New law will improve access to an evidence-based autism therapy in North Carolina

On May 17, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law a bill that will help people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the state more easily access medically necessary behavioral therapy.

The legislation, SB 103, creates a professional license for Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs), the professionals who provide applied behavior analysis (ABA). ABA is a broad term that includes the behavior therapies that are evidence-based and widely accepted by insurance companies. “SB 103 streamlines the path to what for many families is an incredibly critical treatment,” said Yashira Cangas, mother of a son with autism.

North Carolina bill signing, family with Governor

“On a personal level, SB103 allows the BCBA our son has been with for ten years, to finally have autonomy over his therapy program. It levels out the playing field so that his therapy company can better compete with other states for the best and brightest therapists for our son. This also paves the way for more available providers, and shorter wait times during times of therapist transitions. I can't emphasize how these legislative changes translate to actual real-life and first-hand improvements for our son and for our family,” shared Cangas.

Before this law, BCBAs were required to operate under the supervision of licensed psychologists. This hurdle has led to fewer ABA providers, long wait lists, higher costs and reduced access to treatment for individuals with autism, particularly in rural areas. Furthermore, North Carolina has had difficulty recruiting and retaining behavior analysts as they are unable to independently practice. North Carolina was the only state in the country with this type of restriction.

State Rep. John Bell and State Sen. Jim Perry served as the legislative champions of the effort.

“This bill is a game-changer for thousands of families affected by autism in North Carolina,” said Bell.Thank you to our former colleague Rep. Chuck McGrady and those before us who worked so hard in previous sessions to get this much-needed bill approved.”

“By streamlining these regulations, this bill will expand access to treatment and reduce costs for children with autism in North Carolina,” said Perry. “This is a huge win for these families, especially in rural areas that are in desperate need for more providers.”

North Carolina bill signing with Governor

Kyle Robinson attended the signing ceremony with his wife Bobbie and son Samuel. He remarked, “We know firsthand the struggles families face seeking ABA services in North Carolina. Our family traveled across the state for over two years in order to find the services Samuel needed. This will allow more kids like Samuel to receive the help they need to reach their full potential. Thank you Autism Speaks for your tireless efforts over the past several years in making this possible for families in North Carolina.”

The legislation creates a five-member state board that will issue and revoke the licenses of applicants. Licenses will be valid for two years and subject to renewal. Applicants must be at least age 18, pass a criminal history record check, pass the board's Certified Behavior Analyst examination, and have active status with the board. Most of the provisions took effect on May 17, 2021, the day it was signed.


Photo 1, from left to right: Yashira Cangas, Governor Roy Cooper, Niko Cangas, Monique Baker, BCBA

Photo 2, back row from left to right: Representative John Bell, Representative Zack Hawkins, Christa Stevens (Autism Speaks Director of State Government Affairs), Patrick Ballantine, Senator Lisa Barnes, Kyle Robinson, Senator Jim Perry. Front row from left to right: Governor Roy Cooper, Samuel Robinson, Bobbie Robinson