April is Autism Awareness Month, a nationwide effort championed by the Autism Society for nearly 25 years. I believe it’s the calling of any person with some kind of public standing, whether a famous athlete or a local official, to help raise awareness for the causes closest to their hearts. In an effort to do just that, I joined Governor John Kasich last week at an event to recognize legislation passed during the 131st General Assembly that took effect this month, a bill that assists families of children with autism.
Autism spectrum disorder is a complex developmental disability, often affecting the way a person communicates and interacts with others. As a spectrum disorder, individuals are affected by the symptoms and behaviors associated with autism differently and to varying degrees. The cost of care for those with autism can be exorbitant throughout life—from medical and insurance costs to educational spending. These high costs continue through adulthood, as individuals with autism often struggle to find employment. In fact, according to the Autism Society, researchers estimate that the lifetime cost of caring for a child with autism can surpass $2 million.
The provisions in House Bill 463 expand health insurance coverage for the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of autism for children up to the age of 14. Furthermore, coverage cannot be terminated if an autism diagnosis is determined. The new law also allows insurers to review the treatment plan annually and adjust as necessary. By expanding coverage for this disability, we are able to help so many families across Ohio who are struggling to provide.
After hearing stories from parents and seeing kids whose lives are made more challenging every day because of their special needs, I know that expanding this coverage was the right step to take. There are parents working multiple jobs just to pay medical bills, and the time spent away from their child can have a negative impact on their care. It is my hope that through this change, families are able to receive more assistance to pay for their child’s needs and can spend more time directly interacting and working together through the obstacles that autism can create.
Not only does this legislation help these families in need, but the ceremonial bill signing helped to raise awareness for autism. Bringing awareness to this issue not only promotes more research on the causes and treatments for autism, but it also informs people who have no knowledge of the disability and encourages them to learn more. It can be easy to do your part and help in this cause, from utilizing social media to attending an event in your community. Spreading the word can play an important role in making sure individuals with autism get the assistance they need.
Cliff Rosenberger is the Ohio House Speaker.