What It Means For DDI Staff and Families

 

On Friday, January 10th, 2014, Governor Cuomo signed into law a bill that will license applied behavior analysts. To date, applied behavior analysis (ABA), which is supported by hundreds of carefully controlled, peer reviewed studies, is considered the most effective treatment for addressing the unique needs of persons with autism. The bill, S4862A-2013, sponsored by Assemblyman Joe Morelle , and Former Senator Charles Fuschillo makes the credential of Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) as granted by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, Inc. (BACB) the primary requirement for licensing behavior analysts in New York.  Until now, BCBAs possessed a certification from the national non-profit certification corporation called the BACB, but were not affiliated with or recognized by any New York State regulatory body. With this legislation, licensed behavior analysts (i.e., BCBAs who elect to become licensed) will now join the list of professionals licensed and regulated by the New York State Education Department's Office of the Professions. The impact of this distinction will be significant for New York’s families who have family members with autism. Here’s why:

 

Facilitation of Implementation of New York’s 2011 Insurance Reform Law: This reform, passed in late 2011, was intended to provide families who have state-regulated health plans with coverage for applied behavior analysis that was supervised or implemented by a person holding a BCBA. A major hitch to implementation of this law, however, was the nearly simultaneous regulation put out by the state’s Department of Financial Services (DFS) which mandated that in order to qualify for insurance reimbursement, the provider needed to also have one of New York’s psychology, social-work or related mental health licenses. Thus, in effect, insurance panels would be limited to BCBAs who also possessed another mental health license. This produced a major barrier to families accessing insurance coverage, as there are very few clinicians in New York who met those dual criteria. This is because, as Shook (2005) noted, the majority of BCBAs have Masters Degrees in Special Education, which is not a profession that provides a license, but rather a certification. By one recent estimate there were less than 45 professionals in the entire state who had both a BCBA and another license in a mental health profession. In July, 2013, DFS enacted an emergency repeal to their position, allowing professionals with a BCBA to be eligible for insurance reimbursement without an additional license. However, BCBAs still faced another barrier to practice, the State Education Laws.

Read more: Board Certified Behavior Analysts May Now Become Licensed

A small new study suggests children with autism can benefit from a type of therapy that helps them become more comfortable with the sounds, sights and sensations of their daily surroundings.

 

The therapy is called sensory integration. It uses play to help these kids feel more at ease with everything from water hitting the skin in the shower to the sounds of household appliances.

 

The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders published Roseann Schaaf findings.  Schaaf is an occupational therapist at Thomas Jefferson University's School of Health Professions in Philadelphia.

 

The research team randomly assigned 32 children aged 4 to 8 to one of two groups. One group stuck with their usual care, including medications and behavioral therapies. The other group added 30 sessions of sensory integration therapy over 10 weeks.

 

After 30 sessions, Schaaf's team found that children in the sensory integration group scored higher on a standardized "goal attainment scale," versus kids in the comparison group, and were generally faring better in their daily routines.

 

Read more about this new study in Newsday.

 

According to a report released by the journal Nature, the first signs of autism may be visible as early as the first month of a child's life.  Researchers focused on babies’ ability to make eye contact with caregivers, since lack of eye contact is one of the hallmarks of autism. Among typical children, interest in the eyes increased steadily with age. But for children with autism, interest in the eyes waned starting between 2 and 6 months of age

 

Researchers followed 110 children from infancy to three years of age. Half of those children were at a high risk of developing autism (because they had siblings with the condition) while the other half weren't. Using eye-tracking technology, the team routinely evaluated how often the babies looked into the eyes of a caretaker on video, and how long they held the gaze. When the children were three, and underwent autism screenings, researchers found that those whose eye engagement lagged during infancy were more likely to be diagnosed with the condition.

 

Though the study was small, the same team is now conducting more research on a larger group of children. They also caution that the sorts of ultra-subtle eye moments tracked in this research can't yet be replicated at home and without equipment. But if these findings are further validated, they could point towards earlier diagnosis and maybe even more effective interventions for at least certain infants.

More than 50,000 runners took to the streets for the 43rd annual New York City Marathon including identical twins Alex and Jamie Schneider.  Alex and Jamie are both autistic, but found a joy for running. 

 

Both boys have to run with the assistance of a guide and have run about 130 races, from 5Ks to marathons.

 

“I'll explain to people, there's not a lot I can share with him, but when we're running, it's an unspoken language," Allan Schneider said of running with his son. "It's been wonderful."

 

The twins are running for the Association for Science in Autism Treatment to raise money and awareness for the non-profit dedicated to the education and care of people with autism.

 

Watch the inspiring story from abc news.