PPS will hear appeal filed by parents over autism program

by Lashay Wesley, KATU News

The Portland Public Schools board meets Tuesday, March 6, 2018. (KATU Photo)


The Portland Public School Board agreed Tuesday to accept an appeal filed by parents of students with autism.

Parents told KATU News they filed an appeal because their children’s Applied Behavior Analysis therapist was excluded from working with them in the classroom.

Applied Behavior Analysis therapy, known commonly as ABA, is a type of personal therapy that helps guide people with autism.

“These techniques can be used in structured situations such as a classroom lesson as well as in ‘everyday’ situations such as family dinnertime or the neighborhood playground. Some ABA therapy sessions involve one-on-one interaction between the behavior analyst and the participant,” according to Autism Speaks.

Anna Lawler’s son is a fourth-grader at Access Academy. She said he is on the autism spectrum.

“Our child, the best way I can describe it, is like a jack-in-the box. You wind him up and he can hold it together. In a perfect environment everything is great. He comes home and just unloads,” Lawler said.

In September 2017, a month after the school year started, she said she got a call from the district saying it was enforcing a policy and would no longer allow ABA therapists into classrooms.

“For our child it’s been instrumental and our teachers have always embraced it,” she said.

The ABA therapy, she said, was covered by her son’s health insurance, not by the district.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the school board said they could not say what the appeal was about. The meeting agenda also didn’t explain what was behind the appeal.

Dave Northfield, a district spokesperson, told KATU News the district could not talk about the appeal because of possible litigation. He did say parents were informed of the policy prior to the start of the school year.

“The district understands that this is a very emotional issue for parents and they don’t want to see change and the final resolution is probably about a month away,” Northfield said.

Paul Terdal, a parent of two children with autism who attend Access Academy, told KATU News he filed a legal complaint with the district on Dec. 29. He said the issue could result in a lawsuit.