The United States Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has entered into the fray over applied behavior analysis therapy (ABA) and in so doing, provides a reminder to school entities that the individual needs of each child must be considered in determining what services, methodology and programing to provide a student with a disability.
In recent years, there has been a growing dispute over the most appropriate way to meet the needs of students on the autism spectrum. While there is research that suggests that ABA often times is an effective service to meet these students’ needs, there is also research that suggests that the needs of students on the autistic spectrum may be met through other methodologies and, even with the provision of ABA, such students should also be provided services in other disciplines, including speech and language services.
OSEP Asked To Comment
OSEP was asked to comment on a growing dispute between ABA supporters and speech and language pathologists. ABA supporters believe that ABA is the service that should be provided to students on the autism spectrum. Conversely, speech and language pathologists believe speech services should be provided at times, but ABA is not a one size fits all service when looking at the needs of students with autism.
OSEP noted that it has received reports that once ABA is provided, often times speech therapists are simply left out of the IEP process all together.
OSEP advised that “ABA therapy is just one methodology used to address the needs of children with [autism spectrum disorder] 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.”
While the guidance from OSEP clearly indicates that school entities should consider both ABA and speech services for students on the autism spectrum, and that one does not cancel out the other, the larger lesson OSEP appears to be hinting at is that in determining how to meet the needs for each student, there is no magic bullet for specific disabilities. LEAs must look at the individual needs of each child in determining what services and program are appropriate for that child.
If you have any questions, contact your legal counsel or one of the education law attorneys at KingSpry.
School Law Bullets are a publication of the school law attorneys of KingSpry’s Education Law Practice Group. John E. Freund, III, is our editor. The article is meant to be informational and does not constitute legal advice.