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State funding reinstated for autism treatment

September 13, 2010 | 11:27 pm

A judge gave final approval Monday to a settlement agreement allowing families of autistic children in eastern Los Angeles County to receive a state-funded therapy for the disorder.

Last year, the Eastern Los Angeles County Regional Center, a nonprofit agency that coordinates state-funded services for the disabled, informed more than 100 families that it was discontinuing the treatment -- known as the DIR model -- as a result of state budget cuts.

Best known as Floortime, the treatment relies on a therapist to follow a child’s lead during play activities to develop communication and social skills. Regional center officials argued that the treatment was experimental and therefore ineligible for state funding under a plan passed by the Legislature to trim $300 million from the budget for people with developmental disabilities.

Lawyers for the families convinced the judge that the treatment had enough scientific support to deem it clinically effective. The regional center, which serves an area from Highland Park to La Mirada, backed down and agreed to reinstate the therapy.

It has already notified more than 2,200 families of autistic children that the therapy is available.

-- Alan Zarembo