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Texas Senate OKs bill to license autism treatment specialists

The Rancher - 5/10/2017

A bill that would require specialists who treat children with autism to be licensed in Texas passed the full Senate in Austin last week after some push-back from the psychology community.

SB 589, sponsored by Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, would require licenses for applied behavior analysts, who are mostly known for their treatment of autism. An amended version of the bill passed 25-6 and, as of print deadline, was being reviewed in the Texas House.

Supporters say the legislation is needed to regulate the profession. If enacted, Texas would join 26 other states in requiring applied behavior analysts to be licensed.

"We are overjoyed with all of the support we had from the senators," said Dorothea Lerman, director of the Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities at the University of Houston Clear Lake and president of the Texas Association for Behavior Analysis. "They seem to understand the importance of this bill. Given adequate time in the House, we believe they will pass it."

There are 1,606 children with autism in the roughly 75,000-student Katy school district. Many other children with autism are enrolled at various area autism treatment facilities.

The amended bill would charge the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation with regulating the licenses. The original version assigned that task to the Texas Medical Board.

Representatives of organizations such as the Texas Psychology Association have expressed opposition to the bill. Psychologists have said the licenses should be regulated by the TexasBoard of Examiners of Psychologists because behavior analysis has origins in psychology.

Applied behavior analysis is the most well-known and research-backed treatment for children in the autism spectrum. It breaks down weaknesses into small goals and rewards children for each goal completed. Treatment can require up to 40 hours per week of one-on-one time and can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

One in every 68 children in the U.S. are autistic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 1,300 behavior analysts in Texas are certified through the the national Behavior Analysts Certification Board, which requires at least a master's degree from a credible behavior analysis program at a university, along with field work and other requirements. But without a requirement for licensure, anyone can practice behavior analysis with little to no experience.

Supporters say the law could also lead insurance providers that do not cover the practice to change their policies.

The bill includes exemptions for other licensed professionals such as psychologists, who have their own licensure requirements.

To read the Chronicle's first story on this legislation, visit http://bit.ly/SB589.

 
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