Children on the spectrum in Pennsylvania have long been denied what I believe to be a fundamental right to receive Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services through the state’s Medical Assistance program. Just as our constitution provides a right to life, liberty, privacy and other fundamental needs, I believe it also grants such a right to ABA. For many children on the spectrum, whose ability to effectively communicate with the outside is completely or almost nonexistent, ABA is the key to unlocking the door to the outside world.
I have brought several lawsuits against the Department of Human Services (DHS) challenging the byzantine system they set up; a system designed to block at every turn children with ASD who come to the Medical Assistance program with a valid prescription seeking ABA. The Disability Rights Network recently settled a Class Action lawsuit against the state. The settlement requires DHS to take several steps which should hopefully lead to future applicants to receive ABA through the Medical Assistance program. However, implementation of those steps will take 1-2 years and even then, the functional outcome remains unclear. Further, in the meantime, their are many children out there who desperately need ABA, and who are not receiving these services despite being eligible through Medical Assistance. If you know such a child, please let me know.
I have met three separate parents in the last week whose child on the spectrum had a 504 plan rather than an IEP. In each instance, the parent wanted an IEP, but were told by the district that their child did not qualify. Any child on the spectrum qualifies under the IDEA for the IEP process so long as their ASD effects their ability to learn in any way. There is a wealth of literature out there proving the many ways that ASD effects learning.
Know your child’s rights. To qualify, the child must 1) have an “educational disability,” and 2) need special education as a result of that disability. There are 13 recognized categories of educational disability, including Autism, Specific Learning Disabilities, or a diagnosed emotional disturbance.
Many families of children with ASD need ABA, rely on ABA programs’ ability to offer proactive services that help their children gain a measure of independence. To date, Medical Assistance only covers a small sub-section of ABA-type services, and generally refuses to pay for many truly necessary services. However, parents are starting to fight back, challenging the lack of ABA services. Recent litigation against the Department of Public Welfare, asking that Medical Assistance cover ABA services is also creating pressure that may lead to a helpful resolution of this problem. If anyone out there is in this situation and needs help, please feel free to contact Marc Davies at Marc@yourchildsrights.com