Public Policy and Practice   |   Update: Feb. 9, 2011

Senate Hearing Alert:
Call to Action to Save ABA Treatment for Children

We all understand that the budget crisis means cutbacks in almost every area of social services. However, it would be a terrible mistake to cut funding for effective, cost saving treatments such as ABA treatment for children. Entire cohorts of children are in danger of having their futures lost if these cuts go into effect. Immediate action is needed to counteract pressure to eliminate or reduce prevention services and other ABA services for children.

There is a Senate Budget Subcommittee #3 hearing on Health and Human Services in Sacramento on Thursday, February 10, at 9:30 (State Capitol Room 4203). Parents to speak up about the terrible effects of the proposed $750,000,000 cuts to Regional Center budgets. Parents are needed to help ensure that ABA services for children are preserved.

The solution won't be easy. Parents, regional centers, legislators, public policy decision makers, ABA professionals, and the state professional association for behavior analysts (California Association for Behavior Analysis (calaba.org) must work together. Right now the voices of parents and family members are the most important. Let your families know that services for their children are at risk.

Call to Action for Parents

  1. Get organized. Share resources and ideas. A few parents can do many things but they can't do it all. Divide up areas of responsibility and communicate with each other. If parents work together, programs can be preserved.

  2. Stay informed. Sign up for legislative alerts at Marty Omoto's CDCAN (cdcan.info) California Disabilities Action Network. You can also watch the Senate hearings on calchannel.com.

  3. Attend the Senate Budget Subcommittee #3 hearing on Health and Human Services in Sacramento in the State Capitol (Room 4203) on Thursday, February 10, at 9:30 in State Capitol Room 4203. Speak up about the terrible effects of the proposed $750,000,000 cuts to Regional Center budgets. The hearing is scheduled to last 4 hours. Public input time may be limited to a minute or less due to the very large showing expected.

  4. Call or send letters TODAY (sample letter) to the Senate Budget Subcommittee members on Health and Human Services. Members of this committee are:

    Chair: Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (Democrat – Walnut Creek)

    Democratic Members (2): Elaine Alquist, and Mark DeSaulnier

    Republican Member (1): Bill Emmerson

    CDCAN COMMENT: DeSaulnier, who has not served before on this subcommittee, replaces Sen. Mark Leno (Democrat – San Francisco), who now chairs the full Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee (who in turn replaced Sen. Denise Ducheny who was termed out last year). See suggested talking points for public meetings and letters.

  5. Call or send letters TODAY to your local State Senate and Assembly Members (sample letter). Go to http://192.234.213.69/smapsearch/framepage.asp to find out the names and contact information for the elected representatives who represent you and who can protect these services. Ask for meetings with them and their staff to discuss the situation.

  6. Arm yourself with good data and compelling talking points. Learn the facts. Budget cuts must occur. But not all budget cuts are equal. Ask that the budget recognize that ABA treatments supervised by appropriately trained professionals are cost effective. Urge that funds not be wasted on treatments that have not been proven effective.

    Over 300 studies in peer-reviewed journals have shown that ABA can produce effective, significant benefits to individuals with autism and developmental disabilities. Other studies have shown that these treatments actually SAVE money. Budget cuts are inevitable but they should not include services that research has proven effective and will actually result in long term savings. Include these points in your letters and conversations.

    Several national and state level task forces have evaluated the effectiveness treatments for autism. These include efforts by the National Autism Center (National Standards Report nationalautismcenter.org/affiliates) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid for the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services (impaqint.com/publications/project-reports). Their findings reflect those in the peer-reviewed literature: intervention and treatments based on ABA have the strongest evidence of their effectiveness and ability to consistently produce meaningful benefits to children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.

    In your letters, urge officials to use these guidelines when deciding what services to fund.

  7. Talk to family, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances about what budget cuts to DDS will really mean to you and your family. Explain how ABA intervention, including early intensive ABA treatment, saves money. Legislators propose cuts because they are in a tough spot and believe that voters will accept them. We need to make the effects of these cuts “real” and turn voter apathy into community support for effective, cost-saving treatments.

State Level Officials and Contact Information

Position Name Contact Information
Governor Jerry Brown State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 445-2841
Fax: (916) 558-3160
Senate Pro Tem Darrel Steinberg State Capitol, Room 205
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone (916) 651-4006
Fax: (916) 323-2263
Speaker Assembly Pro Tem John A. Perez Capitol
P.O. Box 942849
Room 219
Sacramento, CA 94249-0046
Tel: (916) 319-2046
Fax: (916) 319-2146
Chair, Senate Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services Mark DeSaulnier, State Senator (Democrat) State Capitol, Room 5035
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 651-4007
Fax: (916) 445-2527
Member, Senate Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services Elaine Alquist, State Senator (Democrat) State Capitol, Room 5080
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 651-4013
Fax: (916) 324-0283
Member, Senate Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services Bill Emmerson, State Senator (Republican) State Capitol, Room 4082
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 651-4037
Fax: (916) 327-2187
Secretary, California Department of Health and Human Services Diana Dooley California Health and Human Services
1600 Ninth Street, Room 460
Sacramento, CA 95814
Director, Department of Developmental Services Terri Delgadillo 1600 9th Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
State Senate Representative http://192.234.213.69/smapsearch/framepage.asp
State Assembly Representative http://192.234.213.69/smapsearch/framepage.asp


Suggested Talking Points

  1. Tell them that you are a parent, family member, of a child with autism.

  2. Say that your child receives ABA (applied behavior analysis) treatment based on a science with proven results and that these treatments will actually save the state money.

  3. Tell about your child's needs and his or her progress because of ABA funded by regional centers.

  4. Ask them to protect funding for ABA intervention so that services continue at the levels needed to ensure greater independence as teenager and adult and save the state money.

  5. Keep it short and respectful but show your passion and commitment to children with autism spectrum disorders and their vital ABA services.


    1. Explain that ABA provided by professionals with training and certification in ABA needs to continue.

    2. Explain that the scientific evidence shows that early intervention works to improve lives and brings about changes in IQ, language, and self-help skills. See Howard, Sparkman, Cohen, Green, & Stanislaw (2005) and Cohen, Amerine-Dickens, & Smith (2006).

    3. Point out that on average the State of California will pay more than $3,000,000 for each and every adult for lifetime services with autism for basic care. Bottom line: Intensive early Intervention based on applied behavior analysis is a smart investment. See also Jacobson, Mulick, & Green, 1998; Chasson, G.S., Harris, G. E., & Neely, W. J. (2007).


  6. Eliminate funding for interventions and treatments whose effectiveness has not been proved by well-documented scientific findings.