Iliana Gonzalez and her son Karls, 6, enjoy visitng the
of the Coral Gables Youth Center.
Federal judge orders state of Florida to cover
applied behavioral analysis therapy for autism
by Nancy Kinnally
At 18 months of age, Karls Gonzalez seemed like any other happy toddler. He would return his mother’s smile, had a budding vocabulary that included words like “mama,” “papa,” and “cookies” and had developed a healthy appetite for solid food.
But by the time he turned 2, he had become a different child. He stopped speaking and making eye contact. He refused any food that was not pureed. At the playground he would just walk in circles, staring at his own shadow or at the wall. He never climbed on the equipment or interacted with other kids.
“He was like a little old man,” said his mother Iliana Gonzalez, tears welling as she recalled her son’s extreme detachment.
Gonzalez soon learned that Karls had regressive autism, a form of the disorder that often becomes apparent by a child’s second birthday. Karls not only stopped engaging with those around him, but also became aggressive. As he grew older, his mother’s arms became covered in bruises and bite marks from his frequent outbursts.
After three years of speech, physical, and occupational therapy, which were covered by Florida Medicaid, Karls showed no improvement. Having talked with his neurologist and other experts and done a lot of her own research, Gonzalez knew that the therapy Karls really needed was applied behavior analysis (ABA), a widely recognized, intensive treatment for autism that uses techniques such as positive reinforcement to influence behavior. But there was one problem. Medicaid did not cover it, and on her husband’s salary, the family had no way to afford it.
Karls’ situation changed, however, after a social worker from Baptist Children’s Hospital in Miami referred Gonzalez to legal aid.
Read More »
Florida legislators who were the leading advocates for civil legal assistance funding were recognized June 21 at The Florida Bar Foundation's 36th annual reception and dinner.
Recognized were Rep. Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City, chair of the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee; Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Ft. Lauderdale, chair of the Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee; and Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, who was succeeded by Bogdanoff as chair of the Senate panel, for funding the act in their respective budgets.
The legislators led an effort that resulted in a $2 million appropriation for civil legal assistance under the Florida Access to Civil Legal Assistance Act during the 2012 legislative session. The funds were to be administered by The Florida Bar Foundation through a competitive application process to support the work of Florida's legal aid organizations, which are facing increased demand from Floridians facing job loss, bankruptcy, domestic violence and other civil legal matters.
Fla. Gov. Rick Scott later vetoed the 2011 and 2012 FACLA appropriations; however, the strong 11-year history of legislative support for FACLA underscores the importance the Florida Legislature places on ensuring access to justice for all Floridians.