Sides partially settle special needs lawsuit

Posted: Updated:

Orange County has settled part of a lawsuit that accuses the county of coming up short in services for special-needs children, like those with autism.

Michele Thompson, from Montgomery, is part of the suit. Her 3-year-old daughter, Lilly, is autistic. Thompson says the county's Early Intervention program wasn't giving Lilly enough time with a speech therapist. Middletown mom Jessica Whateley thinks more could've been done for her 4-year-old daughter Samantha. Whateley says the county's Early Intervention program workers hesitated to even diagnose Samantha with autism.

One issue both sides have come to an agreement on has to do with the therapists' caseloads. Previously, the county required therapists it worked with to treat at least five children. Parents say that's a stiff requirement, since each autistic child can demand a lot of attention. They say the five-child minimum created a dearth of providers to treat special-needs kids.

As part of the settlement, therapists no longer have minimum caseloads as they did before, which will allow more time for individual children. Orange County attorney David Darwin confirms the two sides have come to some agreements, but feels the lawsuit is unnecessary. Darwin says there are procedures in place to address the concerns of parents about the care their children are receiving.

The rest of the lawsuit is in the hands of a federal judge.

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