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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Kansas Mandate

KansasReporter reports:

It was an unusual sound to hear in the statehouse—a child screaming at top volume, angry about putting on his shoes.

But members of the Joint Committee on Children’s Issues watched the recording raptly, as the video showed improvements in the autistic child’s behavior over five years, progressing from massive meltdowns to interacting with adults the way a typical child would.

The video demonstrated to lawmakers on the committee how early intervention and services help autistic children improve so they eventually need either no additional assistance, or a very minimal level.

But paying for those early intervention services is costly and often leaves a family in financial ruin if the therapies, which cost in excess of $45,000, are not covered by insurance. Because of that, lawmakers are considering ways to require insurance companies to cover autism therapy. Those services usually include speech and occupational therapy, and applied behavior analysis, which is experimenting with various stimuli and using the autistic child’s reaction to modify teaching approaches.

According to the testimony from Judith Ursitti, with the national advocacy group Autism Speaks, 23 states including Kansas already have some sort of insurance reform law concerning autism. But she said Kansas’ law, passed last session, falls short because it only requires the State Employee Health Plan to cover therapies as a test program. But autism advocates told the committee that this means many autistic children are going without therapy because of its cost and won’t get help during the very narrow window in which many of the therapies work.