Changes to Ohio’s Autism Scholarship Program Mean More Students Can Use the Scholarship
July 25, 2023 by Emily Durrell / special education
Beginning October 3, 2023, changes to the Ohio Autism Scholarship in the new Ohio operating budget for the 2024 and 2025 fiscal years will go into effect.
Previously, students qualified for the Autism Scholarship only if they were placed in the autism disability category during their school district’s ETR process.
However, there are now three ways a student can qualify for the Autism Scholarship:
- The school district in which the student is entitled to attend has identified the student as autistic, or the student has been diagnosed with “pervasive developmental disorder - not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS)
- The school district in which the student is entitled to attend school has developed an individualized education program (IEP) for the student which “includes services related to autism”
- The student has been diagnosed as autistic by a physician or a psychologist
In short, any student formally diagnosed as autistic now qualifies for the Autism Scholarship. This is a major change that will make the scholarship accessible to many more families.
The Scholarship will also be accessible to students who, even if they are not formally diagnosed with autism or placed in the autism disability category by their schools, have an IEP which “includes services related to autism.” It is unclear what type of services these may be. Perhaps speech therapy, occupational therapy, or behavioral therapy typically reserved for students with autism are the type of services that might qualify a student for the autism scholarship.
Understanding the Waiver of Rights When you Take the Scholarship
Now that the Autism Scholarship is accessible to more families, it is important to understand your rights when using the Autism Scholarship. Families who take the scholarship lose many protections and rights provided under special education law.
The most critical right lost when using the Scholarship is the right to a FAPE (free, appropriate public education). Schools and providers serving students using the scholarship are not legally required to provide all individualized accommodations, supports, and services that would be required to meet a student’s individualized needs.
Services provided by schools and providers to students using the Scholarship are also not free. If tuition or services rise above the dollar amount provided by the Autism Scholarship, families are required to pay out-of-pocket.
For a more detailed breakdown of how your rights are affected while taking a Special Education Scholarship such as the Autism Scholarship, check out this blog post: www.disabilityrightsohio.org/blog/your-rights-on-the-autism-scholarship-or-the-jon-peterson.