Senators end debate on autism bill

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - While it didn't receive the coverage or attention that the rally against the education cuts did, it was an issue of great importance to dozens of anxious parents. Senate Bill 185, sought to have a governing board oversee behavioral analysts, who work with autistic children.

But legislators clearly had their minds on other things.

"Mr. Chairman, not to leave where we're going, but I understand we're supposed to be on the floor at one," said Senator Dan Claitor, who authored the bill.

Ashley McReynolds says if senators approved the bill, the treatment her son Cooper receives would be limited. "He receives speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy," she said.

First up was Dr. John Courtney, a supporter of the bill. He told senators the government needs to be more involved in the treatment of autism, specifically the treatment offered by Behavioral Analysts.

"In case of improper practice we have no oversight for that," Dr. Courtney said. According to the current law, Courtney says, the treatment of autism should be governed by the Board of Psychology. But that's not happening.

Senator Francis Thompson asked if the B.A.'s are able to practice. To which Dr. Courtney replied they are practicing, "The question is whether they're practicing legally under the law."

Rebecca Ellis is the mother of a 7-year-old autistic child. She says none of the parents were complaining about the treatments provided. She wonders where the issue came from. Courtney says those professionals should be held to a certain standard. Otherwise, as Senator Claitor pointed out, the only source of complaint is the Chamber of Commerce or the Better Business Bureau.

Only one opponent was allowed to speak before the issue of the day beckoned, shortly after a motion was made to end the debate.

"I'm sorry that we have bigger issues to Louisiana in general on docket today. Thousands of teachers on the steps, got to move forward with that," said Claitor.

That killed Senate Bill 185.

Parents say it's a small victory. But those in favor of the bill say they don't consider this the end. Something more could be coming in the future.

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