Assembly OKs bill to extend speech therapy in schools
STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly today approved legislation sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Hanna M. Gallo and House Education Committee Chairman Joseph M. McNamara to allow speech therapy services to be provided in school to children who need them, regardless of age.
The legislation (2022-S 2570, 2022-H 7273), which now heads to the governor for consideration, includes speech-language pathology services under the umbrella of special education, and specifies that speech-language pathology services will not be terminated solely because a child has attained 9 years of age or greater. The bill is supported by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union.
“As a speech pathologist, I see many children who are still in need of speech therapy when they are 9 or older. There’s such a wide range in the needs of children. Services need to be provided according to each individual child’s needs and progress, not cut off at a predetermined age, particularly one that is so young,” said Senator Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick), who works as a speech language pathologist for the Cranston Public Schools.
Said Representative McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston), “Rhode Island is the only state in the union that ends speech pathology for students who are 9 years old. 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.”