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Calls to Action

Experts and advocates gather for 2016 Autism Law Summit

October 19, 2016

The Autism Law Summit is a gathering of parent advocates, individuals with autism, autism service providers, lawyers, lobbyists and legislators from across the United States who are interested in the politics and policy of autism spectrum disorders related to health insurance, Medicaid and transition to adulthood.

At this year’s Autism Law Summit, advocates and leaders from across the country attended sessions on a wide array of disability-related topics in conjunction with the Southwest Conference on Disability.

Speakers included members of the Autism Speaks Government Affairs team; Dan Unumb, Executive Director of the Autism Legal Resource Center; and a variety of legal experts and service providers.  Attendees also heard from guest speaker, John J. Pitney, Jr. – celebrated political scientist and author of “The Politics of Autism: Navigating the Contested Spectrum.”

“The Autism Law Summit is the ultimate gathering of ‘doers’ in the autism world,” said Lorri Unumb, Vice President of State Government Affairs at Autism Speaks. “Smart, passionate people come to share strategies and hatch plans for shaping autism law and policy, and to spend quality time with friends from across the country who understand your life.  It is the highlight of my advocacy year, and many of the Summit attendees expressed the same feeling.”

Summit attendees were briefed on tremendous strides in insurance reform earlier this year. On the state level, the Autism Speaks advocacy team led the effort to pass meaningful autism insurance coverage in the state of Oklahoma – the 44th state to do so.  The State team continues efforts to expand coverage in other states, including a critical push for benefits for Ohio.

Attendees also heard updates on the impact of Office of Personnel Management’s announcement that its carriers would be directed not to exclude coverage of applied behavior analysis (ABA) for individuals with autism starting in 2017. The FEHB program covers 8.2 million federal employees, retirees and dependents.

In keeping with Autism Speaks’ “Next 10 Vision” of decreasing the time from a diagnosis of autism to accessing effective intervention, much time was spent discussing 

implementation and enforcement of autism insurance laws.  Speakers provided practical advice for ensuring that individuals with autism are able to access the services they are entitled to under their health benefit plans. 

The Autism Law Summit also addressed policy issues related to transition to adulthood, including post-secondary education, employment, vocational rehabilitation, transportation, and HCBS services. 

“We are thrilled at the amount of energy committed to finding solutions for the diverse transition needs of the autism community,” said Angela Lello, senior director of Public Policy at Autism Speaks.  “The Autism Speaks Autism Law Summit is a tremendous step forward at leveraging the passion and expertise of advocates and leaders across the country to help individuals reach their fullest potential.”