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NYS Board Of Regents Strikes Down Autism Mandates

LAKE GROVE, N.Y. (CBS 2) -- Some parents of children with autism say New York is making a huge mistake.

CBS 2's Tony Aiello reports the state Board of Regents on Tuesday voted down a long-time rule that mandated speech and language services for autistic kids.

Aiello went to a school in Suffolk County on Tuesday and learned that five days a week youngsters Tyler and Sammy receive speech therapy as part of a program for students with autism.

The daily schedule was mandated by the state -- until now.

"My fear is that without these reasonable mandates in place, most districts will walk away from the table and tell parents 'we don't do speech here,'" said Louis Conte of the Autism Action Network.

Conte has two sons with autism and he's upset over the Board of Regents' decision to end mandated speech therapy in New York.

For more than 20 years the Regents said kids with autism had to receive five-day-a-week therapy and students who qualified for so-called "related services" had to get two days a week of speech and language.

However, Conte said he fears without a mandate from Albany, "the district plans to eliminate them; they won't pay for them."

But the principal at the school where Sammy and Tyler get services said it's not about money; it's about flexibility. Ken Gutmann said he believes autism is a spectrum of related disorders and not every autistic kid needs speech services five days a week.

"There were instances – a lot of instances -- where students were missing out on other programs, missing out on valuable classroom time, because they were required to attend a service which they may not need," Gutmann told Aiello.

New York appears to be the only state that has mandated a minimum level of speech and language therapy for students with autism. Districts are still required to evaluate each student and develop a speech and language schedule that meets their individual needs.

Some in the autism community are also upset the Regents will allow 14 students in certain special education classes. The previous limit was 12.

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