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April is OT Month

Federal and State Autism Legislation

While there are many autism-related bills at both federal and state levels of government, the following are brief overviews of legislation in which AOTA has been the most involved.

Federal

Combating Autism Act of 2006

Funding for the Combating Autism Act (CAA) of 2006 was given a boost with the inclusion of $211 million in President Obama's Fiscal Year 2010 budget proposal. If this funding is approved by Congress and included in the final budget, it would support biomedical and environmental research, surveillance, awareness, and early identification.

Empowering Children with Autism through Education Act of 2007

(H.R. 2609 in the 110th Congress; not passed into law. Expected to be reintroduced in the 111th Congress.)

This bill requires the Secretary of Education to establish the Empowering Children with Autism through Education Task Force to identify and disseminate evidence-based educational strategies and promising best practices to improve the quality of learning for individuals with autism in grades K-12, with regard to the following:

  • Learning models, interventions, and services that demonstrate improvements in reading, writing and math proficiency
  • The cost-effectiveness of these learning models, interventions and services, and their applicability for local education agencies
  • Professional development needs of educators
  • Methods for incorporating state-, local- and community-based programs and services into the classroom to provide comprehensive support
  • Identification of barriers to successful implementation of programs and services and recommendations to address those barriers
  • Dissemination of findings to Congress, all relevant agencies and states and U.S. territories to improve the quality of learning for individuals with autism.

Expanding the Promise for Individuals with Autism Act of 2007

(S. 937, H.R. 1881 introduced in the 110th Congress; not passed. Expected to be reintroduced in the 111th Congress.)

This bill amends the Public Health Service Act to require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to:

  • Convene, on behalf of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, a Treatments, Interventions, and Services Evaluation Task Force to evaluate evidence-based biomedical and behavioral treatments and services for individuals with autism
  • Establish multi-year demonstration grant programs for states to provide evidence-based autism treatments, interventions and services
  • Establish planning and demonstration grant programs for adults with autism
  • Award grants to states for access to autism services following diagnosis
  • Award grants to University Centers of Excellence for Developmental Disabilities to provide services and address the unmet needs of individuals with autism and their families
  • Make grants to protection and advocacy systems to address the needs of individuals with autism and other emerging populations of individuals with disabilities
  • Award a grant to a national nonprofit organization for the establishment and maintenance of a national technical assistance center for autism services and information dissemination.

State

  • Autism Speaks, a national organization dedicated to addressing problems related to Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), has been extremely active in advocating for insurance mandate initiatives in many state legislatures.

    Its model legislation recognizes the important role that occupational therapy can play in treatment by including occupational therapy in the list of services that must be covered under health insurance products offered in the state.

  • AOTA also recognizes the valuable part that occupational therapy practitioners can play in helping individuals and families who are coping with these disorders to live their lives to the fullest extent possible. AOTA has worked with state associations in support of mandate initiatives specifically including coverage for occupational therapy.

Conclusion

With the increase in autism diagnoses and the rise in legislative initiatives mandating coverage and promoting research and new interventions, the need for qualified occupational therapy practitioners will also increase. AOTA has numerous resources available to its members regarding occupational therapy's role in autism and ASD interventions. Membership in AOTA and your state association provides the resources needed to advocate for the inclusion and coverage of occupational therapy in initiatives relating to this expanding and important area of practice.

 




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