All infants and toddlers will receive the recommended autism screenings to identify developmental issues and disabilities, under legislation passed today by the legislature.

Currently, all private insurance plans in Washington cover screenings for autism and other developmental disabilities for infants and toddlers, as these screenings are part of the nationally recognized standard of well child care. By comparison, the most vulnerable children in the state, who receive health care through the Apple Health for Kids program, currently only receive one of the recommended five infant screenings.

The small upfront cost from the program is funded in both the House and Senate budget proposal and is expected to save the state money in the long term, as studies show that 30 percent of children whose developmental issues are identified and treated early do not need special education services by age 3.

The legislation was sponsored by Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, and Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane. It passed the Senate on a 47-0 vote and the House on an 89-3 vote – one of the few bills passed by the legislature during the first special session of 2015.

“These screenings are a proven medical best practice that we know will make a huge difference in the lives of these children,” said Dr. Lelach Rave, a trustee of the Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “We know we can do a better job addressing development disabilities in children the sooner we identify them, and these screenings are a crucial tool. We want to ensure that every child has the chance to receive this care, including those on Apple Health for Kids and Medicaid.”

“This is a huge step forward for every child growing up with developmental challenges or autism in Washington,” said Frockt. “We’re going to be able to identify infants who need help, and we’ll be able to get them the help they need. Every child deserves a healthy start on life and this bill helps make that happen.”

“This isn’t just an issue of fairness – it makes economic sense as well,” said Riccelli. “We know that early intervention is a more effective and affordable way to address children’s developmental disabilities. It’s far more difficult to help an autistic child if we don’t know that the child is autistic until they get to preschool or kindergarten. If we can make sure all children get the help they need in the first few years of their life, they’ll do much better and require less support as they go into school and onto the rest of their lives.”