News


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What’s Happening in April: Autism Acceptance Month!
April is Autism Acceptance Month! We will be dedicated to spreading our message of inclusion, where individuals with autism live fully through connection and acceptance!  Spread awareness, “attend” a free eventtake action, check out our support groupstreat yourself, or join our virtual Bike Ride & Fun Run/Walk! View other ideas here! Read our “What’s Happening in April: Autism Acceptance Month” here. Subscribe to our newsletter here.
Advocacy Alert: SB-89 | COVID-19 Special Education Recovery Act

3/31/21 UPDATE: THANK YOU FOR CALLING! THIS BILL HAS BEEN VOTED OUT OF SENATE EDUCATION COMMITTEE AND ON TO THE FULL SENATE! NO ACTION IS NEEDED AT THIS TIME!

WHAT TO SAY WHEN YOU CALL!

“SB 89 was heard on 3/18/2021. Please vote the bill out of the Senate Education Committee as soon as possible! Thank you!”

What this bill does: Requires an additional supplement to a student’s IEP to address COVID-19 learning loss and other issues due to the pandemic by establishing a uniform and required approach to addressing missed services. The supplement must also include whether or not the services available to the student were interrupted, reduced, delayed, suspended, or discontinued and if compensatory educational services are appropriate for the child based on the information above or any other factors. As schools promote students to new grade levels, this data will help teachers adjust to their needs post-pandemic and will provide the Texas Education Agency with data on how special education fared as a whole.

Please call the Senate Education Committee listed at the end of this post!

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Read more about this bill!

SB 89 – By Senator Menendez – (Companion HB 144 by M. Gonzalez) – https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=87R&Bill=SB89

COVID IEP supplemental information:

Relating to supplemental information required for inclusion with a written statement of an individualized education program developed for certain public school students who received special education services.

Bill analysis:

Students with disabilities have been most impacted by the  COVID-19 pandemic. When schools stopped in-person instruction this past March, many students with disabilities  learning did not just halt, it regressed. Collecting data on the pandemic’s impact on students in general education has been difficult, and due to the highly variable nature of those receiving special education services, it has been even harder to collect data for these students. Providing more information to teachers in the coming school year is crucial to addressing the student’s learning loss in order to get them back on track.

S.B. 89 requires the addition of a written supplement to a student’s individualized education plan (IEP). The supplement must detail whether the student’s full evaluation was completed in the 2019-2020 school year or the 2020-2021 school year. The supplement must also include whether or not the services available to the student were interrupted, reduced, delayed, suspended, or discontinued. As schools promote students to new grade levels, this data will help teachers adjust to their needs post-pandemic and will provide the Texas Education Agency with data on how special education fared as a whole.

As proposed, S.B. 89 amends current law relating to supplemental information required for inclusion with a written statement of an individualized education program developed for certain public school students who received special education services during the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year.

The supplement will not cost any extra money or time as it will be added during the annual IEP process and many districts have already gone through this process.

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WHO TO CONTACT! 

Please call if possible – committee members are listed in order of importance!

Please call the Chair & Vice Chair if you don’t have much time, but it would be a huge help to call all members of Senate Education!

Senate Education
Senator Larry Taylor – Chair (512) 463-0111 larry.taylor@senate.texas.gov
Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. – Vice Chair (512) 463-0127 eddie.lucio@senate.texas.gov
Senator Paul Bettencourt (512) 463-0107 paul.bettencourt@senate.texas.gov
Senator Bob Hall (512) 463-0102 bob.hall@senate.texas.gov
Senator Bryan Hughes (512) 463-0101 bryan.hughes@senate.texas.gov
Senator Charles Schwertner (512) 463-0105 charles.schwertner@senate.texas.gov
Senator Angela Paxton (512) 463-0108 angela.paxton@senate.texas.gov
Senator Charles Perry (512) 463-0128 charles.perry@senate.texas.gov
Senator Beverly Powell (512) 463-0110 beverly.powell@senate.texas.gov
Senator Royce West (512) 463-0123 royce.west@senate.texas.gov
Senator José Menéndez (512) 463-0126 jose.menendez@senate.texas.gov
Committee Clerk Bradley Hurt (512) 463-0355 bradley.hurt_sc@senate.texas.gov
March News

Check out our March newsletter! Registration is open for our Texas Autism Bike Ride and Fun Run, and free for pets!! Lots of education events and new support groups starting! Read it here. Subscribe here.

