Occupational Therapy a Part of California’s Autism Advisory Task Force


By Stephanie Yamkovenko

In October 2011, California became the 28th state to enact autism insurance reform legislation when Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 946 into law (New York became the 29th in November). The law will go into effect on July 1, 2012, and health insurers will be required to cover behavioral health treatments for children with autism and pervasive developmental disorder.

To assist with implementation of the law and to address other issues, the state of California is convening an Autism Advisory Task Force to begin work on February 1. Among other duties, the task force will review evidence-based interventions and determine the necessary qualifications, training, and supervision of providers.

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) and the Occupational Therapy Association of California (OTAC) nominated AOTA President Florence Clark, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, to the task force, and the nomination was accepted.

“Dr. Clark is the ideal occupational therapy representative for the Autism Advisory Task Force with her wealth of clinical, research, and advocacy experience serving children with autism spectrum disorders," says OTAC President Shawn Phipps, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA.  

Clark’s participation on the task force allows occupational therapy to have a strong voice in discussions that will determine effective interventions for children with autism.

“I was honored to have been selected, and after participating in an orientation, I could see that my involvement will have real benefits for assuring that children on the autism spectrum have access to the mix of services they need, including occupational therapy,” says Clark. “My participation will also enable me to network with outstanding colleagues with a wide range of expertise and to influence the decision-making process of policymakers in ways that will be beneficial to stakeholders.”

Some critics of the new law, many in the health insurance industry, say that the price of covering the interventions will raise the cost of health insurance premiums. Gov. Brown wants the task force to determine the effectiveness of treatments and the appropriate duration and cost.1

“Dr. Clark will help to ensure that occupational therapy is front and center with policymakers to ensure that patients and families have viable access to fully funded occupational therapy services, including sensory integration and behavioral interventions,” says Phipps.

The task force will meet monthly until the end of 2012 and submit a report to the governor of their findings and recommendations.

Stephanie Yamkovenko is AOTA’s staff writer.


1. Colliver, V. (2011, October 12). Autism: Law make insurers cover therapy - for now. Retrieved January 11, 2012, from