On December 1, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) announced that its Board of Trustees had approved its update to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). The long anticipated 5th edition of the DSM includes changes that are very important to the intellectual and developmental disability community as numerous federal and state programs as well as private health insurance plans use it to determine eligibility for critical services and supports. As of today, the final language for the new diagnostic criteria has not been made publicly available, though it has been announced that the new diagnosis of “Autism Spectrum Disorder” will combine Asperger’s and Autism under one umbrella term. The Arc submitted comments to the APA in June expressing our concerns over this new term in addition to the proposed new term “intellectual developmental disorder”. The DSM-5 manual is scheduled for publication in May of 2013. Learn more about the new edition of the DSM.
On November 29, the Senate approved an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that requires TRICARE, the military’s health care system, to cover certain treatments for autism and other developmental disabilities. The measure, introduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and championed by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), passed by a vote of 66 to 29. Many children with autism only receive this diagnosis after several years, during which time they are often diagnosed with conditions such as Pervasive Developmental Disorder — Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS). The new amendment language will help ensure that children with a range of developmental disabilities begin to receive critical behavioral health treatments, including applied behavioral analysis (ABA), at the earliest age possible. The Senate must next vote on the entire defense budget bill. A conference committee between the Senate and House will reconcile the two versions before a final bill is voted on by both chambers and sent to President Obama for signature. In May, the House passed a narrowed TRICARE measure that only covered those with autism in its defense budget bill.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep Darryl Issa (R-CA), held a hearing entitled, “1 in 88 Children: A Look Into the Federal Response to Rising Rates of Autism” on November 29. The four hour hearing included witnesses from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Autism Speaks, the Autism Society, Mercyhurst University, SaferMinds, the Global & Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership, and the Autism Self Advocacy Network. Much of the testimony and subsequent questioning focused on the issue of causation, particularly the continuing use of mercury in multi-vial doses of vaccines. Read the testimony and view the archived webcast.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep Darryl Issa (R-CA), will hold a hearing entitled, “1 in 88 Children: A Look Into the Federal Response to Rising Rates of Autism” on November 29. The hearing will also explore the costs of treating autism. For more information, see the Committee website.
On June 21, the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, chaired by Senator Jim Webb (D-VA), held a hearing on the issues impacting military families affected by disabilities. The hearing focused on coverage of applied behavior analysis (ABA) treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorders by TRICARE, the military’s health care program. Several witnesses discussed the research on the effectiveness of ABA and various systems’ classification of ABA as either an educational or medical intervention. Another witness described the unique challenges faced by military families, including TRICARE’s annual caps on ABA therapy, loss of coverage for ABA therapy when their military status changes, and moving to the bottom of state Medicaid waiting lists with each of their frequent relocations. View the webcast and read the testimony at the subcommittee website.
On June 15, The Arc submitted comments to the American Psychiatric Association regarding the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) draft diagnostic criteria for “Intellectual Developmental Disorder” and “Autism Spectrum Disorder.” DSM definitions are critically important to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) as numerous federal and state programs as well as private health insurance plans use the DSM to determine eligibility for critical services and supports. Changes to the diagnostic criteria could have devastating effects on individuals with I/DD who need services, supports, and basic protections to remain in their communities. For instance, some individuals could lose eligibility for special education services, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), supportive housing, and protections against discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) if changes are made to the DSM and later adopted by government agencies. Read The Arc’s letter.
On April 27, Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) introduced HR 5195, the AUTISM Educators Act. This bill would create a five-year grant program to train general-education classroom teachers on the best ways to identify and interact with students with autism spectrum disorders. The grants would be targeted at school systems with high autism rates (10 % or more of the district’s special-education population) and would require the systems to partner with a university or nonprofit group to develop the training program. No funding amounts were included in the bill.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) settled a lawsuit against Tarsadia Hotels, which operates as Comfort Suites in California, on behalf of a hotel clerk who has autism. The employee asked for a job coach who would have been provided at no cost to the hotel, but the hotel would not allow that assistance and fired the employee. Under the settlement, the hotel will pay the former employee $125,000 and donate $7,500 to Partnerships with Industry, a non-profit that provides employment support to people with disabilities. The hotel will revise its policies and procedures and train all of its employees on ADA rights and responsibilities. To read an EEOC press release about the settlement, go to the EEOC website.