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Children with Autism Regain Important Therapy Through Class Action Lawsuit

Last summer, over 200 low-income children with autism were dealt a blow when the East Los Angeles Regional Center (ELARC) threatened to cut off their floortime therapy - a therapy that helps build critical communication and social interaction skills. 

When the state legislature cut funding for experimental therapies, ELARC decided to cut floortime, claiming it was experimental.  Concerned parents reached out to Public Counsel and volunteer attorneys at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP to fight the proposed cut.  The parents argued that this therapy (known as Developmental, Individual Difference, Relationship-based treatment, or "DIR"), makes a critical difference in their children's lives - in some cases enabling children to speak and play with others for the first time.  This cut "threatened to condemn our clients and this group of children to a bleak future under institutionalized care," said Laura Faer, Directing Attorney of Public Counsel's Children's Rights Project.

In January, 2010, Public Counsel and Gibson Dunn attorneys filed a class-action lawsuit to stop the elimination of the floortime therapy.  They argued that DIR should not be considered experimental because it is both clinically effective and scientifically proven.  ELARC had been providing the therapy for more than 13 years.

In June 2010, the Los Angeles Superior Court issued a preliminary injunction ordering ELARC to reinstate DIR therapy.  The court has now approved a settlement and issued a final injunction which will ensure that the therapy is continued.  "DIR has successfully treated children with autism in 33 states and in countries throughout the world," said John Sharer, a partner with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP and the leader of the trial team.  "Over the past 20 years, it has substantially improved the quality of their lives and has transformed many of these children into fully-functioning members of society.   This decision ensures that these children continue to receive this vital treatment program and prevents further regression and harm."

Click here to read the English settlement agreement.

Click here to read the Spanish settlement agreement.