Over the last several years, there has been a lot of effort made to improve the amount of access kids with specific disabilities have when it comes to certain types of therapy, including speech therapy. However, some states across the country might not be going far enough to meet those requirements, causing the federal government to issue a warning about giving kids therapy time when they need it.
The U.S. Department of Education recently issued a letter to all states nationwide saying that it has received a large number of concerns that children with autism or who are on the autism spectrum have not had as much access to speech therapy services as they're supposed to, according to a report from Disability Scoop. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence from a number of states nationwide that this might be the case, and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association also submitted inquiries to the department about whether things are being done by the books. In fact, the ASLHA has already praised the Department of Education for its help in clarifying some of the requirements under the law.
What more can be done?
When it comes to assessing the amount of progress these children have made in this regard, many states are leaving speech-language pathologists out of the process, and often aren't even at meetings to determine which services these kids might qualify for under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
"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 [autism spectrum disorder] 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 letter, according to the site.
A closer look
Specifically, in addition to getting these speech therapy professionals more involved in the evaluation and recommendation process, the Department of Education notes that IDEA requires schools to fully evaluate all the ways in which they can help kids with disabilities get the services they need, the report said. This applies to all children, from kindergarten to the end of high school. In the letter, Musgrove stressed that while not all schools are going to use the same methods in this process, the end result has to be the same, as should who is included in the evaluation process.
Access to speech therapy and other services can be vital for kids with disabilities of all kinds, including those with autism. However, some school districts may not employ such professionals because they're not always easy to find in certain parts of the country. For this reason, more may need to be done to help improve the amount of access kids have to therapy services on the part of other entities as well, such as colleges and universities in areas of greatest need.