Schools Warned On Speech Services For Kids With Autism

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Preschooler and therapist“Federal education officials are reminding schools not to skimp on needed speech and language services for children with autism.

In a letter to states, officials from the U.S. Department of Education say they’ve heard that an increasing number of kids on the spectrum may not be receiving services from speech-language pathologists at school. Moreover, such professionals are frequently left out of the evaluation process and are often not present at meetings to determine what services a child should receive under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the department said.

Some IDEA programs may be including applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapists exclusively without including, or considering input from, speech-language pathologists and other professionals who provide different types of specific therapies that may be appropriate for children with ASD when identifying IDEA services for children with ASD, wrote Melody Musgrove, director of the Education Department’s Office of Special Education Programs, in the guidance sent this month.

Musgrove said her agency is worried that this issue is impacting students in special education programs serving infants and toddlers as well as K-12 schools.

Under IDEA, schools have an obligation to fully evaluate children with disabilities to assess their specific needs. For young kids, the law requires that the person who conducted the evaluation be included in the team determining what services a child will receive. Meanwhile, for school-age children, the individualized education program, or IEP, team must include a professional who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results, the Education Department guidance said.

We recognize that ABA therapy is just one methodology used to address the needs of children with ASD and remind states and local programs to ensure that decisions regarding services are made based on the unique needs of each individual child with a disability, Musgrove wrote.

The ‘Dear Colleague’ letter came in response to inquiries from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and anecdotal evidence from a handful of states, Education Department officials said.

We very much appreciate this guidance and believe that it will serve to ensure that children receive the appropriate treatment they deserve based on their individual needs, said Judith Page, president of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Elaine Quesinberry, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, said the letter is not yet posted on the agency’s website, but should be soon.”

Schools Warned On Speech Services For Kids With Autism published on 07/28/17 at Disability Scoop.

More Wrightslaw Resources

Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), Asperger Syndrome (AS)

Early Intervention (Part C of IDEA)

Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)

Related Services

  1. My son has HFA (what we used to call Asperger’s Syndrome) and is currently in 9th grade in NYS. When we finally got the correct diagnosis, he was entering 6th and I knew he was entitled to a speech/language evaluation. I grabbed the pertinent info off the web and brought it with me to request the eval (his pragmatic skills are abysmal, so wanted to make sure the district did not deny the eval because he speaks clearly). They were great, and he currently receives speech regularly to support his poor pragmatic skills. I was speaking recently to a friend who’s child also has a spectrum disorder, and has similar issues, about getting a speech eval but cannot find the mandate for it anymore. Has NYS changed their mandates recently (within the past 3 years)?

  2. Can someone please explain to me how a school Ed.D can attempt to change a diagnosis from 2 top psychologists in the field? A little background. 4 year old diagnosed with ASD goes to PreK. Resident Ed.D evaluates her and says she does NOT have ASD she is just spoiled.

  3. Is ABA therapy being provided by schools for children with ASD, at school and as a part of their IEP?

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