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State Autism Profiles: Pennsylvania

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In 2000, 3898 or 1.63% of children ages 3-21 who received special education services in Pennsylvania have autism. In 2014-2015, 29,273 or 9.81 % of children with disabilities ages 3-21 who received special education services have autism.

Table 1-1: IDEA Part B - Children with Autism in Pennsylvania for 1999-2000 and 2014-2015
(Child Count by Age Group)

Age 3-5



Age 6-21



Age 3-21



Source: Reported by the State of Pennsylvania in accordance with Section 618 of IDEA to U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs

Table 1-2: IDEA Part B - Children with Disabilities in Pennsylvania for 1999-2000 and 2014-2015
(Child Count by Age Group)

Age 3-5



Age 6-11



Age 12-17



Age 18-21



Age 6-21



Age 3-21



Source: Reported by the State of Pennsylvania in accordance with Section 618 of IDEA to U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs


Pennsylvania Autism Task Force
The Department of Public Welfare established the Pennsylvania Autism Task Force in 2003 to address the growing needs of individuals with autism. The Task Force was composed of twelve subcommittees and over 250 individuals, including family members of individuals with autism, service providers, educators, and researchers. The Task Force completed a Final Report in December 2004, which outlined a new plan for improving service delivery to individuals with autism.

Bureau of Autism Services
Formed in 2007 as proposed by the Pennsylvania Autism Task Force, the Bureau of Autism Services was established within the Department of Public Welfare’s Office of Developmental Programs to focus on the challenges and needs of individuals with autism.


On July 9, 2008, Governor Ed Rendell signed into law health insurance coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of individuals with autism under the age of 21. The law provides coverage up to $36,000 per year with no limitations on the number of visits to qualified autism service providers who meet established standards. Covered services include psychiatric care, psychological care, rehabilitative care, therapeutic care, pharmacy care, and any other types of care, treatment, intervention, or service deemed medically necessary. Pa. Cons. Stat. tit. 40, § 764h (Pa. Laws, Act 2008-62): H.B. 1150 of 2008; Mandated Benefits Review by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council; Autism Spectrum Disorders Mandated Benefits Review Panel Report by Abt Associates Inc.

In December 2015, a resolution was introduced directing the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to study the financial and administrative effectiveness of the statutory provisions requiring autism spectrum disorders insurance coverage. H.R.607 was referred to the Insurance Committee and no further action was taken.


Pennsylvania’s benchmark plan offers no autism services or applied behavior analysis (ABA). Because the state autism insurance mandate only applies to large group plans, autism services are not required to be offered on the federally-run exchange.
(Aetna Health Inc. – a PA corp.; PA POS Cost Sharing 34)


Pennsylvania offers autism services for children through traditional Medicaid under the Early Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment program (EPSDT).

Pennsylvania Home and Community-Based Services Waiver: Adult Autism
This waiver, implemented on July 1, 2011, provides day habilitation, residential habilitation, respite, supported employment, supports coordination, therapies, assistive technology, behavioral specialist services, community inclusion, community transition services, environmental modifications, family counseling, family training, job assessment/finding services, nutritional consultation, temporary crisis services, and transitional work services for individuals ages 21 and older with autism. This waiver expires on June 30, 2016.


A certified school psychologist must be included when evaluating a child for autism and other types of disabilities (22 Pa. Code §14.123, §14.124). Section 14.132 includes autism or other pervasive developmental disorders as a factor when determining whether a student is eligible for an extended school year at the student’s individualized education program (IEP) meeting (22 Pa. Code §14.132).


Progress through Partnership National Autism Conference
The Progress through Partnership National Autism Conference is hosted annually by the Bureau of Special Education and Pennsylvania State University for parents, educators, and professionals interested in autism. The 2016 National Autism Conference was held August 1-4, 2016 at the Penn State Conference Center Hotel in State College, Pennsylvania. Future conferences will be held July 31–August 3, 2017 and  August 6–9, 2018

In March 2015, House Resolution 183 was introduced directing the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to conduct a comprehensive review of data maintained by the Department of Education and the Department of Human Services on the number of transition-age youth and young adults diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders. H.R.183 was referred to the Human Services Committee. On October 25, 2016, the legislation was removed from the table in the House. No further action has been taken.


The ASERT Collaborative (Autism Services, Education, Resources and Training)
ASERT is a key component of the Bureau of Autism Services’ strategy for supporting individuals with autism and their families. Each regional ASERT is charged with addressing the needs of their entire region connecting existing resources and expertise, and addressing the regional gaps in services. The priorities of ASERT are driven by the findings of the PA Autism Needs Assessment study, and include a statewide autism census.

Adult Community Autism Program (ACAP)
ACAP is a program of the Bureau of Autism Services, with services provided by Keystone Autism Services (KAS), and it is designed specifically for adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Whether a person needs many or few supports, ACAP's services and supports are individually tailored to each person's strengths and individual goals. These comprehensive services integrate health care, improve social skills, support vocational and leisure activities, and assist families and caregivers. Because services are flexible, they can be readily modified as a person's needs change over time. The ACAP program provides services to 200 individuals with autism who are 21 years old or older and live in Dauphin, Lancaster, or Cumberland Counties.

Law Enforcement Training
In 2015, H.B. 221 passed the legislature and was signed by the Governor to provide training for law enforcement officials and members of the judicial system on identifying and interacting with people suffering from mental illness, intellectual disabilities and autism. The training will also include the proper de-escalation techniques and instruction on available services.

On March 24, 2015 H.R. 183 was introduced. It would mandate the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to conduct a comprehensive review of the data maintained by the Department of Education and Department of Human Services to determine the number of transition-age youth and youth adults diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. The resolution was referred to the Human Services Committee and was reported as committed on June 9, 2015. The bill was tabled thereafter.


The General Assembly meets at noon the first Tuesday of the year and regularly throughout the year. The 2016 Regular Session convened on January 5, 2015 and is expected to adjourn November 30, 2016. The 2017 session is expected to convene on January 3, 2017 and will meet throughout the year.

Sponsors of Autism Legislation

  • Sen. Patricia H. Vance (R-Camp Hill) District 31
  • Sen. Donald C. White (R-Indiana) District 41
  • Sen. John C. Rafferty, Jr. (R-Collegeville) District 44
  • Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-Warren) District 65

Prepared by Easterseals, Inc.; November 2016.

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