Testifying before the Nevada Legislature on funding for autism services was a herculean effort Wednesday for Reno mother Sherrie Olson.
Her 2-year-old son A.J., wearing a Superman T-shirt, screamed and writhed in her arms. He tried to run out of the hearing room and ride the elevators up and down. He didn't speak or listen to the people around him.
It's just an ordinary day for a parent of a child with autism.
"It's the best feeling ever when you get hugs from him rather than just screaming," Olson said.
Nevada legislators Wednesday heard three bills that would rework the state's autism services and replenish funding at the same time federal money and state general funds are drying up.
Assemblywoman Melissa Woodbury, R-Las Vegas, co-sponsored AB315, which would create a single umbrella for the state's three existing autism assistance programs. AB316 would establish a standardized screening system that would allow the state to determine how many Nevadans have autism.
James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, is co-sponsoring AB345, which would make a $1.5 million appropriation to fund autism programs. A budget committee would have to approve the extra money even if the bill passes the Assembly Health and Human Services Committee because the funding is not included in Gov. Brian Sandoval's proposed budget.
The three existing state funding streams support about 398 children, and at least 349 children are on the waiting list. If AB345 passes, all the children on the waiting list will receive services.