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Left to right: Judith Ursitti, Director of State Government Affairs, Autism Speaks; Kate Grandbois, MS, CCC-SLP, BCBA, LABA; Dr. Kerry Davis, CCC/SLP; Senator Patrick O’Connor; MAC Senior Project Director Julia Landau

New MAC priority bill would create new teacher licensure requirements related to communication devices

For the thousands of students in Massachusetts who are nonspeaking or have limited speech, including one-third of children with autism who are nonspeaking, augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices serve a critical need. These devices, which include iPads as well as dedicated speech generating devices, give children the tools they need to communicate with others – critical for learning in school, forming relationships, and alerting others of medical or other emergencies.

Legislation introduced in the Massachusetts state legislature would require all teachers who apply for a Massachusetts educator license to receive instruction on the appropriate use of augmentative and alternative communication devices when teaching students. If signed, this bill will help improve educational outcomes for students who are nonspeaking or who have limited speech, as well as reduce costs for school districts. The legislation, H.403/S.318, An Act to Improve Augmentative and Alternative Communication Opportunities for Children with Disabilities, is sponsored by Rep. Barber and Sen. O’Connor.

MAC has been leading advocacy efforts in support of this critically important legislation. At a hearing at the State House on September 4th, parents, advocates, speech language pathologists, and legislators provided moving testimony, voicing their support for the bill. Dr. Kerry Davis described her experiences working with students whose lives had been transformed by the opportunity to communicate via AAC devices: “Like any of us who go into this field, we are committed to providing the best learning opportunities for our students and patients,” Davis shared, “By making augmentative communications a part of the teacher licensure requirements, they will have yet one more ‘tool in the toolbox’ to help their students learn.”

The bill now moves to a vote by the Joint Committee on Education. Follow MAC on Facebook and Twitter for updates as this bill and our other priority legislation moves through the legislative process.

Click to read complete testimonies from Julia Landau, MAC Senior Project Director; Judith Ursitti, Director of State Government Affairs, Autism Speaks; Kate Grandbois, MS, CCC-SLP, BCBA, LABA; and Dr. Kerry Davis, CCC/SLP. MAC would like to thank Rep. Barber and Sen. O’Connor for filing this important legislation.