House Oks McNamara bill to end ban on speech therapy for children over 9 years old
STATE HOUSE —The House of Representatives today passed legislation introduced by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) that would include speech pathology under the umbrella of special education.
The bill (2022-H 7273) would provide that for purposes of providing special education services to students with disabilities, “special education” would include speech-language pathology services for students, and the provision of speech-language pathology services would not cease or be terminated solely because the child has attained 9 years of age or greater.
“Rhode Island is the only state in the union that ends speech pathology for students who are 9 years old,” said Representative McNamara. “It was put in place by the Board of Regents many years ago, and it’s a horrible disparity for children who need those services. The plans and therapies these students receive should be based on the assessments and evaluations of licensed speech pathologists, not an arbitrary age rule.”
The bill is supported by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union. Both groups submitted written testimony to the House Education Committee in favor of the bill.
“This restriction is unique to Rhode Island,” said Judy Rich, president of ASHA. “Decisions about services for students with communication disorders should not be limited by a student’s age, but rather driven by a student’s unique needs as identified in the Individualized Education Program.”
The measure now moves to the Senate, where similar legislation (2022-S 2570) has been introduced by Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick).