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Tuesday, 03 July 2012 22:01

Senate Bill 946

California is officially the 28th state to enact autism insurance reform by signing SB.946, which requires coverage of proven behavioral treatment therapies starting in July 2012.

"Courage and common sense have prevailed as Governor Brown has chosen to side with California families and taxpayers, rather than the health insurance lobby," said Autism Speaks Co-founder Bob Wright. "Autism Speaks singles out Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg whose unwavering leadership and commitment led to this success."

Authored by Senator Steinberg, SB.946 clarifies settlements negotiated by the Brown administration last summer with two major health plans that behavioral health treatments, such as applied behavior analysis (ABA), are eligible benefits with no caps on age or amount of benefits. The settlements initially appeared to provide the needed coverage, but contained a flaw that substantially negated their intended impact, requiring the legislative remedy provided through SB. 946.

The law began taking effect July 1, 2012, as health plans renew policies and sunset in 2014. By virtue of the early intervention provided through ABA, California taxpayers are expected to save $140 million a year in special education and social service costs, according to an independent analysis by the California Health Benefits Review Program. In addition, the improved access to ABA therapy could create at least 20,000 new jobs.

"This is a victory for the thousands of California families who have had to pay out-of-pocket costs for autism treatment considered medically necessary," said Steinberg. "I commend the Governor for signing SB. 946 and adding California to the long list of states mandating that health plans pay their fair share. This day would have never happened if it were not for the countless families and advocates who have been working tirelessly on this issue for many years. Our work is not done. As soon as our economy improves I will work to ensure every child, every young adult, and every family in California has affordable access to this therapy."

The new law explicitly preserves the obligation of health plans and insurers to provide services under California's existing mental health parity law, through which many families have been able to secure coverage for other treatments such as occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, and treatment of co-morbid physical health issues.

Thousands of California families, in the absence of insurance coverage, have been forced to pay out-of-pocket or rely on taxpayer-funded programs for behavioral health treatments, which can cost $50,000 a year or more. Autism Speaks has helped lead the fight in statehouses across the nation to end such insurance company discrimination. This year alone, laws have been enacted in Arkansas, Virginia, West Virginia and Rhode Island; and a bill passed this summer by the New York Legislature awaits Gov. Andrew Cuomo's signature.

Since 2006, the prevalence of autism has risen to 1 in 110, including 1 in 70 boys, prompting the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to call autism a public health challenge. Estimates of the annual cost of autism to the nation have ranged as high as $90 billion. The number of California children with autism has not been calculated precisely, but estimates range at 30,000 children.

"The use of early intervention treatments, such as ABA, can substantially increase a child's independence, thereby reducing future taxpayer costs for special education and social services," said Peter Bell, Autism Speaks' executive vice president for programs and services. "In states that have enacted autism insurance reform, actual experience has demonstrated the impact on premiums has been far below estimates offered by insurance industry lobbyists."

Courtesy of Autism Votes.

Published in do-gooding
Friday, 06 April 2012 18:08

Does my child have autism?

Research suggests that children as young as 1 may show signs of autism. Because early intervention can make a huge difference in a child's life, please share this list of the "Red Flags of Autism" with your friends and family. 

If your baby shows any of these signs, don't wait! Speak to your pediatrician or family practitioner about autism screening and ask for an immediate evaluation:

* No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter

* No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions by nine months or thereafter

* No babbling by 12 months

* No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving by 12 months

* No words by 16 months

* No two-word meaningful phrases (without imitating or repeating) by 24 months

* Any loss of speech or babbling or social skills at any age

April is Autism Awareness Month Learn the signs and red flags of autism here

Published in development
Thursday, 29 March 2012 21:34

Autism + Household Chemicals

Today, the Centers for Disease Control updated its estimate of autism incidence in this country to an eye-popping 1 in 88 (from 1 in 110).

While the exact causes of autism remain unknown there is substantial evidence implicating environmental contaminants including chemicals. This evidence was best summarized by Dr. Phil Landrigan, Chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Mt Sinai School of Medicine in his peer-reviewed 2010 paper, "What causes Autism? Exploring the environmental contribution."

Since then a 2011 Stanford University study of twins -- the largest ever -- implicated environmental factors for 57% of autism cases. Current policy at the federal level does not require chemicals to be evaluated for neurotoxicity (or any other health effect), and many known neurotoxins are used in commerce today. The CDC's chemical "biomonitoring" program has identified neurotoxins among the industrial chemicals it has detected as widespread in average Americans.

Responding to the announcement, Andy Igrejas, Director of Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, said, "Autism already takes an enormous toll on American families so it is bad news, indeed, that it is getting worse. As evidence accumulates that unregulated chemicals contribute substantially to autism, chemical policy reform becomes even more of a moral imperative. This spring the US Senate can help alleviate the problem by passing the Safe Chemicals Act, which would, for the first time, create an orderly process for identifying the chemicals that contribute to conditions like autism and apply appropriate restrictions."

--Statement from Andy Igrejas, Director of Safer Chemicals Healthy Families

Published in health
Wednesday, 05 October 2011 18:06

Could Autism be Genetic?

A new study suggests that autism may have a genetic basis. In a study released October 3, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory researchers were able to develop a mouse model of autism, exhibiting many of the same symptoms seem in humans with the disorder.

What does this mean for the masses?

First, the mice contain a chromosomal defect (corresponding to the 27-gene cluster deletion on human chromosome 16 -- this is found in some children with autism). Translation: this is the first functional evidence that autism is caused by a genetic deletion. Typically, children inherit one copy of a gene from each parent, but changes and variations in genes can lead to a variety of conditions, including Down syndrome and Angelman Syndrome.

Secondly, the suggestion that autism is caused by a deletion is a revelation that may lead to more insight into not only how autism works, but how it is inherited through generations.

Read about the research:

Evidence Found for the Genetic Basis of Autism: Models of Autism Show That Gene Copy Number Controls Brain Structure and Behavior

CSHL Team Finds Evidence for the Genetic Basis of Autism

Share your reaction to these findings. Do you think autism is genetic? Does this research give you hope?

Published in do-gooding
Wednesday, 07 September 2011 05:26

Just a Small Rant...

...About Prenatal Testing and Eliminating Imperfection

Not everything can be detected in an AFP, a CVS, an ultrasound or an amniocentesis. As far as I know, those tests will not determine if your child will have mental illness, heart disease, obesity, cancer, diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, autism and the list goes on. Or do we have tests for these things in the works? Shudder...Those tests can't tell you if your child will be happy or a contributing member to society. They can't tell you if your child will grow up to be a criminal, a serial killer, a child molester or a rapist. They can't tell you if your child will grow up to be bully or a thief. They can't tell you if your child will have motivation or drive or end up being homeless. These tests won't tell you if your child will stand out, or be homosexual, or have a learning disability or be an outcast because he or she is too tall, too short, too skinny, too fat, too pretty, too ugly, too blond, too dark or too anything. I certainly know that the prenatal tests will never tell you if your child will be in a car accident or a near drowning or take a bad fall or have a birth trauma. There is NO SUCH THING as a perfect child and having those tests to rule out the forbidden DOWN SYNDROME or any other detectable birth "defect" doesn't guarantee that you will have that unattainable picture perfect human being. I'm sensitive now, more than ever, to this obsession over early detection for the purposes of eliminating "imperfect" unborn children. There is a push to eliminate children like Joaquin and Sofia. I wish people would understand that "disability" is actually very natural and it's everywhere. People come in all shapes and forms and abilities. I find it impossible to find anyone in the world that doesn't suffer from some sort of challenge or "disability". Wear glasses? Ever had braces? On a diet? Have a bad back? Ever need surgery? Need coffee in the morning? Ever had a headache? Ever need help with anything? Would you say you are perfect? Would you say you are totally healthy? My bet is each and everyone of us has some challenge or special need that they deal with regularly.

I guess this is my way of saying (and this is ONLY MY OPINION) that I don't think anyone should enter parenthood unless they understand that you take on ALL SORTS of risks, trials and tribulations, heartaches, and disappointments when it comes to having a child and you are signing up for the JOURNEY. Wherever it may take you. It's a huge responsibility. And it's a privilege.  So if you aren't up for the challenge, don't have a child. To the medical industry: Let's get off this slippery slope of prenatal testing. Let's be mindful of the direction we are headed. Let's not pretend the testing is to have more "information" or to "prepare". If that were the case, I wouldn't be ranting right now. The abortion rate after a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome is staggering. 92% of babies who are prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome are eliminated. That sentence alone says it all.

OK...rant is over.

On to something inspiring, amazing and beautiful. Thank goodness for that.

A link to a beautiful video:

Wonderful Works

A link to the beautiful new ministry launched this month:

Wonderful Works

Published in health

You think your child has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or a learning disability… Now what? Did you know that federal law (IDEA) requires public schools to provide every student a “free and appropriate” education in the “least restrictive environment.” That's the good news. The bad news is that it’s not always easy to get schools to do that. Here’s a step-by-step process to ensure that your child gets what he needs.


1. Get an accurate diagnosis:
If your child is struggling, the school may ask for permission to perform an evaluation, but you shouldn’t wait for them to do so. You can initiate an evaluation by calling the school to request one. If the school refuses, or if you disagree with the school’s findings, you can obtain an independent evaluation to document your child’s need for special education services. (Depending on the situation, the school may have to pay for the independent evaluation.)

2. Meet with the evaluation team:
A multidisciplinary team consisting of the parent, a classroom teacher, special-ed teachers, and others will meet to determine your child’s eligibility for special-ed services, and how those services will be provided. If the team decides your child does not need Special Ed, the process stops. If you disagree, you can appeal your case in a “due process” hearing.

3. Decide which laws are applicable:
Two federal laws provide for free, public special education services: the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act. IDEA covers kids with very specific conditions, including mental retardation, emotional disturbances, hearing impairments, and speech and language difficulties. Kids may qualify for coverage if they frequently have one of these problems in addition to attention deficit. Some qualify under another IDEA category: “Other Health Impairments.” Their ADHD is so severe that they’re unable to learn in a regular classroom. Section 504 covers ADHD kids who don’t qualify for Special-Ed services under IDEA but who need extra help in the classroom. The law prohibits schools from discriminating against students because of physical and mental impairments. Just as the school must provide ramps for kids in wheelchairs, it must make modifications (such as preferential seating, extra time on tests, or help with note taking) for kids with brain-based learning barriers.

Published in tips + tricks
Dandelion is a free quarterly magazine that serves as a resource for Bay Area and Sacramento families of children with special needs: autism and Asperger’s, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, those who are blind, deaf, in wheelchairs, learning disorders, sensory issues and every special need in between. Dandelion’s mission is to create and empower a community of local families through a variety of media by providing a database of resources, trusted and thought-provoking editorial content, an up-to-date calendar of special needs-specific events, noteworthy news, as well as contributions to the community.