CINCINNATI (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that Ohio health authorities must begin providing or paying for an intensive treatment for an autistic 2-year-old whose parents say was denied federally mandated treatment.
Robert and Holly Young of Williamsburg filed a lawsuit in Cincinnati last month accusing the state of discriminating against children with autism by failing to provide a treatment known as applied behavioral analysis. The ruling this week ordered their son Roman's treatment to be provided or paid for as the case proceeds. It follows an earlier order for provision of basic services.
U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett ordered the Ohio Department of Health and Clermont County's board of developmental disabilities to provide or pay for the intensive therapy of 40 hours a week that costs some $2,750 weekly.
It's the latest development in a case that could affect how other autistic children are cared for in Ohio.
"We're just overjoyed," Holly Young told The Cincinnati Enquirer on Tuesday. "We're so excited, so hopeful."
The Department of Health won't comment on the lawsuit, but a spokesman has said federal guidelines don't specifically require states to provide applied behavioral analysis. The lawsuit came just days before Gov. John Kasich expressed his support of a plan for the state to require health insurance companies to cover therapy and treatment for children with autism starting in 2014.
The ruling is complicated because Roman, who was diagnosed with moderate to severe autism, turns 3 next week. He will be covered under a different part of the law applying to older children with disabilities, but that doesn't affect the provision of intervention services, Barrett concluded.
In issuing the temporary order, the judge found that the Youngs established a likelihood of success on their claims that the Ohio health department and Clermont board violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Under the 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 said the state repeatedly denied their requests for the intensive therapy, offering just two hours of speech therapy a month. They say autism experts had recommended Roman get more than 40 hours of the intensive treatment a week, much of it one-on-one with a therapist.
The lawsuit seeks more than $3 million in compensatory damages for the Young family and a declaration that the state "systemically violates the rights of infants and toddlers with disabilities when it unilaterally and categorically excludes certain intensive early intervention services."
Associated Press writer Kantele Franko contributed in Columbus.