Creative Legislative Solutions Represents North Carolina Children With Autism, Their Parents and Treatment Providers

Efforts are under way to change a North Carolina statute that creates an artificial barrier to treatment for children with Autism

Creative Legislative Solutions is working to affect changes in the North Carolina Administrative Code to allow for the practice of Behavior Analysis and therapy by persons certified by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board as Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) or Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts (BCaBA). The change would remove an artificial barrier currently in the state statutes that prevents children with Autism from receiving the treatment they so desperately need.

"At present, there is a barrier in place dramatically limiting the number of providers of Autism treatment which lengthens the waiting list for children in need of treatment. Sadly, in cases of children afflicted with this disorder, treatment delayed is treatment denied - as their brains develop, the lack of treatment translates into precious lost opportunity," explains Jim Lantry, Creative Legislative Solutions' founder and principal and a national advocate for people with developmental disabilities including those with an Autism spectrum disorder.

Lantry is working with North Carolina representatives to carve out a narrow exemption from the Psychology Practice Act that will allow practitioners certified by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) to render ABA services in North Carolina. Under the current statute, unless these practitioners are also licensed psychologists - and most are not-- they may not provide the much needed therapy to North Carolina children. The exemption Lantry is striving to achieve will allow children diagnosed with an Autism disorder to receive the help they need without delay and when it will do the most good.

"The sad fact is that as things stand, these children who have no time to wait are forced to endure years on a waiting list because of a lack of dually licensed professionals," Lantry explains.

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is the most prescribed evidence-based therapy for children with Autism. Practitioners across the nation are certified by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB), a national organization with strict requirements - including a masters degree, ethical standards and hours of clinical experience -- for certification and practice. There are currently approximately 100 BACB certified practitioners in the State of North Carolina.

"According to the State of North Carolina report to the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, there were 9,746 children between the ages of 3-21 with Autism in 2008-2009 who received special education services. And, based on our calculations, there are only about 20 therapists with the dual licensing that the State requires to administer ABA therapy. In a word, we have a problem," says Charlotte Fudge, Executive Director of Butterfly Effects, a leading Autism treatment provider in North Carolina. "The proposed exemption would be a huge win for thousands of kids and for their families," Fudge concludes.

From a fiscal perspective, the change in the Psychology Practice Act will result in tremendous cost savings to the State because the children will be able to function more fully to their potential thereby reducing the need for adult services and support as they get older. Furthermore, implementation of the exclusion would not involve any cost to the State as there is no appropriation attached to it. And from a personal and family perspective, it will provide the children and their families real opportunity to strive for and to achieve more meaningful lives.

The obstacle to treatment was brought to Lantry's attention by a group of North Carolina parents of children with Autism, particularly military families stationed in the state, and by their treatment providers. It is estimated that 1 in 88 military children have a diagnosis on the Autism spectrum. Recognizing the tremendous responsibilities military families shoulder today and the extraordinary circumstances faced by military families impacted by Autism, Lantry was instrumental in getting Assembly Joint Resolution 46 through the California Legislature calling on the Department of Defense and Congress to address the treatment needs of military children with Autism.

"Access to timely services is extremely problematic for the mobile military family," explains Donna Anders, a Marine wife stationed at Camp Lejeune and mother of a son with Autism. "The assurance of family care is critical to mission readiness, but more importantly, access to recommended services is essential for the health and well being of the child and military family."