Office of Developmental Programs

| General | Resources | How YOU Can Support Consumers' Communication | Communication Support Groups


Office of Developmental Programs (

An office of Pennsylvania's Department of Public Welfare, the mission for the Office of Developmental Programs is to provide individuals with mental retardation, autism, and their families the services and supports they need and the opportunity to make real choices about living, working and options for social activities to enable them to live in and participate fully in the life of their communities. Click here to access ODP's website.

Communication Supports and Services Bulletin
ODP released the "Communication Supports and Services Bulletin" to establish a policy that provides access to communication supports and services for consumers who have complex communication needs, or do not use spoken language to communicate. For more information about the Communication Bulletin, view a whole page of info here.

Service Descriptions
Consumers and teams often have difficulty knowing HOW to pursue the communication services need. Speech therapy (including augmentative communication) services are often provided by multiple agencies. As a summary:
  • Medicaid (base, ACCESS, state plan) OR Managed Care Organization (e.g., Keystone Mercy, Health Partners)
    • A referral for speech therapy should come from the consumer's Primary Care Physician (PCP) to show that services are "Medically Necessary"
    • The speech-language pathologist needs to be an "in-network" provider
    • Generally covers 24 visits
  • Medicare or Private Insurance (e.g., Blue Cross Blue Shield)
    • Similar to Medicaid - number of visits may vary
  • State ODP Waivers (i.e., Consolidated, Person/Family Directed Support)
    • Must show that above resources have already been used (payer of last resort)
      • "Therapy Services must be provided under the MA State Plan including EPSDT, Medicare and/or private insurance plans until the plan limitations have been reached and documentation is secured by the Supports Coordinator."
        • For the full service definition for the "Extended State Plan" click here (PDF file)
      • Supports Coordinator can "document" by writing a Case Note that the claim was submitted to insurance and no response was received within an appropriate time period for processing (e.g., 4-6 weeks)
        • A written denial from the insurance company is NOT required
    • Should cover additional visits (beyond the original 24 funded through insurance), as medically necessary


Picture of "Everyone Communicates" brochure

Communication Brochure Released

As part of the Quality Improvement Initiative on Communication, the Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) Communication Work Group developed a brochure to raise awareness about communication and resources available for Pennsylvanians with complex communication needs.

Click here (PDF file) to view/download.

Everyone Can Communicate

College of Direct Support - PA (
This online class is offered by the College of Direct Support (CDS) and is designed to give Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) the skills needed to become effective communication partners, empower the people they support and enhance their self-determination. Communication is a process with specific components that are both formal and informal. This course is designed to help you see how people can and do communicate with and without using words or speech. Class participants will learn to overcome communication barriers, strategies for enhancing communication, and to identify individual communication styles and preferences. This course is introductory to augmentative and alternative communication tools and approaches.

The full course description as well as other courses offered by the CDS can be accessed by clicking here.
  • Individuals and families can take the course by contacting ocs-odponlinehelp@odpconsulting.netto register. There is no charge for individuals and their families currently receiving support and services through their local Intellectual Disabilities/Mental Retardation Office.
  • Providers need to verify that their agency is registered with CDS to take the course. If the agency is not registered, providers need to contact the management staff to discussing the agency joining. For more information or further questions please contact

How YOU Can Support Consumers' Communication

The Office of Developmental Programs advocates for effective communication for all its consumers, across the Commonwealth.

Here is an outline of the process for requesting and documenting communication services and supports, originally written for Supports Coordinators in Philadelphia.
Download the PDF or Word file to print and share!

Steps for Supporting Consumers’ Communication
  1. The team (IFSP, IEP, or ISP) should address any communication concerns at a meeting and discuss areas of need and possible goals and outcomes for communication.
  2. If the team feels that the individual is in need of communication assistance, a release should be signed by the individual, allowing information to be shared with outside sources.
  3. The Supports Coordinator (SC) can help the team explore local resources for communication, including: If a formal assessment is needed, contact local qualified professionals (licensed speech-language pathologists). For information about Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) providers in your area, see the AAC Providers page (
    • Brainstorm ideas to support better communication via informal communication reviews (e.g., Technical Assistance from Networks for Training and Development).
    • Explore assistive technology (AT) devices. For AT Device Demonstrations &/or loans across the Commonwealth, contact Pennsylvania’s Initiative on Assistive Technology – PIAT (; 800-204-7428,
  4. As a result of the team’s efforts (informal use of community resources &/or formal assessments), recommendations should be written with strategies to assist the individual in communicating to the best of his/her ability.
  5. The SC should receive a copy of written recommendations and distribute it to all team members.
  6. A follow-up team meeting should be held to discuss the recommendations and supports.
  7. The team should decide how to move forward and continue to work on goals and outcomes. This should all be documented in the Communication section of the individual’s plan. If ongoing communication services or supports are being requested, there should be a separate communication outcome or goal.
  8. If the team (including the AAC provider) has identified an appropriate communication device, PIAT may be contacted to assist with questions about funding, receiving, and/or using assistive technology devices.
    • There are also sources for previously owned equipment (which may be available at no cost or at a reduced cost). Contact Reused and Exchanged Equipment Partnership – REEP (; 800-204-7428,

Remember: Everyone Can Communicate
Sometimes, all it takes is the willingness and creativity of a team to come up with ideas using everyday items to enhance someone’s ability to communicate.


View these presentations (below) for ideas on what YOU can do for communication:
  • PDF file of "Communication," handout view
  • PDF file of "Communication Takes Two," handout view

For another view of communication, read this poem (Word or PDF file) about the impact of having people who talk and listen to you.Many thanks to Dana Bowser (SC Supervisor, Partnership for Community Supports) for providing this information!

Communication Support Groups

Communication Champions

Philadelphia county - Intellectual disAbility Services (IDS)

Communication Champions is a group of individuals across agencies serving Philadelphians with intellectual disabilities and communication needs. They meet monthly to discuss communication-related topics and work to support individuals to communicate across all settings and environments. They help people to be "heard" in their own "voice."

For more information, contact: Ann Marie Campbell (215-685-5980,

Philadelphia ONLY - Augmentative Communication Evaluations through Institute on Disabilities at Temple

Augmentative Communication Evaluations are available to adults (21+) served by Philadelphia IDS through a contract with the Institute on Disabilities at Temple.

Click here to view more information about these services.

Communication Leadership Council

Montgomery county - Developmental Disabilities Assistance

Communication Leadership Council requests the support and participation of all internal and external stakeholders to enhance communication in Montgomery County. Communication Leaders should be the identified point person (staff persons, direct care workers, supports coordinators, caregivers, or family members) who will be supporting individuals to communicate. Meetings occur quarterly on the 3rd Tuesday of the month in Norristown, PA.

For more information, contact: Danielle Duckett (610-278-1242,

Back to Top

New to the Communicate PA Community? Find out How this Wiki works.Communicate PA wants to help you stay connected! Help Communicate PA improve

This virtual community is funded by the Office of Developmental Programs, Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare and implemented by the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University.