In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families. In many states -- particularly those with large rural populations -- one problem is a shortage of behavior therapists.
Supporters of children and dults with autism said legislation signed into law on Monday by Gov. Roy Cooper creating a licensing process for treatment specialists should expand services and rein in their costs.
The bipartisan measure that Cooper signed at an outdoor Executive Mansion ceremony says behavior analysts can now operate independently, rather than under the supervision of psychologists, as has been required. North Carolina was the only state until now mandating such control, bill supporters say, leading to higher costs and less access to therapy for those autism spectrum disorder.
“It’s more about access to care and the fact that depending on your zip code, you can be without,” said Rep. Zack Hawkins, a Durham County Democrat who helped shepherd the Senate bill through the House with Majority Leader John Bell, a Republican. Hawkins has two sons with autism disorders.
The new law, which creates a state Behavior Analysis Board to issue licenses, charge fees and conduct investigations of licensees, “is going to impact so many lives in our state,” GOP Sen. Jim Perry of Lenoir County, a chief bill sponsor, said during the ceremony.
Children, their parents and licensure proponents huddled around Cooper as he signed the measure.