Indiana lawmaker drafts bill to protect children and adults with autism

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Protecting children and adults with autism is the goal of State Rep. Christopher Judy’s House Bill 1516.

The bill aims to require behavior analysts Indiana to hold professional license.

The Republican from Fort Wayne authored the bill after one of his constituents expressed their concerns that behavioral analysts in Indiana are not required to have a license to practice.

Jill Forte, the executive director of the Children Autism Center, is a mother whose son has autism. Nick Forte, 24, was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old. According to his mother, when he first went to therapy, he was mistreated by an unlicensed behavioral analyst.

“There’s different ways to do this,” said Jill Forte. “Sometimes it’s conducted unethically, and sometimes they’re conducted with more compassionate care. A behavior analyst is is a professional who applies the practice of the behavior analysis to individuals to either evoke new behaviors or to teach skills. So it’s important that the industry is regulated much like other any other industry. I think of it that if I were to have a roof put on my house, I know I can to seek out a licensed professional.”

Before that situation, Forte was mainly a stay-at-home mom and caregiver for Nick. After what she called a traumatic experience, she studied to become a behavioral analyst and co-founded the Children’s Autism Center to ensure no other parent experience what she went through.

B.A.’s primarily work with children with autism and Forte told WANE 15’s Briana Brownlee it’s a vulnerable population and a license will protect the consumer.

“Families receive the diagnosis of autism, they’re not sure where to turn” Forte explained. “So by having licensure for Behavior Analysts parents can be assured that the person providing services to their child is actually qualified to do so.”

In Indiana, behavior analysts and assistant behavior analysts are not required to be board certified or licensed, but many practitioners choose to be licensed by the national Behavior Analyst Certification Board, Inc. Under Judy’s bill, practitioners would have the option to also apply to a new state licensing board to receive a behavior analyst or assistant behavior analyst license. Judy said an Indiana licensed behavior analyst would be a master’s level or above practitioner.

Three years ago, Rep. Chris Judy visited the Children’s Autism Center, in Fort Wayne. He said after hearing Forte’s story, it broke his heart.

“She explained the person conducting the therapy was non-licensed and claimed to be able to cure her son, which was far from what happened. We knew more needed to be done to protect consumers from similar abuses and better distinguish qualified practitioners from those who may have little to no training or experience,” Rep. Judy said.

House Bill 1516 advanced out of the Indiana House of Representatives and will now move to the Senate for further consideration.

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