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Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a developmental disability. Children and adults with autism have difficulty with social communication/interaction and exhibit restrictive and/or repetitive patterns of behavior. There is a wide range of ability among people with autism. Some people with autism are gifted and others need significant levels of support to ensure their health and well-being. While great strides are being made, there is no known cause or a known singular effective treatment for autism.

People with autism have challenges in the areas of social communication/interaction and restricted/repetitive behaviors. 


  • Development of language is significantly delayed
  • Some do not develop spoken language
  • Experience difficulty with both expressive and receptive language
  • Difficulty initiating or sustaining conversations
  • Robotic, formal speech
  • Repetitive use of language
  • Difficulty with the pragmatic use of language


  • Difficulty developing peer relationships
  • Difficulty with give and take of social interactions
  • Lack of spontaneous sharing of enjoyment
  • Impairments in use and understanding of body language to regulate social interaction
  • May not be motivated by social reciprocity or shared give-and-take

Restricted/Repetitive Behavior

  • Preoccupations atypical in intensity or focus
  • Inflexibility related to routines and rituals
  • Stereotyped movements
  • Preoccupations with parts of objects
  • Impairments in symbolic play

What Exactly is Autism?

What Exactly is Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or autism is a developmental disability considered the result of a neurological condition affecting normal brain function, development and social interactions. Children and adults with autism find it difficult or impossible to relate to other people in a meaningful way and may show restrictive and/or repetitive patterns of behavior or body movements. While great strides are being made, there is no known cause, or a known singular effective treatment for autism.

Opening the Door to Autism
There are five developmental disorders that fall under the Autism Spectrum Disorder umbrella and are defined by challenges in three areas: social skills, communication, and behaviors and/or interests.

  1. Autistic Disorder — occurs in males four times more than females and involves moderate to severe impairments in communication, socialization and behavior.
  2. Asperger’s Syndrome — sometimes considered a milder form of autism, Asperger’s is typically diagnosed later in life than other disorders on the spectrum. People with Asperger’s syndrome usually function in the average to above average intelligence range and have no delays in language skills, but often struggle with social skills and restrictive and repetitive behavior.
  3. Rett Syndrome — diagnosed primarily in females who exhibit typical development until approximately five to 30 months when children with Rett syndrome begin to regress, especially in terms of motor skills and loss of abilities in other areas. A key indicator of Rett syndrome is the appearance of repetitive, meaningless movements or gestures.
  4. Childhood Disintegrative Disorder — involves a significant regression in skills that have previously been acquired, and deficits in communication, socialization and/or restrictive and repetitive behavior.
  5. Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) — includes children that do not fully meet the criteria for the other specific disorders or those that do not have the degree of impairment associated with those disorders.

Autism Signs and Symptoms

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) can vary in severity of symptoms, age of onset, and the presence of various features such as language and intellectual ability. The manifestations of ASD can differ considerably across individuals. Even though there are strong and consistent commonalities, especially in social deficits, there is no single behavior that is always present in every individual with ASD and no behavior that would automatically exclude an individual from diagnosis of ASD.

How can I tell if someone I know has autism?

Individuals with ASD interact with others differently. They often appear to have difficulty understanding and expressing emotion and may express attachment in a different manner. Individuals with ASD report that they want to have social relationships with others and build friendships.

Many individuals with ASD do not develop effective spoken language and rely upon other methods of communicating such as pointing to pictures or using a tablet computer with special language applications. Others have echolalia, the repeating of words or phrases over and over. Individuals with ASD often have difficulty understanding the nonverbal aspect of language such as social cues, body language and vocal qualities (pitch, tone and volume).

Individuals with ASD often have a great need for “sameness” which can make them upset if objects in their environment or time schedules change. Children with ASD may not “play” with toys in the same manner as their peers and may become fixated on specific objects. Persons with ASD have a different reaction to sensory stimuli seeing, hearing, feeling or tasting things with more or less intensity than others.

