I-Team: Nevada Requires CCSD to Provide Autism Services

LAS VEGAS -- Autistic students who need in-home behavioral therapy will now receive it free of charge, according to the Nevada Department of Education.

The decision follows the department's review of autism services at the Clark County School District.

Autism is a developmental disorder characterized by social, communication and behavioral challenges.

The education department concluded that the district is in violation of state and federal law and that it must submit a plan to fix the problem within the next 30 days.

LINK: Nevada's Decision to Require Autism Services

For students with autism and their families, the decision could mean a more streamlined and less costly approach to helping children get the services they need.

Diego Medina is one of 88 autistic students who receives in-home therapy through the school district that focuses on his behavior in the classroom.

According to the district, it has 4,000 autistic students.

Currently, Diego's parents must pay for his therapy up front and then apply to be reimbursed by the district at a lesser rate.

The district long considered the in-home services outside the scope of a free public education.

But in response to a complaint filed by the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, the state Department of Education disagreed.

It found that under the law, if a student needs the services, the district must provide them in a timely manner and at no cost to parents.

"We have been working on this issue for months and months and seen the frustrated parents and children being denied the tools they need to succeed and change their lives," said Barbara Buckley of the Legal Aid Center. "What we see in the future is a lot more progress being made, a lot sooner -- critical progress for our children."

Diego's mother credits his in-home therapy with her son's ability to communicate his basic needs. She said he didn't say his first word until his was four-and-a-half years old.

According to the school district, its legal department is reviewing the state's decision and it could not immediately comment.


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