 

Fund the ABA/Medicaid Benefit!

Take Action! Tell Legislators to Fund the Medicaid ABA Benefit!

We need your help getting the Medicaid IBI/ABA funded so families utilizing Medicaid can access ABA therapy! Let our Texas Legislators know that we expect to fund the Medicaid IBI/ABA Services Benefit through Rider 21.

You might remember advocating in 2019 for the passage of the Medicaid Autism Benefit, and we expected the program would be available in Spring of 2020. Unfortunately progress stalled, and we currently need to advocate for dedicated funding for the program in the budget.

How to help!

Please send an email or call your legislators in both the Texas House and Texas Senate and tell them that the House & Senate must fund Rider 21, the Medicaid IBI/ABA Services Benefit, to support families who desperately need these intensive, life-changing therapies

1. Contact the legislator that represents you if they are on the list below. Let them know your connection to autism and that you are in their district. Find your legislators here: https://wrm.capitol.texas.gov/home

2. Everyone: Contact the Chairs and Vice-Chairs in the chart below.

-House: Chair-Representative Giovanni Capriglione, Vice Chair- Representative Toni Rose.

-Senate: Chair-Senator Jane Nelson, Vice Chair-Senator Eddie Lucio

3. If you have time– please contact the remaining legislators by phone or email.

Phone calls are preferable, but we realize it may be easier to send an email for some!


We’ve developed information sheets to remind you of the history of the program and to answer any questions that legislative staff may have.

ABA Fact Sheet & Rider 21 Information Children’s Autism Program (CAP) One-Page Information Sheet

Keep in mind when making calls that many people are working from home so you may need to leave a short but informative message with your contact information for a call-back or give them that AST’s advocacy team contact information: 512-479-4199 Ext.10, or advocacy@texasautismsociety.org.

We encourage you to tell your own stories about how important this issue is to you, but if you need one – there’s a script below.


Script:

Hello, my name is ______ .

If you’re calling/emailing a Representative: “May I speak to the staff member in charge of House Appropriations Subcommittee Article II?”

If you’re calling/emailing a Senator: “May I speak to the staff member in charge of Senate Finance Committee?”

  • Stress the importance of funding the Medicaid IBI/ABA Services Benefit
  • Use your own stories or talk about how this benefits children and teens with autism and it must be funded and implemented
  • The ASK: Please fund Rider 21, which would fund the Medicaid IBI/ABA Services Benefit, to support families who desperately need these intensive, life-changing therapies
  • Use the information to below to ask for Rider 21 to be funded, along with the modifications listed

Rider 21 as introduced in the 87th Legislature (House version only) provides legislative directive for the ABA program, and also allocates funds to support the program from both Federal matching funds and General Revenue. I, along with the Autism Society of Texas, support the inclusion of Rider 21 in the biennial budget. However, we respectfully recommend that Rider 21 from the House version be included in the proposed Senate budget with the modifications listed below:

1) We request that HHSC include a date certain of September 1st, 2021 in Rider 21, to align available funds with the start of the program. 

2) We request that the program access funds from the Medicaid Children’s Autism Program to provide flexible funding via the next supplemental budget for greater flexibility and efficiency in running the program, as well as helping to accurately project the program’s future needs in both funding and in the numbers of children served.

3) Proposed rates set by HHSC are too low to build and maintain an ABA provider base. Rates must be sustainable and realistic for providers to accept children under this program. 

4) We ask that funding is maintained for the Children’s Autism Program and to maintain Rider 48 which provides legislative directive for funds for the Children’s Autism Program and the Texas Autism Research and Resource Center (TARRC).