Children with ASD often have a different rate of development especially in the areas of communication, social and cognitive skills. In contrast, motor development may occur at a typical rate. Sometimes skills will appear in children with ASD at the expected rate or time and then disappear.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a lifelong disability that is generally diagnosed before the age of three years old. However, often children are misdiagnosed or not diagnosed until later in life. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests parents consider the following questions:

Does your child…

  • Not speak as well as his or her peers?
  • Have poor eye contact?
  • Not respond selectively to his or her name?
  • Act as if he or she is in his or her own world?
  • Seem to “tune others out?”
  • Not have a social smile?
  • Seem unable to tell you what he or she wants, preferring to lead you by the hand or get desired objects on his or her own, even at risk of danger?
  • Have difficulty following simple commands?
  • Not bring things to you simply to “show” you?
  • Not point to interesting objects to direct your attention to objects or events of interest?
  • Have unusually long and severe temper tantrums?
  • Have repetitive, odd, or stereotypic behaviors?
  • Show an unusual attachment to inanimate objects, especially hard ones (e.g., flashlight or a chain vs. teddy bear or blanket)?
  • Prefer to play alone?
  • Demonstrate an inability to play with toys in the typical way?
  • Not engage in pretend play (if older than 2 years)?

What to Do if You Think Your Child has Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder affects each individual differently and at varying degrees – this is why early diagnosis is so crucial. ASD is a lifelong condition, but early intervention contributes to lifelong positive outcomes.

  • Get a diagnosis. If you’re concerned, see a doctor who’s familiar with ASD. Don’t assume the child will catch up. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers an online pediatrician referral service, searchable by specialty and location.
  • Get help. Education, intervention and speech therapy are often critical. Contact Easterseals for assistance with finding the right services for your family.
  • Know your rights. Children with autism can be eligible for early intervention and special education services that are free starting at age 3. Your health insurance may include coverage for the medical services your child needs. Easterseals can help you navigate these systems.

Early Intervention Information & Resources

Why is early intervention important?

Recognizing early warning signs

What do I do if my child needs services?

How do I choose a provider?

How do I pay for Early Intervention?

Why is early intervention important?

Early intervention services help young children with disabilities achieve their goals in cognitive, social/emotional, communicative, adaptive and physical development. Services may include occupational therapy to help an infant learn to hold her bottle, physical therapy to help her learn to roll over, or speech therapy to help her learn to eat. Most early intervention services take place in the home or, in the case of working parents, at childcare facilities like The Lily School for Child Development. You can learn more about the school on the Children’s Services page.

Through the years, early intervention services have proven to be crucial to the healthy development of infants and toddlers with disabilities, minimizing their potential for developmental delay.

“As a mother of an adult son with Autism, Easterseals was my own child’s first support more than 20 years ago. We know 80% of brain development occurs during a child’s first three years. Early intervention services during this critical time support development when the brain is most amenable to intervention. Early intervention reduces costs for special education services, reduces expulsions, and improves school readiness while reducing the likelihood of later behavior problems.” ~Jacque Ruch, Vice President of Programs

If a parent suspects his/her child may have a developmental delay, a pediatrician or other primary health care provider should be consulted. If a child is found to have a developmental delay requiring early intervention services, the state’s early intervention program works with the family to develop an Individualized Family Services Plan (IFSP).

The IFSP is a written document developed by a team of individuals including the child’s parents and representatives from the state’s early intervention program. The IFSP includes statements about:

The infant/toddler’s presenting levels of development based on objective criteria;
The family’s resources, priorities, and concerns about enhancing the development of the infant or toddler with a disability;
Measurable progress the infant/toddler is expected to achieve as a result of receiving services; the criteria, procedures, and timelines that will be used to determine his/her progress; and whether modifications or revisions of the outcomes or services are necessary;
The specific early intervention services necessary to meet the unique needs of the infant or toddler and his/her family, e.g., frequency, intensity, and service delivery method;

  • The appropriate natural environment in which early intervention services may be provided and a justification of the extent, if any, to which services will not be provided in a natural environment;
  • The projected dates for initiation of services and the anticipated duration of services;
  • The service coordinator that will be responsible for the implementation of the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and coordination with other agencies and persons; and
  • Steps necessary to support the toddler’s transition to preschool or other appropriate services.

