Amazon, and Mike Civello from Rethink Benefits.

Why did Amazon make the decision to explore caregiver support for children with developmental disabilities?

“Amazon targeted employee focus groups to determine the need and level for support because we felt it was important for us to get direct employee feedback. We heard the challenges that caregivers and parents were  facing  for  caring  for a child with special needs. Beyond the complications with finding a provider,  we were looking for a support model  that was innovative and would drive real change for our growing and diversifying employee population. After a deeper dive, we realized that one in every six children are diagnosed with a developmental disability, and this can include; Autism, Down syndrome or  ADD/ADHD.  This  is a significant population that is largely under-served due to a shortage of quality providers across the country.”

Why did Amazon decide to offer Rethink Benefits population-wide, and how does this fit into Amazon’s culture?

“An innovative approach, scalability and  a cost-effective model are a perfect fit for our Amazonians. Rethink’s evidence- based practices and 24/7 access to Board Certified Behavior Analysts are a natural fit for our population considering that we’re spread across the country, and all of our employees have a vast array of needs and challenges. Employees caring for a child with a developmental disability need support—and we heard that loud and clear—they need someone who is an expert in the field to talk to, sometimes just to feel validated that they are on the right path. Prior to implementing Rethink, the only option for many employees was to search the web, and parents would be presented with articles and stories that had conflicting and sometimes inaccurate information. What we like about Rethink is that it provides clear  and practical answers, combined  with  an easy-to-follow e-learning program that helps parents in their role supporting their child’s development. I’ve heard from parents so many times that just Googling ‘autism’ as an example you’ll get 23 million hits, and you’ll read so many alarming things that simply aren’t true. I think parents just don’t know where to go. We’ll read things like, “it’s the groundwater,” “it’s something I did wrong during pregnancy,” “it’s vaccinations,” and many other things. Parents really should be looking for a trusted resource and getting the answers they need. It’s life-changing for our population, and Amazon is going to be expanding the Rethink services to our international population later this year.”

How did you successfully implement Rethink?

“Rethink sits outside of the health plan, and all employees have access to this benefit, so even if we have employees who are not enrolled in our traditional medical or other health and  welfare  programs, all employees can utilize Rethink. In addition to our employees, extended family members can join and leverage the resources at any time throughout  the year. We decided to launch outside  of open enrollment during April’s global and national Autism Awareness Month, which is a great time because parents have heightened awareness about breakthroughs and treatment, and we really wanted to highlight new services. We had over 500 employees sign up for the introductory webinar. We’ve received many notes of appreciation, which have been great to see over the past several years. We partner with Rethink on vendor summits, and we’ve also held follow up employee focus groups and collaborative sessions with the health plans to find cross referral opportunities and so much more.”

How do you evaluate ROI?

“The way that Amazon views the ROI for Rethink is simple: it changes lives,  and we have seen countless stories from employees who shared that Rethink has given them the tools and confidence to drive their child’s development and achieve and reach goals that they previously did not think were possible. For us, that is an integral part of the of the program.”

How do you respond to statements such as, “This is not a big problem with our population of employees.”?

“Disclosure is a big issue. For every one or two key circumstances that you know about or are self-disclosed, there are probably ten more that suffer in silence. Employees don’t want to be judged for having a child with a disability. They don’t want their supervisor to assume that they’re going to be a problem, or have scheduling conflicts. It’s one of those quiet impactors of productivity and workplace engagement. It’s not just about benefits coverage and connecting a parent to a provider for direct patient care for the child. It’s unfortunately not a one-and- done scenario. It’s not like typical disease management—it’s really a large issue that impacts every aspect of a caregiver’s life.