The Oklahoma Senate has approved legislation requiring health insurance companies to cover treatment for children with autism.

The body voted 36-5 in favor of House Bill 2962, returning it to the House for consideration of Senate amendments.

This legislation requires insurance coverage for the screening, diagnosis and appropriate treatment of individuals younger than age 9 with autism spectrum disorder. This measure provides children the access to applied behavior analysis for up to 25 hours weekly, capped at $25,000 per year.

Oklahoma is one among only seven U.S. states that does not require health insurers to cover children with autism, who struggle with a range of social, behavioral and communication challenges.

An estimated one in every 68 kids suffers from the developmental disorder that currently has no cure. Researchers, however, suggests early intervention to help improve their condition, which affects processing of sensory information and ability to relate and interact with others.

The Washington Senate also passed and sent to the House on April 14 two bills that will revise the way Delaware caters to students with autism.

The first overhauls the Delaware Autism Program to better use local programs and increase parental input. It paves the way for new training specialist posts – currently at about 15 – to assist teachers and other school staff dealing with these students.

According to the bill, there should at least be one training specialist per 100 students classified with autism, with the position subject to available funds from the local school districts and the state.

A companion bill creates a framework through which a new Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism at the University of Delaware would offer training and technical assistance.

Findings from a study earlier this month highlighted an eye-tracking technology used to monitor the eye movement of children with autism during conversations, which researchers deemed critical in spotting who has the developmental issue.

Monitoring the eye movement of kids with and without an autism diagnosis, the team from University of Vermont found that those with autism were more likely to focus on the mouth of the speaker instead of the eyes during that point of the conversation where emotional topics – such as what makes the kids sad or afraid – were discussed.

And it could be because the conversation strains their executive function, according to the researchers.

Photo: Lance Neilson | Flickr

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