In addition, early intervention helps to minimize the need for special education and related services once these infants and toddlers reach school age, thus, reducing the educational cost to the state and the nation’s schools. Access to these services also reduces the need to institutionalize people with disabilities and maximizes their potential for independent living.

Easterseals is one of the nation’s largest providers of early intervention services. These services are available at all Easterseals Child Development Centers nationwide. Easterseals also provides early intervention services in the home and other community settings.

Recognizing early warning signs

Recognizing early warning signs for childhood problems can improve your child’s chances for a joyful and independent future.

Your child’s pediatrician or health care provider should be a great source of information and advice. Make a list before your appointment if you’re afraid you will forget to ask about something. Do not hesitate to ask for advice about any unusual behaviors, possible physical difficulties or any other concerns.

As your child develops, you can expect to see his or her skills developing each month. Your doctor often refers to these skills as “developmental milestones.” Most parents get excited about major milestones such as when their child walks or says their first word. It is important to have an idea of when the milestones should be reached. If your child misses a milestone, you should tell your child’s doctor — it might indicate a problem.

PLEASE, if you suspect your child may have a problem, don’t delay. Contact your family doctor, public health nurse, or Easterseals in your area immediately.

As your young child develops, here are some simple signs to watch for that may indicate serious problems:

If your child…

  • Does not follow objects with his eyes by age 6 months
  • Is often unable to locate and pick up small objects that have been dropped
  • Frequently rubs his eyes or complains that eyes hurt; or has reddened, watering or encrusted eyelids
  • Holds head in a strained or awkward position (tilts head to either side or thrusts head forward or backward) when trying to focus on someone or something
  • Sometimes or always crosses one or both eyes
  • Fails to notice objects, people or animals around him when other children do

If your child…

  • Does not turn to face the source of strange sounds or voices by six months, or if he sleeps through most noises
  • Rubs or pulls at his ears repeatedly; has frequent earaches or runny ears
  • Talks in a very loud or soft voice
  • Does not react when you call from another room
  • Turns the same ear toward a sound he wishes to hear

If your child…

  • Is not kicking legs and grabbing with hands by age 3 months
  • As an infant, arches back when lying on the back or being held
  • Always seems to favor using one hand over the other before age 2 years
  • Drags or favors one side

If you recognize any of these signs in your child, contact your doctor or a public health nurse immediately.

The following are common motor milestones. If your child is not able to do these things by the age suggested, it may indicate a problem that should be reported to your pediatrician:

Your child should…

  • Say “mama” and “dada” by age 1 year
  • Say the names of a few objects and people by the age 1 ? years
  • Attempt nursery rhymes or short TV jingles by age 2 ? years
  • Talk in short sentences by age 3 years
  • Be understood by people outside the family by age 3 years

Your child should…

  • Try to put toys in his mouth by age 7 months
  • Play games such as peek-a-boo, patty cake and wave good-bye by age 1 year
  • Playgroup games such as hide-and-seek or tag with other children by age 4 years
  • Share and take turns by age 5 years

Your child should…

  • Respond to his name when called by age 1 year
  • Identify hair, eyes, ears, nose, and mouth by pointing to them by age 2 years
  • Understand simple stories told or read by age 3 years
  • Give reasonable answers to simple questions such as, “What do you do when you are sleepy?” or “What do you do when you are hungry?” by age 4 years
  • Understand the meaning of the words “today,” “tomorrow” and “yesterday” by age 5 years

Your child should…

  • Hold his head up when lying on tummy by age 3 months
  • Roll over by age 8 months
  • Sit up without help or support by age 9 months
  • Crawl on hands and knees by age 1 year
  • Walk by age 2 years
  • Walk down steps by age 3 years
  • Balance on one foot for a short time by age 4 years
  • Throw and catch a large ball bounced to him by age 5 years

Using his/her hands
Your child should…

  • Bat and swipe at toys by age 4 months
  • Open hands by age 3 months
  • Pass toys from one hand to the other by age 9 months
  • Pick up little objects like cheerios by age 10 months
  • Bang toys together by age 11 months

Living skills
Your child should…

  • Drink from a cup and use a spoon by age 2 years
  • Help with getting dressed by age 3 years
  • Dress without supervision by age 5 years

If not, then please contact your doctor or a public health nurse immediately.

