House Announces Comprehensive Autism Legislation

This week the House of Representatives will consider an omnibus bill on autism that would permanently establish a state Autism Commission and provide new programs and enhanced resources for individuals, families, and health care and education professionals. The Autism Commission will be responsible for making recommendations and monitoring the implementation of policies to improve autism care in the Commonwealth.  The bill was sent today to the members of the House Committee on Ways and Means for their review and approval.  Pending a favorable committee report, the legislation will be debated by the full House on Wednesday.

“I’m proud that this comprehensive, forward-looking bill is advancing in the House,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop) said. “I’ve heard firsthand that our efforts related to autism, particularly the 2010 insurance legislation, have had lasting, transformative effects. I believe this bill is the next, crucial step to make Massachusetts the leader in caring for residents confronting autism.”

The legislation ensures that as the number of students with autism increases, school districts and teachers are able to effectively educate them. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) will develop a training program to help teachers educate those with autism in a manner that is individualized and allows them to stay in classrooms, if appropriate.  The bill will also expand the IQ-based eligibility requirement for adult services provided by the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) so that these services can be effectively extended to those requiring care.

The legislation also establishes tax-advantaged accounts for families to care for disabled children. This provision establishes tax-exempt savings accounts to help cover disability related expenses relative to education, medical care, job training, housing and transportation.

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