Autism screening requirement proposed

School boards would require children to be screened for autism spectrum disorder under a bill heard Feb. 8 by the Education Committee.

Sen. Jen Day
Sen. Jen Day

The screening would be in addition to the physical examination and visual evaluation required before a child enters kindergarten or enrolls in school after transferring from another state.

Omaha Sen. Jen Day, sponsor of LB997, said many young children are not screened for ASD, resulting in late diagnosis and lack of autism-specific treatments and services during a crucial developmental period. A universal screening requirement would help improve the quality of life for this small number of children each year, she said.

A physician, physician assistant, advanced practice registered nurse, school nurse, school psychiatrist or other trained individual could conduct the screening using an evidence-based developmental screening tool appropriate to the age of the child.

The screening would not be required if a child’s parent or guardian objects in writing.

Katy Menousek, a behavioral analyst at Boys Town National Research Hospital, testified in support of LB997. Although many parents can identify the signs and symptoms of ASD, she said, universal screening would be “greatly beneficial” to children whose parents are not aware of ASD.

Westin Miller also testified in support, saying the bill could address a “critical diagnosis gap.” Miller said, however, that lawmakers also should consider how an early ASD diagnosis in Nebraska can lead to applied behavioral analysis, one of the most commonly prescribed interventions for autistic children.

He said ABA is an “inherently harmful framework” that he and many other autistic people believe devalues their predispositions, disregards their consent and does not assume their competence.

“What I’m asking is that you please engage with me and other autistic people about this conversation, that you don’t have conversations about caring for autistic people without autistic people in the room,” Miller said.

No one testified in opposition to LB997 and the committee took no immediate action on it.

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