Thursday, March 29, 2012

Vision Therapy as a Related Service

Is your child entitled to vision therapy as a related service at school?  It depends. 
Vision therapy helps a child with low vision to develop residual vision, use low-vision aids effectively, and enhance auditory skills.  However, there is no mention of vision therapy in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 2004, or in the 2006 Part B regulations, or in the U.S. Department of Education’s analysis of the Part B regulations.  Because vision therapy is usually provided under the supervision of a licensed optometrist, some school districts consider it a medical service that they are not required to provide.  Many school districts simply argue that it is not a recognized related service under the IDEA and refuse to consider it.  However, occasionally a school district will agree to provide vision therapy if it can be shown that the therapy is necessary for the student to receive a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).  Because the IDEA defines "related services" to include "such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services as are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education," an argument can be made that vision therapy qualifies as a related service if a student's visual impairment has an adverse effect on his education, even with correction.  There does not appear to be consistency among Arizona school districts and charter schools in their analyses and findings.  But vision therapy ought to be provided if it is necessary for your child to receive FAPE, that is, to benefit from his or her special education.  Vision therapy should be available as a related service when necessary for a student to benefit academically.

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