personnel that they have available, rather than the treatment that the child needs. Courts have been well aware that the presumed equality of parents in the process of developing an IEP often is not observed, and that some schools have tried to present their version of an IEP plan whether or not the parents really agreed.
Intensity of treatment has become a major source of contention in the courts for cases of children with autism. Many parents, convinced of the benefits of applied behavioral analysis techniques and of Lovaas-type therapies (Lovaas, 1987), have sued the school systems so that their child could receive the intense treatments (25–40 hours a week) that such therapies require. Hearing officers and the courts have determined that the degree of intensity should depend on the needs of an individual child. In many of these cases, the schools have countered with a suggestion of fewer hours of therapy and more in-class activities. The setting for the treatment program has become another issue, since IDEA stresses that the services should be provided in the least restrictive environment, while many parents wish to have home-based service provided.
At the present time, IDEA serves as the basic education legislation that provides support for children with disabilities, which clearly includes children with autistic spectrum disorders. Some advocates have proposed special legislation dealing only with children with autism, but two objections have been raised. First, there is substantial doubt that legislation dealing with such a small segment of the populace would receive favorable treatment. It took many years, with the entire disability community behind it, to reach the current level of support for IDEA. Second, there is little reason to believe that the language in IDEA is the source of the problem. It is a “disability neutral” piece of legislation, and it appears that it is the way the current law is being implemented that raises questions about services for children with autistic spectrum disorders, not the provisions of the law itself. Another law would likely have the same problems of implementation as IDEA.
The 1997 amendments to IDEA (P.L. 105–17) did include some specific references to children with autism, including provisions for outcome-based education, greater access to the general curriculum, clarification of discipline provisions, and creation of a rebuttable presumption in favor of functional behavioral assessment and positive behavioral interventions and supports. This addition of special sections and amendments to the base legislation to deal with the special problems of children with autism is an appropriate strategy to follow in the future.
Parents and advocates for children with autistic spectrum disorders sometimes question whether the general facilities made available for chil-