New N.C. bill could help thousands of families dealing with autism

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A new bill making it's way through the North Carolina house could change the lives of thousands of children across the state diagnosed with autism.

House Bill 498 was read in the state house Wednesday. It would require state regulated insurance companies to cover autism treatments.

Bob D'Amelio, the father of child with autism and advocate says this bill is critical to children diagnosed with autism.

"Meaning they would supply occupational therapy, speech therapy and behavioral analysis therapy with no limitations," he said.

He told WBTV he still remembers what well-meaning friends told he and his wife 12 years ago when doctors diagnosed their middle child, Christopher with autism.

"They literally told my wife, 'have another child and put him in a home somewhere'," remembered D'Amelio. "We were looking forward to playing baseball and soccer and all these different things and then you get this diagnosis of autism and we have people here telling us forget about him and move on."

D'Amelio is thankful things have changed dramatically since then -- but says this new bill could do even more.

"We were young parents, first home buyers trying to make ends meet and here we are looking at medical bills for private speech, occupational therapy," he recalled.

Treatments that have costs them more than a hundred thousand dollars of their own money.

Since studies have shown early diagnosis and treatment are key -- D'Amelio believes this legislation could really make a difference in the lives of so many children in N.C.

"If we can get this coverage and get these kids this early, early intervention and help --and get it consistently-- the sky's the limit for these kids," he said. "The sky's the limit --and it's what we owe our kids."

D'Amelio often thinks about the limits Christopher has, and knows his son could be even further along if they'd had the help this bill could give other families.

"Technically he's a seventh grader with a third fourth grade education," said D'Amelio. "He could be a 7th grader in a mainstream, in a regular classroom right now -- that's the difference!"

The bill is now headed to it's first subcommittee in the house, that deals with insurance regulations. Once it clears that committee, it heads to another -- appropriations.

But even if this bill passes the house, it still needs a companion bill introduced in the Senate. D'Amelio says advocates are working on getting the sponsors they need for that bill right now.

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