If you would like your child’s development evaluated through Florida’s early intervention system (contact information provided below), the Health Planning Council of Southwest Florida,  or contact us here at Easterseals to learn more.

Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center

Florida Contact:

Renee Jenkins, Early Steps Administrator
Bureau of Early Steps & Newborn Screening
Division of Children’s Medical Services
Florida Department of Health
4052 Bald Cypress Way, Bin A09
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1707
Phone: (850) 245-4456
Fax: (850) 922-5385


ReferPhone: (800) 218-0001


What do I do if my child needs services?

If you think your child has developmental delays or some other condition affecting his growth or development, you should take them to see their pediatrician or other primary health care provider as soon as possible. Your pediatrician or health care provider can help you determine if there is a problem and should know how to refer you to your local early intervention program.

In addition, each state is required to have a central directory, which is a toll-free referral number you can call to find out whom to call in your community. The National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center website lists all the lead agencies for each state. This Web site provides the name and contact information for each state and is updated regularly.

Many states have one agency that will refer you to the services you need. Once you call this agency and tell a staff member you have a child who you think needs early intervention, he or she should refer you to a program within a matter of days. The early intervention program will schedule appointments for the evaluations and other family meetings that are needed in order to determine the needs of the family and child. Services will then be started.

How do I choose a provider?

It is important to find a service provider that can meet the needs of your child and your family. You should feel comfortable talking to the provider. Here are some questions you may want to ask:

  • Is the provider a Part C provider? If so, Part C should pay for your therapy if your insurance does not.
  • Does my insurance company have a preferred provider I must use to qualify for payment of services?
  • How far away is the facility?
  • Will the provider come to my house or my child’s daycare center?
  • What are the provider’s qualifications? Is he or she licensed? Does he or she have any special certifications in pediatric therapy, early intervention, child development, etc.?
  • Is the facility clean and well-maintained?
  • Does the provider have experience with other children like mine? What kind of success has he or she enjoyed?
  • How does the provider include me and my child in the treatment plan?
  • How will the provider participate in my child’s family support plan or individual education plan?
  • Is my family invited to participate in the intervention sessions?
  • How is family education and support provided?
  • What happens when my child turns 3-years-old?
  • How does the provider interact with my service coordinator and the local early intervention program?

How do I pay for Early Intervention?

The State of Florida has established an early intervention system to meet the needs of the children and families of its communities. The lead agency contact for Florida is listed below, including direct contact information. You can simply call their office for more detailed information.

Renee Jenkins, Early Steps Administrator
Bureau of Early Steps & Newborn Screening
Division of Children’s Medical Services
Florida Department of Health
4052 Bald Cypress Way, Bin A09
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1707
Phone: (850) 245-4456
Fax: (850) 922-5385
ReferPhone: (800) 218-0001

Adults with Autism

Autism After Age 21

Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can live, work, learn and play in their community when given the proper supports. Easterseals works with adults with ASD across the lifespan, encouraging them to find meaningful employment and live independent lives after leaving the school system.

Finding a Job

For adults with ASD, finding a job is a critical first step toward self-determination and financial independence. Through our Employment Services Program, Easterseals professionals help people with ASD:

  • assess their skills
  • identify employment goals
  • create training to meet personal goals

Day Programs for Graduates Who Remain at Home

Easterseals day programs are designed for people with autism whose primary needs are for socialization, recreation, and community involvement. While people with ASD participating in day programs might need some supervision, they need only minimal assistance with activities of daily living (eating, dressing, walking, etc.). Read more about Easterseals’ adult day services.

