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A therapist poses with a young boy at a state health meeting in Tampa.
Daylina Miller / WUSF Public Media

The state Agency for Health Care Administration wrapped up a series of statewide public meetings last week to address proposed changes to the Medicaid program that covers applied behavior analysis therapy.

Child at autism clinic drawing on paper.
Daylina Miller/WUSF News

The state Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) will roll out a GPS tracking pilot program as part of its effort to crack down on Medicaid fraud. 

Daylina Miller / WUSF Public Media

Behavioral therapists who work mostly with children on the autism spectrum say the state agency that oversees the Medicaid program is finally starting to listen to their concerns.

Protesters outside the Tampa AHCA office hold signs defending ABA therapy and opposing cuts to Medicaid.
Daylina Miller/WUSF Public Media

The state Agency for Health Care Administration is limiting how many people can attend a series of public meetings after so many people showed up to a meeting in Tampa earlier this month that AHCA split it into two sessions.

Adrianne Smith, behavior analyst and co-owner of Creative Behavior Solutions in Largo, attended AHCA's Tampa public meeting Friday, April 5 with her client, 2-year-old Dominick, and his mom, Renee Capone.
Daylina Miller / WUSF Public Media/Health News Florida

The state Agency for Health Care Administration has backtracked on its decision to cut Medicaid reimbursement rates for therapists who mostly work with children on the autism spectrum, but other changes are still on the table.

Daylina Miller / WUSF Public Media

The state Agency for Health Care Administration last week proposed Medicaid reimbursement reductions for providers who treat children with autism.

Ana Lopez Del Castillo, a registered behavior technician, works with a child at Amazing Gains Behavior Therapy Services in Orlando.
Daylina Miller / WUSF Public Media

Therapists who work with autistic children in the Medicaid system are having problems getting required state credentials, according to providers.

The issue has been going on for months and is impacting how many patients clinics can serve, the providers said.

Payments Frozen For Some Autism Providers

Jan 9, 2019

The state has frozen payments to some providers who treat children with autism while it tries to ferret out fraudulent activity, but a high-ranking Medicaid official said the freeze should be lifted within two weeks.

Child at autism clinic drawing on paper.
Daylina Miller/WUSF News

When you step inside the Creative Behavior Solutions clinic in Largo, the first thing you notice isn't what you can see, it's what you can hear – the sound of children laughing, clapping and singing.

In a detailed, 65-page ruling, a federal appeals court Friday said a trial is needed in a legal battle about whether Disney theme parks have taken adequate steps to meet the needs of customers who have autism and cannot wait long times for rides.

Bethany Hanson / WUSF Public Media

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Police Chief Brian Dugan announced plans Thursday to commemorate Autism Awareness Month. Their new program, "Help Us, Help You" is an online special needs registry for first responders in the city of Tampa.

Buckhorn announced in his State of the City address last year that he wants to make Tampa one of the first cities in America to be designated as autism friendly. This registry is the next step in his initiative.

Brothers Russell, 28, and Remmick Wadsworth, 27, have autism. As kids, they had trouble with social interactions, so they often relied on each other for support during tough situations. Now, as the siblings navigate the working world, they're still looking out for each other.

Remmick remembers his first job, working with his older brother in a coffee shop. "You would always have my back, talking to customers for me, handle them for me while I make their drinks," he tells Russell during a StoryCorps conversation.

“Project Leo” could launch statewide, under a bill that has passed its first House committee. It would make it easier for law enforcement to track missing people with special needs.

A new Florida law requiring autism awareness training for law enforcement officers takes effect Sunday.

The sheriff in Pinellas County has fired a decorated deputy who was recorded taunting an autistic student at the middle school where he provided security and guidance.

Governor Rick Scott recently signed a bill into law requiring autism awareness training for Florida’s law enforcement officers. But, some may not see the merits of the new law—that gained traction after a high profile incident last year.

The Florida House has voted to expand autism awareness training for law enforcement. Support for the issue amped up this session after a North Miami officer shot at an autistic man he thought was dangerous.

A bill requiring autism awareness training for law enforcement officers is now heading to the House floor.

A bill requiring autism awareness training for law enforcement officers is starting to move in both chambers of the Florida Legislature. It comes after a high profile incident that occurred in South Florida last year involving a black man, an autistic man, and law enforcement.

If you had medieval Legos as a kid, The Dragon at Legoland Florida Resort is the roller coaster incarnation. And it’s the biggest, baddest, still very kid-friendly roller coaster at Legoland Florida Resort.

Caught on cell phone videos and magnified by social media, law enforcement incidents dominate the news. Some Florida lawmakers are working on a host of measures to rebuild the relationship between police and the public.

Tampa Lawmaker's Bill Could Boost Autism Screening

Aug 12, 2015

A House Democrat on Tuesday filed a bill that could place new requirements on health insurers related to the screening of children for autism spectrum disorder.

The bill (HB 49), filed by Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, will be considered during the 2016 legislative session.

Under the bill, physicians would screen children if parents suspect the possibility of autism spectrum disorder.

When they deem it "medically necessary," physicians would refer children to specialists for diagnosis.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

How do young adults diagnosed with a form of autism describe themselves?

This week on Florida Matters, we meet Andrew Casey, 23, who interviewed his peers about their diagnosis and how they define themselves. And Andrew explains how he manages with Asperger's Syndrome which is on the autism spectrum.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

You may have heard what scientists and researchers say about autism, but what about the folks who are diagnosed with it? 

This week on Florida Matters, we meet Andrew Casey, who explains how he manages with Asperger's Syndrome, which is on the autism spectrum.

His step-mother, Danielle Casey, and Dr. Karen Berkman with the University of South Florida's Learning Academy also join Florida Matters host Carson Cooper.

A Sarasota County woman accused of killing her autistic stepdaughter will not face the death penalty, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports. The prosecution said in court hearings Tuesday it will not seek the death penalty in the case against Melissa Stoddard, who is accused of repeatedly tying the girl down to a board and gagging her. She has plead not guilty and could face life in prison.

Autism Defined by Those with the Diagnosis

Apr 22, 2013
Barcellona family.

Instead of going to the experts to define autism we asked people who had been diagnosed with neurological disorder to explain it.

“Autism is like being on another planet and you don’t know who you are and where you are,” Rachel Barcellona said. “And you try your hardest to fit in and eventually it happens and people accept you and understand you but you’ll always be a little bit different no matter what.”

Barcellona, a high school student, is a model and holds the title Miss Teen American Spirit.

The man who allegedly shot 20 first-graders, seven adults and himself last Friday supposedly had been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism.

Since then, some may have assumed that Adam Lanza’s violent killing spree was somehow linked to his having a form of autism.

Three Florida mental-health experts who work with autism say the answer is almost certainly no.  Even patients who have the most severe cases of autism would not behave that way – not without some other  form of mental illness or personality disorder.