Autism Speaks recognizes Nebraska legislators as autism champions

October 6, 2021

On September 16, 2021, autism advocates joined us in recognizing the leadership of Speaker Mike Hilgers, Senator Lynne Walz and Nebraska Department of Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt, in helping to pass milestone legislation for students with autism and others who utilize individualized education plans (IEPs) and transition plans.

Vicki Depenbusch, Speaker Hilgers, Commissioner Blomstedt, Sen. Walz, and Cathy Martinez
Vicki Depenbusch, Speaker Hilgers, Commissioner Blomstedt, Sen. Walz, and Cathy Martinez

LB 527 became a new law that lowers the required age by which high school students with developmental disabilities begin planning, together with their IEP teams and others who support them, for their transition to adulthood. Before this law, IEP teams in Nebraska were not required to begin the transition planning process until age 16, which is often too late for students with autism, and is later than when most states begin. The new law sets 14 years old or freshman year as the age for transition planning to begin.

On behalf of Autism Speaks, advocates Cathy Martinez and Vicki Depenbusch recognized Speaker Hilgers, Senator Lynne Walz and Commissioner Matt Blomstedt for their leadership on this legislative effort. Autism Speaks is proud to honor Speaker Mike Hilgers and Senator Lynne Walz as 2021 Autism Speaks Public Service Award recipients. Senator Hilgers’ designation of the bill as priority legislation and Senator Walz’s championing of the bill, as Chair of the Senate Education Committee, were key to the legislative success. We are also proud to recognize Nebraska Department of Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt with a Certificate of Appreciation for his support and collaboration on LB527.

Vicki Depenbusch, Speaker Mike Hilgers, Sen. Lynne Walz, and Cathy Martinez
Vicki Depenbusch, Speaker Mike Hilgers, Sen. Lynne Walz, and Cathy Martinez

Transition planning for students diagnosed with autism is critical to their success in adulthood. Each year, approximately 70,000 children with autism in the United States graduate from high school and face a “services cliff.” Early planning for this transition to adulthood is key to achieving goals in continuing education, employment, independent living and community participation. 

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