Moving Away from Home

Adults with ASD have many choices when it comes to living away from home. The primary goal of Easterseals’ in-home services is to assist you and your loved one as they strive to stay in the community in a living arrangement of their choice:

  • Independent Living. Involves persons with ASD living in their own apartment or house with little, if any, support services. Support services may be limited to such areas as complex problem-solving, money management, or budgeting. This option is best suited for persons with appropriate daily living and social skills.
  • Supported Living. When persons with ASD are not quite ready to live independently but are able to care for the majority of their own needs, supported living is an option. Supported living usually involves a case manager or support worker assisting the individual with certain areas of self-care or social planning. Individuals in this situation typically have their own apartments but may share living space or live in the same building as other individuals with similar needs. Often, people in supported living are developing skills to move to independent living.
  • Supervised Group Living. Group homes are facilities that serve several individuals with disabilities. These homes are usually located in residential areas and have the physical appearance of the average family home. Professional staff assists the residents with daily living and social activities based on individual needs. If possible, it may be advisable to find group homes that specialize in providing service to persons with ASD. The staff in these homes are more likely to be trained specifically to the unique needs associated with ASD.
  • Adult Foster Care. In adult foster care, individuals live in a home with a family. Unlike foster care for children, adult foster care is intended to be as permanent as possible. Families usually receive government money to support individuals with ASD in their home. They are not necessarily trained or expected to teach independent living skills.
  • In-home Services. Many adults with ASD live at home or with a friend or family member. In cases where additional care and support is needed, many people prefer to receive services in the comfort of their home. In-home services may include a companion, homemaking/housekeeping, therapy and health services or personal care.
  • Respite Care. Some individuals with ASD remain in their parents’ home far into their adult years. Sometimes families receive respite care support where a professional comes to the home and provides support services to allow the parents to partake in their own recreational or social activities.

Making Friends

Adults with ASD can be active participants in all areas of community life including social and recreational activities. Easterseals programs may include weekends away, evenings out and other opportunities to participate in recreational activities throughout the year. With more than 100 camping, recreation, and respite programs, Easterseals offers thousands of individuals with ASD the chance to develop lasting friendships and learn what they can do, no matter what their age. Participants enjoy adventures and conquer new physical challenges, and some camps also offer sessions exclusively for campers living with ASD.

Outliving the Parents

Easterseals partners with health and human service organizations as well as public and private insurers to provide life-changing services and support for children and adults living with ASD and other disabilities and special needs and for their families. Learn more about Easterseals corporate partner Mass Mutual’s SpecialCare Program and LifeBridge Free Insurance Plan.

State Autism Profiles

Click to download a PDF file of this report


In 2000, 4,473 or 1.22% of children ages 3-21 who received special education services in Florida have autism. In 2014-2015, 31,133or 8.58% of children with disabilities ages 3-21 who received special education services have autism.

Table 1-1: IDEA Part B
Children with Autism in Florida for 1999-2000 and 2014-2015
(Child Count by Age Group)

1999 – 2000 2014 – 2015
Age 3 – 5 847 3,469
Age 6 – 21 3,626 27,664
Age 3 – 21 4,473 31,133

Source: Reported by the State of Florida in accordance with Section 618 of IDEA to U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs

Table 1-2: IDEA Part B
Children with Disabilities in Florida for 1999-2000 and 2014-2015
(Child Count by Age Group)

1999 – 2000 2014 – 2015
Age 3 – 5 30,660 38,158
Age 6 – 11 169,052 149,639
Age 12 – 17 152,234 149,524
Age 12 – 17 152,234 149,524
Age 18 – 21 15,389 26,604
Age 6 – 21 336,675 32,767
Age 3 – 21 357,335 367,335

Source: Reported by the State of Florida in accordance with Section 618 of IDEA to U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs


