Judge rules in favor of Cincinnati family in autism suit

CINCINNATI - The state of Ohio must provide speech therapy and other services to an autistic Cincinnati boy pending a ruling on a lawsuit that could affect the care that other autistic children receive from the state.

A federal judge issued the order Wednesday in the lawsuit filed last month in U. S. District Court in Cincinnati by Robert and Holly Young, of Williamsburg. They accused the state of denying their 2-year-old son federally mandated treatment and of discriminating against children with autism and their parents by failing to provide them with an intensive treatment known as applied behavioral analysis. Attorneys for the state have argued that federal guidelines don't specifically require states to provide the intensive treatment.

Judge Michael Barrett on Wednesday ordered the state to restore some basic services for the boy that had been terminated, but did not rule on the Youngs' request to provide the applied behavioral analysis. The judge indicated he would rule quickly on that request, which would require 46 hours of therapy at a cost of about $2,750 a week, the Youngs' attorney, Richard Ganulin said Thursday.

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

"The state did not provide the services the child needs to put him on the path to self-sufficiency," Ganulin said. "Instead the state pushed him down the path of dependency."

The attorney representing the state, Lyndsay Atkins Nash, and attorney general spokesman Mark Moretti declined Thursday to comment on pending litigation, referring requests for comment to the state's filings in the lawsuit.

The Youngs have said that the state refused to provide the more comprehensive therapy and retaliated in the wake of their complaints by stopping all services to their son in August. The state said in a filing that the couple would not sign its development plan and consent form that it says is required by law to continue the services.

Holly Young said Thursday that the state's plan was "more deficient than the initial one" and included no mention of the applied behavioral analysis.

State officials have said that the state provides several treatments but doesn't provide the more intensive therapy that they insist is not required by the federal guidelines.

Holly Young said Thursday that the more intensive therapy was recommended by an autism expert at the Cleveland Clinic. She said her son was diagnosed with moderate to severe autism in February of 2012 and that the couple is on the brink of bankruptcy from trying to provide their son with the help he needs.

"It's been draining physically, emotionally and in all areas," Young said. "It's been the hardest thing we've ever gone through."

The lawsuit is seeking more than $3 million in compensatory damages 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."

The lawsuit was filed 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.
 

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