The Massachusetts House of Representatives took a landmark step in unanimously passing a bill that would offer solutions for addressing the needs of a growing number of children being diagnosed with autism. Firstly, the legislation would encourage educators to develop teaching plans that would allow for autistic children to remain in a regular classroom setting by implementing enhanced teacher training. It allows for families to create special accounts, called ‘Achieving Better Life Experience’ or ABLE program, to pay for schooling, housing, transportation, employment, health financial management, etc. that would be tax exempt.
It also focuses on addressing employment and housing needs for individuals with disabilities, for example, allowing individuals with IQ levels higher than 70 to receive services. Before this legislation, individuals needed to have IQs no higher than 70 in order to be eligible for disability services. So there is finally some political recognition that someone with autism can have a higher IQ but still have significant limitations.
And finally, the bill calls for the creation of an Autism Commission within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. The goal of the Autism Commission would be to act as a voice for those with autism and make recommendations on their behalf. They would also be responsible for monitoring the progress of any policies that are made on their behalf and investigating the range of services and support systems necessary for people on the autism spectrum to achieve their full potential. The commission would be composed of 34 people, including representatives from the House and Senate and representatives of various autism related organizations. Representative Geoff Diehl called for an amendment made to the commission that would create seats for a parent of an autistic child as well as someone who works with an autistic child.
State Rep. Danielle Gregoire, D-Marlborough says, “With April being Autism Awareness Month, I am thrilled to see the House of Representatives making significant strides towards bettering the lives of individuals with autism as well as their families…The Special Commission Relative to Autism established in 2010 made several recommendations, and I am pleased that my colleagues have chosen to implement them to provide a better quality of life for members of our community.”
Shema Kolainu and ICare4Autism’s goal is to create opportunities for autistic individuals to achieve their full potential and are glad to see Congress making strides to support that mission. Our upcoming ICare4Autism Conference will also include initiatives and research that will be helping autistic children in securing a better future for themselves. Get more information and tickets here!