The North Carolina General Assembly is considering legislation to improve the accessibility of autism care for residents of the state.
Bill 91 and its Bill S103 were introduced last month with the short title of âCutting Regulations to Help Children with Autismâ. The bill gives the green light to licensed behavior analysts to provide applied behavior analysis (ABA) for autism without the supervision of a psychologist.
Holly Connor, wife of the Jacksonville Army, has a disabled son and is a director of the Exceptional Family Members of Jacksonville, NC Facebook group. She has been involved with the Jacksonville disability community for years and says the proposed change is essential.
“It is absolutely amazing to know that North Carolina has not gone beyond this additional hurdle to give our families a proven resource that is one of the few recognized by insurance as treatment and support. effective not only for children with autism, but their families as well, âsaid Connor.
The legislation sets the framework for establishing a State Behavior Analysis Council for licensing. This would allow board-certified therapists, also known as board-certified behavior analysts, to establish independent practice.
North Carolina is the only state in the country that prohibits behavior therapists from treating autism without the supervision of a psychologist, according to a press release from House Majority Leader John Bell, main sponsor of the project. of law. There are only 62 of these specialist psychologists in the state, according to WRAL, and about 65,000 North Carolina children with some form of autism.
Onslow County Rep. Phil Shepard is sponsoring the bill and says the subject has concerned North Carolina military families for some time.
âIt was very evident from the families I spoke to here at Camp Lejeune that a lot of them came from other bases and states where they allowed a behavior analyst to deal with these children, to go from time with them and working with them without any supervision, âShepard said. “When they got here they didn’t have that option.”
The proposed policy change would have a major impact on families seeking care in North Carolina who are too often put on wait lists or have to travel long distances to see a therapist.
âABA is crucial, especially for young families with newly diagnosed children,â Connor said. “It’s surprisingly clear from the research that early intervention is essential to give these children the foundation they need to make the best progress.”
The bill has authorized the House and Senate health committees and is currently under consideration by the finance committees. So far, the house version has 56 sponsors out of 120 representatives while 14 of the 50 senators have signed.
“It appears that at this point there is support in both the House and the Senate, which has not always been the case,” said David Laxton, director of communications for the Autism Society of North Carolina, who said the issue in question had been discussed for years. âWe are optimistic that there will be progress on this. ”
Autism Speaks defines autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), as “a wide range of conditions characterized by problems with social skills, repetitive behavior, speech and non-verbal communication” which have many subtypes influenced by genetics and the environment.
According to Operation Autism, a resource guide for military families, military children have a higher likelihood of being diagnosed with autism than their non-military peers. In 2005, one in 88 active-duty military service members had autism, compared with the following year when a survey found that one in 110 children in the general U.S. population had autism.
Overall, cases of autism are also on the rise.
A 2016 CDC survey of children born in 2008 found that one in 54 children had ASD, nearly double the ratio of a similar 2006 survey. Additional CDC data suggests that boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with ASD than girls. .
Operation Autism says the increase has yet to be linked to direct causes; however, some epidemiologists point to increased awareness of the disease and updated diagnostic criteria. Others believe that environmental factors, such as exposure to toxins and pollutants, could be the cause.
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