Senate Bills to Help Individuals With Special Needs Become Law

Measures Help Enhance Early Identification of Autism and Create New Identification Cards to Help Improve First Responders’ Ability to Communicate with People with Developmental Disabilities

The New York State Senate announced that two Senate bills to help individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities have been signed into law today.

One of new laws (S8955, Chapter 241) sponsored by Senator Robert Ortt (R-C-I-Ref, North Tonawanda), requires the state to establish new screening guidelines for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in children under four years old. Previously, there had been no standardized screening approach in New York for the early identification of autism and many doctors delayed screening until children were older. Screening is a way to detect a disorder, such as autism, before the onset of symptoms. Early treatment of autism can have a significantly positive impact on the health and well-being of children and their families.

Senator Ortt said, “Becoming proactive in the identification and treatment of disorders that impact approximately one in 59 children across the U.S. is key to ensuring children identified with ASD receive the best care possible. Recent studies indicate that early detection and treatment has proven to be highly beneficial for the well-being of children who test positive on the autism spectrum. Thanks to this new law, established and consistent screening guidelines will now be in place to make certain that all parents and children, regardless of where they are tested, receive the most effective and beneficial methods that medical providers have to offer.”

The second new law (S2565C, Chapter 209) sponsored by Senator Pamela Helming (R-C-I, Canandaigua) creates a new optional identification card to help improve communication with people who have developmental disabilities. The new optional identification cards can be given to law enforcement or other first responders in an emergency and conveys important details such as potential difficulties with interpersonal communications or physical contact, or an inability to respond verbally, as well as additional contact information.

The legislation authorizes the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities to create the optional identification card, which would contain the cardholder’s contact information, important information about the cardholder’s developmental disabilities (such as autism spectrum disorders) that may be relevant during interactions with first responders and other individuals. Creation of an official document with consistent language, appearance, and application standards will improve the ability of individuals with developmental disabilities across the state to effectively communicate important information about their diagnosis.

Senator Helming said, “This optional identification card will allow an individual with a developmental disability, such as autism, to more easily communicate important information about their diagnosis. As someone who began my career managing services for those with developmental disabilities, I know firsthand how important this law is. By creating one standardized card, individuals who choose to obtain such a card will have a new tool at their disposal when interacting with law enforcement officers or first responders. Coupled with funding to train law enforcement officers and first responders on how to respond to mental health situations, this initiative will help keep the public and our emergency personnel safe. This law will help protect the individual by informing others of his or her disability. It will make others aware of certain behaviors the individual has or may be lacking that might make it seem as if the individual is intentionally refusing to cooperate. I thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for supporting this important legislation, and I thank the Governor for signing it into law.”

Senators Involved