Governor’s Task Force on Autism Spectrum Disorders
Under Executive Order 08-36 on March 7, 2008, Governor Charlie Crist established the Task Force on Autism Spectrum Disorders in order to set a unified agenda to address the needs of individuals with autism. The task force was scheduled to meet until June 30, 2009, and submitted a report to the governor outlining recommendations, legislative accomplishments, and progress. The task force was extended by Executive Order 09-82 on April 1, 2009. The task force is comprised of 18-22 members appointed by the governor, including parents, health care providers, representatives of state and local government agencies, advocates for autism, and other professionals with an interest in autism. Jim DeBeaugrine, interim director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, and Dan Marino, formerly with the Miami Dolphins and parent of a child with autism, serve as the co-chairs. The task force submitted its Final Report in March 2009.


Governor Charlie Crist signed S.B. 2654 into law on May 20, 2008, which requires health insurance coverage for autism spectrum disorders. The section of the legislation known as the “Steven A. Geller Autism Coverage Act” requires coverage for well-baby and well-child screening for the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, and intervention and treatment for autism spectrum disorder as prescribed in a treatment plan by a doctor. The individual must have a diagnosis for autism at the age of 8 years or younger, and benefits are applied to individuals 18 years or younger or to individuals 18 years or older who are in high school. Coverage for screening and behavioral therapy, including applied behavior is subject to a maximum of $36,000 per year with a $200,000 lifetime maximum. (Fla. Stat. § 627.6686)

The law also allows the Office of Insurance Regulation to convene a workgroup that includes representatives of health insurers, health maintenance organizations and self-insured employers to sign an agreement to increase coverage for medically necessary therapies and behavior analysis and behavioral assistant services for a developmental disorder. (Fla. Stat. § 624.916) However, in 2012 this statute was repealed and there is no longer a workgroup for the purpose of negotiating insurance and access to services for people with developmental disabilities. Thus there is no longer any requirement for insurers to comply with the nonexistent OIR workgroup’s findings.

In 2000, 4,473 or 1.22% of children ages 3-21 who received special education services in Florida have autism. In 2014-2015, 31,133or 8.58% of children with disabilities ages 3-21 who received special education services have autism.


Florida’s benchmark plan does not include autism services or applied behavior analysis (ABA) in its Essential Health Benefits package, and is not required to do so. Only large group plans must offer autism services and ABA. There is no interaction between Florida’s mandate and EHB or the Affordable Care Act. Florida’s exchange is being run by the federal government.
(Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida; BlueOptions 5462)


Florida’s traditional Medicaid program covers autism services, including ABA, as a result of a 2013 lawsuit (see Administrative Agencies and Courts, below).

Home and Community-Based Services Waiver: DD Individual Budgeting
This waiver provides residential habilitation, respite, support coordination, adult dental, OT, PT, private duty nursing, respiratory therapy, skilled nursing, specialized medical equipment and supplies, specialized mental health counseling, speech therapy, transportation, behavioral analysis services, behavior assistant services, dietitian services, environmental accessibility adaptations, family and guardian training, life skills development, PERS, personal supports, residential nursing, special medical home care, supported living coaching for individuals with autism, IID, and DD from ages three and up. This waiver expires on March 14, 2019.


Students with autism are eligible to receive exceptional student education services if there is evidence of an uneven development in language, social, adaptive and/or communication skills; impairment in social interaction with people or the environment (absent, delayed, atypical); impairment in communication skills; restricted repetitive and/or stereotyped patterns of behavior; reference to evidence of onset during the first three years of life has been deleted. The Special Policies & Procedures (SP&P) content must comprise of a comprehensive evaluation of the student that includes a psychological and speech/language assessments, development, and a review of medical information. (Rule 6A-6.03023, FAC)

In 2015 two bills were introduced to help ensure the screening for, evaluation or diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. The Senate bill 144 required the physician to refer the minor to an appropriate specialist for screening for autism spectrum disorder under certain circumstances. It also authorized the parent or legal guardian to have direct access to said screening for a minor from the Early Steps program or another appropriate specialist in autism under certain circumstances. The second bill, H.B. 49 requires certain insurers & HMOs (health maintenance organizations) to provide direct patient access to a specialized diagnostician. Both bills, however, died in March 2016.