Thank the staff member for their time and ask if you can send them more information on this crucial issue. You can use fact sheets above, or contact us to follow up!

SEND AN EMAIL! Email text to copy and paste can be found here: Email Text To Copy & Paste   Please sign your name and include your contact information. Copy & paste the email addresses from the charts below.

Let us know if you were successful or if AST Advocacy staff need to do any follow-ups at 512-479-4199 Ext:10 or  advocacy@texasautismsociety.org


Who To Contact

Texas House Appropriations Committee- Subcommittee Article II  (Includes the following Representatives):

Representative Office Phone Email Address
 Capriglione, Giovanni* (512) 463-0690  Giovanni.Capriglione@house.texas.gov
 Rose, Toni* (512) 463-0664  Toni.Rose@house.texas.gov
 Dean, Jay (512) 463-0750  Jay.Dean@house.texas.gov
 Gates, Gary (512) 463-0657  Gary.Gates@house.texas.gov
 Howard, Donna (512) 463-0631  Donna.Howard@house.texas.gov
 Johnson, Ann (512) 463-0389  Ann.Johnson@house.texas.gov
 Johnson, Julie (512) 463-0468  Julie.Johnson@house.texas.gov
 Raney, John (512) 463-0698  John.Raney@house.texas.gov
 Committee Clerk-William Seilheimer (512) 463-1091  William.Seilheimer_HC@house.texas.gov

Senate Finance Committee (Includes the following Senators):

Senator Office Phone Email Address
 Senator Brandon Creighton (512) 463-0104  brandon.creighton@senate.texas.gov
 Senator Charles Perry (512) 463-0128  charles.perry@senate.texas.gov
 Senator Charles Schwertner (512) 463-0105  charles.schwertner@senate.texas.gov
 Senator Dawn Buckingham (512) 463-0124  dawn.buckingham@senate.texas.gov
 Senator Donna Campbell (512) 463-0125  donna.campbell@senate.texas.gov
 Senator Eddie Lucio Jr.* (512) 463-0127  eddie.lucio@senate.texas.gov
 Senator Jane Nelson* (512) 463-0112  jane.nelson@senate.texas.gov
 Senator Joan Huffman (512) 463-0117  joan.huffman@senate.texas.gov
 Senator John Whitmire (512) 463-0115  john.whitmire@senate.texas.gov
 Senator Kelly Hancock (512) 463-0109  kelly.hancock@senate.texas.gov
 Senator Larry Taylor (512) 463-0111  larry.taylor@senate.texas.gov
 Senator Lois Kolkhorst (512) 463-0118  lois.kolkhorst@senate.texas.gov
 Senator Paul Bettencourt (512) 463-0107  paul.bettencourt@senate.texas.gov
 Senator Robert Nichols (512) 463-0103  robert.nichols@senate.texas.gov
 Senator Royce West (512) 463-0123  royce.west@senate.texas.gov

To get on our Advocacy alert email list please sign up here: https://tinyurl.com/ASTAdvocacy

Ways to Support Autism Society of Texas this April!

April is National Autism Acceptance Month!

At the Autism Society of Texas (AST), we’ve always referred to Autism Awareness Month as “Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month”! We are now making the move to officially declare April as “Autism Acceptance Month”! With the CDC prevalence rate at 1 in 54 children being diagnosed with autism, there is plenty of autism awareness! We see a much bigger need for acceptance and inclusion of autistic individuals in schools, in the workplace, and across communities. There are many ways to support AST this April either financially or by lending your support through spreading the word about our work and educating others about autism, so that we can build a more inclusive and accepting community!

AST’s work to provide free support, advocacy, and education around the state to children and adults with autism, and their caregivers is funded through donations.

Here are a few ways to give that sustain our work supporting the autism community:

Planned Giving

Host a Fundraiser!

Make a Donation

Become an AST Member! Business, Individual and Family Memberships available.

