1. Healthcare: 44 states (including Utah) have enacted legislation requiring health insurance to cover autism. State law cannot affect self-funded plans, which fall under federal ERISA rules. Would you support adding autism coverage to federally-regulated plans?
Absolutely, this coverage has to be expanded to across the lifespan and with appropriate levels of funding. I would take this even further by expanding Medicare by lowering the age of eligibility to birth creating a national single payer health care system with universal coverage for all citizens. This universal health care system would fully fund not only, ABA, but increase funding and coverage for other evidence-based practices such as occupational and speech therapy.
2. Education: Over the past 4 decades, the ADA and IDEA have dramatically improved access to education for students with disabilities, including those with autism. Many students with autism need the support of an IEP or 504 plan in order to access an education. Although IDEA requires states to provide services and provides some federal funding, that funding has never reached the originally intended 40%. In 2016, IDEA is funded at around 16%. Would you support efforts to increase federal funding for IDEA?
Access to appropriate levels of support and reasonable accommodation, which are mandated in ADA and IDEA, are really a civil rights issue. By not adequately funding these services we are quite literally violating the civil rights of the individuals that are entitled to these services. I would absolutely support an increase in federal funding to the intended 40%.
3. Employment: In the years following high school, 2/3rds of people with autism are neither employed nor continuing education. “H.R. 5587: Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act” passed the House in September. It supports career and technical education (CTE) programs and helps students with autism gain skills necessary for employment. Do you support such legislation?
Currently only 58% of adolescents with ASD have a transition plan by the required age. Only 4-17% of adults with ASD maintain employment over time. Young adults in their early 20’s have lower rates of employment than their peers in other disability categories even when controlling for IQ and education level. Adults with autism have lower wages, have fewer hours worked, and lower attendance in post-secondary school than almost all other disability categories. Something is wrong here. I would absolutely support H.R. 5587 so that we can begin to tackle these enormous economic injustices. I would go further and ensure that everyone, regardless of disability (or maybe we say ability), is guaranteed at least a minimum federal wage of $15 an hour.
4. Wandering: Almost half of children with autism wander from a caregiver. “S. 2614: Kevin and Avonte’s Law of 2016” passed the Senate in July. It provides federal support for equipment and training for first responders and schools to combat wandering. Do you support such legislation?
Wandering can be a serious issue and put children and adults at substantial risk. 26 year old Arnaldo Eliud Rios Soto was nearly shot by police, who instead shot his caregiver, because they were not appropriately trained on how to deal with a wandering adult with a disability. I would absolutely support S. 2614 to combat wandering, but I would also take this further and increase funding for de-escalation tactics for first responders and school staff as well. It is heartbreaking to see cases like Kayleb Moon-Robinson, an 11 year old autistic child physically restrained and charged with a felony for kicking a trash can. If first responders and school staff are properly trained in de-escalation tactics and how to interact with individuals on the spectrum we could begin to reduce these incidents.