Florida Regional Autism Centers
Florida has seven regional Centers for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) sites housed at state universities. The Florida legislature allocates funds that are administered to the seven through the state’s Department of Education. The CARD sites provide information, resources and training for individuals with autism and pervasive developmental disorders. Additionally, they support state agencies in the development of training for early child care providers and educators on children with developmental disabilities. Annual report are submitted to the university president and Department of Education. (Florida Statute 48-1004.5)

Behavior Analysts
In the 2015 legislative session, parallel bills were introduced in the House and Senate to create a Board of Applied Behavior Analysis within the Division of Medical Quality Assurance. H.B. 5449 and S.B. 628 establish requirements for licensure of behavior analysts and licensed assistant behavior analysts, establish fees, set up penalties for unlicensed practice and other board responsibilities. Currently the state may establish a certification process for behavior analysts or recognize the certification of behavior analysts awarded by a nonprofit corporation that adheres to the national standards of boards that determine professional credentials. The bills were referred to the House Health Quality Subcommittee and the Senate Appropriations Committee. Both bills died in committee.


Florida Autism Center of Excellence
In 2006, the Florida Department of Education awarded a $700,000 grant to establish a charter school for a Florida Autism Center of Excellence for students from the ages 3 to 22 years with autism in Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Sarasota, Polk, and Manatee counties.


On March 23, 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Joan Lenard ordered Florida’s Medicaid program immediately to cover applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy for children with autism spectrum disorder, saying that the treatment is medically necessary and is not considered “experimental,” as claimed by the state. The written order was issued on March 26, 2012 and applies to all Medicaid-eligible individuals under the age of 21. On September 20, 2013, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal upheld the lower court ruling. About 8,500 Florida children on Medicaid have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, and this decision will benefit them and children who are diagnosed in the future. K.G. v. Dudek, 839 F.Supp.2d 1254 (2011); K.G. ex rel. Garrido v. Dudek, 864 F. Supp. 2d 1314 (S.D. Fla. 2012).; D. C. Docket No. 1:11-cv-20684-JAL

In April 2016, S.B. 936 was passed, an act that encourages the use of devices, such as bracelets, necklaces, and pocket to assist law enforcement, correctional, or other public safety officials and other concerned persons in quickly identifying individuals who have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder or a related developmental.


The Florida Legislature generally meets in on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March for sixty days.

Sponsors of Autism Legislation

  • Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville) District 4
  • Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Miami-Dade) District 38
  • Rep. Janet Cruz (D-Tampa) District 62
  • Rep. Bill Hager (R-Boca Raton) District 89
  • Rep. Patrick Joseph Rooney (R-Palm Beach Gardens) District 85
    Prepared by Easterseals, Inc.; November 2016.

Autism Resources

  • American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) — American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 pediatricians committed to the attainment of optimal physical, mental and social well-being for all infants, children, adolescents and young adults. The AAP has guidelines and recommendations for the effective diagnosis and treatment of autism.
  • Autism Society of America (ASA) — Autism Society of America is dedicated to increasing public awareness about autism and the day-to-day issues faced by individuals with autism, their families and the professionals with whom they interact. The society and its chapters share a common mission of providing information and education, and supporting research and advocating for programs and services for the autism community.
  • Autism Speaks — Autism Speaks is dedicated to funding global biomedical research into the causes, prevention, treatment and cure for autism; in raising public awareness about autism and its effects on individuals, families and society; and to bringing hope to all who deal with the hardships of this disorder.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Autism Information Center — The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) maintains a Web information site with current information and resources for those interested in learning more about autism. The CDC’s “Learn the Signs. Act Early” Web site provides information about childhood developmental milestones and delays. Maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the “Learn the Signs. Act Early” site helps you to track the developmental milestones your child should be reaching, see how milestones change as your child grows, and download fact sheets on developmental milestones for children from 3 months to 5 years. The site also includes information on developmental screening and developmental disabilities.

