Saturday, February 2, 2008

Senator Mary Easley

Senator Mary Easley from Tulsa has introduced 2 bills for this upcoming session that address the autism epidemic in Oklahoma. Her legislation SB 1498, known as Nick's Law, is a companion bill of Senator Jay Paul Gumm's SB 1537 and Senator Patrick Anderson's SB 1692.

Senator Easley has also introduced SB 1686 that calls for training of Autism in the public schools. Senator Easley is a retired school teacher and has first hand knowledge of the problems facing school teachers on how to educate our children. "On behalf of all teachers in Oklahoma, I am is very proud to introduce legislation that will provide training to all teachers about Autism".

Oklahoma State Senate

Communications Services

State Capitol

Oklahoma City, OK 73105

For immediate release: January 25, 2008

Weekly Senate Review by Mary Easley

In the coming weeks, I’m going to be discussing some of my bills and those of my fellow legislators that I feel are important for our state. This week, I’d like to talk about autism and how it affects our children, their families, our education system and our state as a whole.

Autism is the most common condition in a group of developmental disorders known as the autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Autism is characterized by impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and unusual, repetitive, or severely limited activities and interests. These behaviors can range in impact from mild to disabling. Today, 1 in 150 individuals is diagnosed with autism, making it more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined. Males are four times more likely to have autism than females. Sadly, scientists aren’t sure what causes autism and there is no cure.

This year, I’ve filed two bills dealing with autism, SB 1686 and SB 1498. With so many autistic children, it’s important that our schools be prepared and know how to properly deal with and care for these children.

SB 1686 requires school districts to include a special emphasis on autism as part of any professional development program on special education that may be provided to teachers in the district. This will ensure that we have trained professionals in our schools ready to take care of these children.

Autism can also put a heavy financial burden on families, so I also think it’s important that these children be able to have insurance to cover their care. SB 1498 would provide access to insurance for all of Oklahoma’s autistic children under the age of 21. It directs individual and group health benefit plans to provide coverage for the treatment of an autistic disorder which is prescribed by the individual’s treating physician in accordance with a treatment plan. The measure also prohibits insurers from subjecting coverage to dollar limits, deductibles and coinsurance provisions which are less favorable than those which apply to coverage for general physical illness. The bill subjects coverage for behavioral therapy to a maximum benefit of $75,000 per year with a maximum period of coverage of three years. That time period could be extended if clinical progress reports demonstrate that the child is in a period of steady skill acquisition. Under provisions of the bill, insurers would be prohibited from denying or restricting coverage on an individual solely because the individual is diagnosed with an autistic disorder. Finally, the bill excludes the act from applying to limited benefit policies.

If you have any questions about these or other bills or issues, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

I greatly encourage and welcome your feedback. If you have questions or comments on this issue or others, you can write me at Senator Mary Easley, Room 429, State Capitol, Oklahoma City 73105-4808, email me at or call my Senate office (405) 521-5590.

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