Parents of autistic boy sue Ohio health department

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 28, 2012 at 3:45 pm •  Published: December 28, 2012
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CINCINNATI (AP) — The parents of an autistic toddler are suing the state Department of Health and others, accusing them of denying their son federally mandated treatment in a case that could affect how other autistic children are cared for in the state.

The lawsuit, filed last week in federal court in Cincinnati, accuses the state of discriminating against children with autism and their parents by failing to provide them with a type of intensive treatment known as applied behavioral analysis.

The lawsuit was filed by Robert and Holly Young, of Williamsburg, about 25 miles east of Cincinnati. The Youngs' 2-year-old son, Roman, was diagnosed with moderate to severe autism a year and a half ago.

"It's been a living nightmare," said Holly Young, a Miami Township police officer. "It's heart-wrenching to know what you need to give your son and you can't provide it, and no one will help. And the people who are supposed to help seem to be turning their backs."

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Act, states are required to provide early intervention services for children with autism, a developmental disorder characterized by difficulties communicating, emotional detachment and excessively rigid or repetitive behavior, among other symptoms. States get federal money to provide the treatment, with the goal of turning children with autism into self-sufficient adults who won't have to depend on public resources.

The Youngs argue that Roman, who doesn't speak and has other difficulties, needs 46 hours of applied behavioral analysis a week, including 33 hours of in-home, one-on-one time with a therapist. That's based on diagnoses and recommendations the Youngs got from various autism experts, including doctors at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital and Dayton-based Trumpet Behavioral Health.

The Youngs say the state has repeatedly denied their requests for the intensive therapy, offering just two hours of speech therapy a month.

"The state is condemning Roman to a life that will not be self-sufficient, that will not minimize his need for special education, and that will not maximize his potential to live independently," according to the lawsuit, filed Dec. 18. "The developmental time lost to Roman due to the state's culpability cannot be regained. Roman is being irreparably harmed for life and the harm mounts daily."

Department of Health spokesman Robert Jennings said Friday he could not comment on the Youngs' case because of the pending legal action. But he said federal guidelines don't specifically require states to provide applied behavioral analysis.

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