Glossary of ASD Terminology

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA): Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a discipline that applies behavioral science interventions in real-world settings including schools, homes, and clinics. The goal of ABA interventions is to improve socially important issues such as behavior problems and learning

Asperger’s Syndrome (AS): A diagnostic label that was previously utilized to describe a person with an ASD who did not have a language delay or any co-occurring intellectual disability.

Autism: A commonly used term for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Autistic Disorder: A diagnostic label that was previously utilized to describe a person with an ASD.

Autism Spectrum Disorder: A developmental disability used to describe individuals who have difficulties with social communication/interaction and exhibit restrictive and/or repetitive patterns of behavior

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder: A diagnostic label that was previously utilized to describe a person with an ASD.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5): The official system for classification of psychological and psychiatric disorders prepared by and published by the American Psychiatric Association.

Developmental, Individual Differences, Relationship-based (DIR): An intervention framework that helps clinicians, parents, and educators conduct a comprehensive assessment and develop an intervention program tailored to the unique challenges and strengths.

Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI): A fairly generic term for applied behavioral analysis (ABA-based) interventions, the focus is on very young children with ASD, usually younger than five, and often younger than three. The intensity of intervention is significant in the number of hours and in the ratio of child to an instructor.

Echolalia: Repeating words or phrases heard previously. The echoing may occur immediately after hearing the word or phrase, or much later. Delayed echolalia can occur days or weeks after hearing the word or phrase.

High Functioning Autism: A colloquial term used to describe individuals with ASD who do not have a co-occurring intellectual disability.

Individualized Educational Program (IEP): A program that identifies the student’s specific learning expectations and outlines how the school will address these expectations through appropriate special education programs and services. It also identifies the methods by which the student’s progress will be reviewed. For students 14 years or older, it must also contain a program for the transition to postsecondary education, or the workplace, or to help the student live as independently as possible in the community.

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS): PECS is an alternative communication system that uses picture symbols. It is taught in six phases starting with a simple exchange of a picture symbol for the desired item. Individuals learn to use picture symbols to construct complete sentences, initiate communication, and answer direct questions.

Perseveration: Repetitive movement or speech, or sticking to one idea or task, which has a compulsive quality to it.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS): A diagnostic label that was previously utilized to describe a person with an ASD

Pivotal Response Training: An intervention based on the principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA). Two pivotal behaviors, motivation, and responsivity to multiple cues are taught. These behaviors are central to a wide area of functioning and positive changes in these behaviors should have widespread effects.

Positive Behavior Supports: The broad enterprise of helping people develop and engage in adaptive, socially desirable behaviors and overcome patterns of destructive and stigmatizing responding.

Relationship Development Intervention (RDI): A parent-based intervention program where parents are provided the tools to effectively teach Dynamic Intelligence Skills and motivation to their child.

Rett’s Syndrome: A neurological disorder that occurs only in girls. The initial symptoms include some that are associated with ASD.

Sensory Integration (SI): This is a term applied to the way the brain processes sensory stimulation or sensation from the body and then translates that information into specific, planned and coordinated motor activity.

TEACCH: A therapeutic approach broadly based on the idea that individuals with ASD more effectively use and understand visual cues. It focuses on promoting dependence by using items such as picture schedules to break down tasks step-by-step. This enables an individual to better comprehend and perform the task independently. This approach often aids receptive communication and sequential memory.

Theory of Mind: The ability to understand that others have beliefs, desires, and intentions that are different from one’s own.

Verbal Behavior: A program of applied behavior analysis that focuses on teaching verbal behavior through a collection of highly effective teaching procedures taken from the science of behavior analysis.

Visual Supports: Written words, pictures and/or icons that convey information in visual medium. Individuals with ASD are typically visual learners and conveying information visually assists with comprehension.

ASD Fact Sheet