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Iowa Expands Access to Beneficial Autism Therapy

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Early intervention is important to help Iowans with autism address language deficits, social delays, sensory sensitivities and other challenges. (davitydave/Flickr)
Early intervention is important to help Iowans with autism address language deficits, social delays, sensory sensitivities and other challenges. (davitydave/Flickr)
March 31, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa - Iowans and their loved ones who are impacted by an autism-spectrum disorder have something to celebrate, and just in time for Autism Awareness Month in April. On Thursday, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad signed a bill that will expand access to a valuable treatment for people with autism.

An estimated one in 68 children has an autism diagnosis, and Kris Steinmetz, executive director of the Autism Society of Iowa, said early intervention is important to help them address language deficits, social delays, sensory sensitivities and other challenges.

The bill "would cover Applied Behavioral Analysis up to age 19 on a tiered system, meaning that the younger you are the more funding that would be provided," she said. "Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy has been very beneficial to a lot of young children with autism and through the lifespan."

The measure applies to many employer-provided health-insurance policies. Steinmetz said Iowa also is fortunate to have Early Access and the Regional Autism Program, which provide and coordinate needed services and resources and offer supports for kids' families and providers.

While early intervention is a cornerstone for development, she said there also comes a time when those impacted by autism should start thinking about their future and how they will live as part of the community. As soon as a student with autism turns 14, she said, a transitional plan should be in place that could include the introduction of vocational skills.

"Whether they, maybe, volunteer or a couple afternoons at week, they would go from school to work somewhere to start to gather some skills," she said, "or if they are going to go on to college, are they on track to do that? What kind of program can they be fully integrated?"

Steinmetz said agencies and organizations around Iowa offer vocational and educational training for individuals on the autism spectrum. That includes the University of Iowa's REACH Program, which is a transition program to help students with intellectual, cognitive and learning disabilities become independent and engaged members of the community.

The text of the bill, House File 215, is online at legis.iowa.gov.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IA