For the past 30 years I have worked with children and adults with autism and related disorders, so I am well aware of the challenges they and their families face. Autism affects more than 1 in every 88 children, 1 in 54 boys in Massachusetts, and sometimes it can be difficult for parents to detect until their child enters school. That’s why I’m glad the autism community has an advocate as strong as Barbara L’Italien.
Before L’Italien was in office, many insurance companies did not offer to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism. Families were stuck with huge bills for diagnostic visits, behavioral therapy and other vital care services for family members with autism. Often only those families who could afford to pay could obtain the necessary services. As a result, many children with autism were not receiving adequate care and were falling behind in the educational system—at a cost to all of us. Many children end up needing significantly more care as they age when early intensive childhood services are not provided.
L’Italien saw this need and stepped up. Her bill requiring health insurance companies to cover autism attracted bipartisan support, including the co-sponsorship of Scott Brown. Working together with both Democrats and Republicans, she got her bill passed unanimously, and as a result children with autism in Massachusetts now have their therapy and treatment covered by insurance.
L’Italien was also instrumental in the creation of the Governor’s Autism Commission to address the immense challenges that individuals with autism face through their lifespan. As an appointed member of this Commission, it is evident that the demand for services has grown as there has been a significant increase in the rates of diagnosis of autism in both children and adults – and there needs to be a plan to address the needs of these individuals. Without L’Italien’s efforts on behalf of individuals with autism, many families would continue to struggle in circumstances that are already tremendously difficult. The community as a whole benefits when these individuals with autism become more productive, self-sufficient and more fully integrated members of society when they receive appropriate supports and services.
This perfectly exemplifies L’Italien’s approach to many difficult issues. When she saw a problem, she tackled it directly, working together with both sides. Partisanship and bickering are, sadly, all too common in Washington, but here in Massachusetts L’Italien put her constituents first and was willing to work with Republicans and Democrats to address the issue. We need more legislators like L’Italien—legislators willing to work with both sides to serve their community, not pursue an ideological agenda at the community’s expense.
10 Christian Way