Form a friends and family team or a pet team for the Virtual Texas Autism Bike Ride & Fun Run!

Donate a vehicle!

Ask your workplace if giving to AST is an option or sponsor an event!

Ways to educate and spread acceptance about autism:  

Share our education events with others on Facebook, such as our Seminars Across the Spectrum series!

Read an autism-positive children’s book or share this book list with educators!

Share our FAQs to help families and autistic adults learn about different topics related to autism!

Watch a movie about autism. Find suggestions here.

Share our YouTube channel or watch videos there on a variety of autism-related topics!

Have questions about any of the above? Please email Jacquie@texasautismsociety.org!

Winter Storm Disaster Assistance & Resources

The winter storm that affected just about everyone in Texas has been very challenging for many families and individuals with autism, and the situation continues as millions face water issues and food shortages. If you are a family or caregiver of a loved one with autism, or an autistic adult seeking assistance, please contact the organizations below for disaster-related support.

As always, the Autism Society of Texas is available to assist with autism-related help, guidance, and resources at support@texasautismsociety.org or 512-479-4199, Ext. 6.

Winter Storm Disaster Assistance & Resources

The Partnership’s Disaster Hotline provides information, referrals, guidance, technical assistance and resources to people with disabilities, their families, allies, organizations assisting disaster impacted individuals with disabilities and others seeking assistance with immediate and urgent disaster-related needs.

The Disaster Hotline is always available for intake calls, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year at (800) 626-4959 and info@disasterstrategies.org. They will have their knowledgeable team respond to your call as soon as possible, often immediately, and we intend to respond to all callers within 24 hours. https://disasterstrategies.org/hotline/

CDC illustrated story about disasters and how to cope can be found here.

Disability Rights Texas: Texas Winter Storm Recovery Resources

Resources for food, damage assessment, how to avoid scams and more here.

Texas 211

https://www.211texas.org/211/ 

Contact 211 for information about resources in your area for food or shelter. In case of emergency, call 9-1-1.

FEMA

https://www.fema.gov/

FEMA has water and needed supplies being distributed around Texas, and may be able to provide financial assistance for storm-related issues/property damage.

READY.GOV

https://www.ready.gov/

AAC Disaster Relief

The AAC Disaster Relief Committee (subcommittee organized by the United States Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication) works to help anyone who has lost their communication system due to natural disasters. The systems are being replaced free of charge to families through financial support. Please visit their website for more information, or to volunteer for the organization:

https://aacdisasterrelief.recovers.org/

Click below to find the closest Warming Center in Texas or call 211

https://tdem.texas.gov/warming-center/

Find open shelters through the Red Cross:

https://www.redcross.org/get-help/disaster-relief-and-recovery-services/find-an-open-shelter.html

Check with local news stations for information about water distribution and other local resources as many are keeping comprehensive lists.

Austin

https://www.kxan.com/

https://www.kut.org/

Dallas/Ft. Worth

https://www.nbcdfw.com/

https://www.wfaa.com/

Houston

https://www.khou.com/

https://abc13.com/place/houston/

Rio Grande Valley

https://www.krgv.com/home/

https://www.kiiitv.com/

San Antonio 

https://www.ksat.com/

https://news4sanantonio.com/

February News

Check out our February newsletter! Register for Texas Autism Advocacy Day, check out our new Seminars Across the Spectrum series, new support groups & more!

Read it here. Subscribe here.

January 2021 News

Please note! The Texas ABLE presentation on 1/7/21 was canceled and is being rescheduled.

Read the complete January newsletter here  – upcoming events include our Policy Symposium on 1/14, new Spanish support group, Houston Parent/Caregiver group, and read about our new regional online groups-find support wherever you are!

Subscribe to our newsletter here.

2020 Year-In-Review

2020 was an unusual year, but at the Autism Society of Texas we were able to grow programs and add staff, reaching more people impacted by autism statewide.

Read the full year-end review here.

December News

Read our December newsletter here to learn what’s happening!

Subscribe here!