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Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder to Lawmakers: "Help Us"

Wayne Yoshioka

They represent one percent of Hawai’i’s public school population and their parents want them to be the best that they can be. HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka has their story.


Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Hawai'i Association of Behavior Analysis legislative chair, Amanda Kelly, supports more licensed professionals in public schools

There are 19-hundred students with Autism Spectrum Disorder – ASD -- enrolled in Hawai’i public schools.   But only 335 ASD students receive behavioral analysis services from a licensed professional.  Amanda Kelly, legislative chair for the Hawai’i Association for Behavior Analysis, says the Department of Education is to blame.


“The Department of Education does provide behavioral health services and there are many respectable team members.  However, the department has testified that they currently do not have licensed behavior analyst positions and they do not allow providers on campus and nor do they provide fundamental service themselves.”


Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Special education teacher, Momi Robins Makaila, says special education teachers also provide behavioral analysis
Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Maile Rogers wants in-school ABA services for her 7 year-old son

The DOE would like lawmakers to clarify the in-school service requirement for applied behavior analysis or ABA.  Special Education Teacher and autism consultant, Momi Robins Makaila, supports the bill because it does not exclude teachers who are not board certified or licensed behavior analysts.


“In my interpretation, the language no longer allows the education system to be hijacked by other professionals who claim the exclusive rights to analyze and change behavior, which is an integral part of our job as special educators.”


The bill allows the DOE two more years to provide licensed behavior analysis services.  Maile Rogers has son who was diagnosed with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity and mood disorders.  She says the DOE only provided roadblocks and took disciplinary actions against her son.


“My little 7 year-old just wants help.  We have ABA providers at home but it doesn’t help with the things he’s encountering in a school setting.  We can’t possibly recreate that in our house.  He needs to have these things in school.”


Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Geri and Luke Pinnow have been testifying before the legislature for a number of years advocating ABA services for autistic students


Legislation signed into law mandating licensing for ABA therapists…and paid health insurance coverage for students with autism was named for Luke Pinnow as Luke’s Law.  But, the 17 year-old never received ABA treatment and will soon graduate without a high school diploma.  He wants to know why?


“Why are they making us the enemy?  They should help not hurt us.  I am talking for kids who can’t talk.  You should help us instead.  Please help us.”


For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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