The United States Department of Education (ED) has issued guidance in the form of a "Dear Colleague" letter [PDF] regarding services delivered to children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In its letter, the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) recognizes the importance of speech-language pathology services that may be appropriate for students with ASD, and that school systems must ensure that speech-language pathologists and other appropriate professionals are part of the evaluation and IEP/IFSP teams for students with ASD. ED stated 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 (and the child's family in the case of Part C of IDEA)."
The guidance was issued in response to concerns from the field that: a growing number of children with ASD may not be receiving needed speech and language services; that speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and other appropriate professionals may not be included in evaluation and eligibility determinations under IDEA Parts B and C; and that some IDEA programs may be including applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapists exclusively without including SLPs and other appropriate professionals.
OSEP reiterated that under IDEA Part B "each State and its public agencies must ensure that a free appropriate public education (FAPE) is made available to all eligible children with disabilities." ED affirmed that under IDEA Part C, each State must ensure that each eligible infant and toddler with a disability has available early intervention services that are designed to meet their developmental needs as identified by the IFSP team. OSEP referenced and encouraged stakeholders to review relevant guidance from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, "Clarification of Medicaid Coverage of Services to Children with Autism" [PDF] and "Medicaid and CHIP FAQs: Services to Address Autism" [PDF].
For more information on state related issues, please contact Janet Deppe, ASHA's director of state advocacy, at email@example.com or 301-296-5668. For federal related issues, contact Catherine D. Clarke, ASHA's director of education and regulatory advocacy, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-498-2071, ext. 5611.