House approves bill clearing applied behavior analysis techs to work in schools

Tant Plascencia
Democrat Allison Tant, Republican Rene Plasencia carry bill to help autistic children.

Technicians providing one of the more effective therapies for children on the autism spectrum could be fully cleared to provide applied behavior therapy in schools under a bill that swept through the House of Representatives Thursday.

HB 1401 is sponsored by Republican Rep. Rene Plasencia of Orlando. But it wound up being presented Thursday by Democratic Rep. Allison Tant of Tallahassee, in a bipartisan partnership of lawmakers who have autistic children in their families. Plasencia missed Thursday’s session because of illness in his family.

“ABA therapies and techniques are the single best thing that have helped my son over the course of his life. So on behalf of my son, Rep. Plasencia’s nephew, and thousands of school children across this state I ask for your favorable consideration,” Tant closed.

The House approved the bill 118-0.

Applied behavior analysis therapy is a method that uses positive reinforcement to encourage children on the autism spectrum toward more responsive and better behaviors. It is largely administered in clinics or homes, but Plasencia and Tant both said it is critical to help children adjust specifically to school settings.

There currently is disagreement about whether the board-certified ABA technicians are allowed to practice in Florida schools, Plasencia said. Some school districts interpret state law as allowing them, and the therapy is being practiced in those districts’ schools. Other school districts do not allow them, and say that they interpret Florida law as preventing it. His bill would clarify that board-certified ABA registered behavior technicians would be allowed in any schools, Plasencia said.

The therapies would be provided by private technicians coming into the schools for their specific clients. The therapy normally is paid for through Medicaid or private insurance. The technicians would work under the direction of a certified behavioral psychologist or a certified behavioral analyst, under HB 1401.

Plasencia said the bill is evidence of close working relationships that can and do exist between Republicans and Democrats, as he reached out to Tant to run his bill in his absence, and she gladly did.

“It’s been my cause over the past seven years. I know for a parent like Rep. Tant it’s been her cause since her son was born. It will always be her cause,” Plasencia said.

“Some bipartisanship right now, especially at this part of the Session is a good thing. It was easy to do because we both have family members who have benefitted from this,” Tant said. “If we can focus on the things we can agree on, we can get a whole lot of stuff done.”

The Senate companion SB 1794 is being sponsored by Democratic Sen. Randolph Bracy of Ocoee.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at s[email protected]


3 comments

  • Joan Horton

    April 21, 2021 at 9:00 am

    It’s unfortunate that they did not consult with any autism groups that are led by autistic adults. To put it very mildly, ABA is highly controversial in the autism advocacy community.

    From the perspective of a parent who wants compliance and wants their child to act more like a neurotypical child, ABA looks very effective, but older children and adults who have been through ABA consider it abusive, and spend years in therapy undoing it’s
    effects.

    There’s a phrase in the autism Community: “othing about us without us,”, and it’s shameful 118 adults voted on a law, that will make a for-profit industry that has done so much harm, more able to access victims.

    People who have been through Ada say that teaches autistic children how to mask behaviors that are actually helpful stress relievers, like stimming. So a child will look less autistic, but that child is still just as neurologically different, just as in need of stress release, and has now had a major tool take it away and not been given a replacement tool. It teaches blind compliance to Authority, and it has made autistic children and adults more vulnerable to misuse of authority and even sexual predation.

    It’s automatic to me that the writer of this article doesn’t know hasn’t heard of and hasn’t bothered to research any of the negative aspects of ABA or any of the autistic activism against ABA.

    Finally, it should be stated that the inventor of ABA is the same guy who came up with gay conversion therapy. The newer version of ABA gentler but just as manipulative, and leave just as many problematic issues to be overcome.

  • Joan Horton

    April 21, 2021 at 9:03 am

    It’s unfortunate that they did not consult with any autism groups that are led by autistic adults. To put it very mildly, ABA is highly controversial in the autism advocacy community.

    From the perspective of a parent who wants compliance and wants their child to act more like a neurotypical child, ABA looks very effective, but older children and adults who have been through ABA consider it abusive, and spend years in therapy undoing it’s
    effects.

    There’s a phrase in the autism Community: “Nothing about us without us,”, and it’s shameful 118 adults voted on a law, that will make a for-profit industry that has done so much harm, more able to access victims.

    People who have been through ABA say it teaches autistic children how to mask behaviors that are actually helpful stress relievers, like stimming. The child will l”ook less autistic”, but that child is still just as neurologically different, just as in need of stress release, and has now had a major tool take it away and not been given a replacement tool. It teaches blind compliance to Authority, and it has made autistic children and adults more vulnerable to misuse of authority and even sexual predation.

    It’s alarming to me that the writer of this article doesn’t know hasn’t heard of and hasn’t bothered to research any of the negative aspects of ABA or any of the autistic activism against ABA.

    Finally, it should be stated that the inventor of ABA also invented gay conversion therapy. The newer version of ABA is gentler than the original, but just as manipulative, and leave just as many problematic issues to be overcome.

  • AJ

    April 23, 2021 at 2:28 pm

    While it is great to include the RBTs, there is still controversy that the statue allows for much needed services to be allowed within the classroom. All of the positions listed in the statute (OT, speech, etc) have school funded options, but ABA is not, thus regular services are not provided. Consulting and actually providing services are a huge gap and having untrained personnel (not their ABA) attempt to utilize techniques incorrectly is more harm than benefit. Statue needs to more clearly provide that students on spectrum should be allowed regularly services during school hours to support that student as appropriate. 2 years fighting and even after a decline in behavior still fighting to get what’s needed.

Comments are closed.


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