Parents: Autism reform law to affect children 10 and older


by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News and photojournalist Scott Guest and editor Rob Diaz

Bio | Email | Follow: @JimB_KVUE

Posted on September 23, 2013 at 5:39 PM

Updated Monday, Sep 23 at 5:40 PM

AUSTIN -- Nationally there's been plenty of healthcare reform discussion about the affordable care act. But here in Texas a new law is now in affect that has flown a bit under the radar. It involves autism reform. 

Previously autistic children over the age of 10 were not covered by insurance. This new law changes that.

John Hockenyos and his wife Rebecca Yerly have an autistic son. Sam has been a regular at the Central Texas Autism Center or CTAC since he was three and unable to communicate through the spoken word.

"Sam has improved dramatically," said Yerly.  "I know he would not have made the progress he has without those therapies."

Sam is now 10. Under old state law, insurance would no longer cover a significant portion of his treatments.

"We had families that were dreading their kids birthday," said Kelly Rich, a board certified behavioral analyst and the owner and Executive Director of CTAC. "Their treatment plan didn't change. The help they needed didn't change. Their child had a birthday."

In Texas more than half of the nearly 100,000 children diagnosed with autism are between the ages of 10 and 21.

"The issue isn't -- how old is the child, it's -- can the child continue to make progress," said Hockenyos.

Much to their delight the autism reform bill became a reality in the past legislative session.

"When the board lit up with the votes and there were no, 'no' votes -- that meant a lot to me," said Yerly.  "It meant that people heard us and responded to what is a pressing need."

A need turned into law designed to help every autistic child of ten years or older in the state to get the treatment they need to continue that progress.

"I believe with all my heart that Sam is going to be the person who ultimately experiences satisfaction in his life," said Hockenyos. "As a father I couldn't ask for anything more."

Sam is now able to attend school.

Jon and Rebecca say Texas Senator Kirk Watson was instrumental in getting the autism reform bill passed.

Visit the Central Texas Autism Center by clicking here.


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