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Knoxville, TN: Parents call for ABA therapists in classrooms; "district has refused"

Feb 8, 2023, NBC10, Knoxville, TN: Some Knox Co. parents advocate for more therapists in classrooms to help students with autism

The parents are asking Knox County Schools to allow a therapy called Applied Behavioral Analysis to help students with behavioral issues.
Hundreds of students with autism attend schools across Knox County. A group of parents is pushing the district to include more therapists in classrooms to work with those students.

So far, those parents say the district has refused.

Sandy Bush is a mother of two and Cameron is her youngest. She has been pushing to bring the therapy she says he needs to Knox County Schools.

It's called Applied Behavior Analysis and it can be used in schools. As part of the therapy, students work with a practitioner one-on-one. Practitioners of ABA therapy usually need to get additional training on top of their usual training in college….

With ABA therapy, Bush said there is less of a risk while in school. However, she said KCS denied her request because they don't allow it. They released a statement about how they approach special education services for students….

Knox County Schools has and will always provide any service agreed upon by an IEP team. If an IEP team agrees that a service not provided by KCS is necessary for a student to benefit from special education services, then KCS will explore providers and enter into an MOU with that organization that allows them to provide services. KCS does have behavior support services, and many students receive those services.

"It would be very similar to children having physical therapy, or occupational therapy, which are in all schools. But ABA specifically deals with this behavior," she said.

She also said that their insurance covers the therapy.

"When you have a child that can't speak to you, and then you have the school saying they don't allow anyone that doesn't work for the county to come in, it does make you feel like maybe there's something they don't want people to see," she said.

She said that she hopes parents can work together with Knox County Schools to help provide therapies for children. Another parent said that around ten other school systems allow outside providers, including Oak Ridge Schools and Jefferson County Schools.

KCS said that if a special team agrees a specific service is needed for a student, they would "explore providers."


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