Technicians providing one of the most effective therapies for children with autism could be fully licensed to provide applied behavior therapy in schools under a bill that was passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday.
HB 1401 is sponsored by Republican Rep. RenÃ© Plasence from Orlando. But it ended up being presented Thursday by Democratic Rep. Allison Tant of Tallahassee, as part of a bipartisan partnership of lawmakers who have children with autism in their families. Plasencia missed Thursday’s session due to illness in her family.
âABA therapies and techniques are the best thing that has helped my son in his life. So on behalf of my son, the nephew of Rep. Plasencia, and thousands of school children across this state, I ask for your favorable consideration, âTant concluded.
The House approved Bill 118-0.
Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy is a method that uses positive reinforcement to encourage children with autism to adopt more responsive and better behaviors. It is widely administered in clinics or at home, but Plasencia and Tant both said it was essential to help children adapt specifically to the school setting.
There is currently a disagreement over whether board-certified ABA technicians are allowed to practice in Florida schools, Plasencia said. Some school districts interpret state law as permitting them, and therapy is practiced in schools in those districts. Other school districts don’t allow them and say they interpret Florida law to prevent it. His bill would make it clear that ABA-certified behavior technicians would be allowed in all schools, Plasencia said.
Therapies would be provided by private technicians coming to schools for their specific clients. Therapy is normally paid for by Medicaid or private insurance. Technicians would work under the direction of a certified behavioral psychologist or certified behavioral analyst, under HB 1401.
Plasencia said the bill is evidence of the close working relationship that can and does exist between Republicans and Democrats, as he contacted Tant to execute his bill in his absence, and she did so with pleasure.
âThis has been my cause for the past seven years. I know that for a parent like Rep. So much, it has been her cause since the birth of her son. It will always be his cause, âsaid Plasencia.
âA certain bipartisanship right now, especially at this part of the session, is a good thing. It was easy to do because we both have family members who benefited from it, âTant said. “If we can focus on the things we can agree on, there is a lot we can do.”