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Educating Children with Autism
What public policies at the local, state, and federal level will best ensure that individual children with autistic spectrum disorders and their families have access to appropriate education?
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act contains the necessary provisions for ensuring rights to appropriate education for children with autistic spectrum disorders. Yet the implementation and specification of these services are uncertain. The treatment of autistic spectrum disorders often involves many disciplines and agencies, which confuses lines of financial and intellectual responsibility and complicates assessment and educational planning. However, a number of states have successfully addressed some of these challenges and can provide model approaches for doing so.
The committee recommends that coordination across services and funding at federal and state levels should be encouraged through several mechanisms: the creation of a federal joint agency task-force on autistic spectrum disorders; state monitoring of coordination among service delivery systems; minimum standards for personnel in educational and early intervention settings for children with autistic spectrum disorders; and the availability of ombudspersons within school systems who are knowledgeable about autistic spectrum disorders and are independent of the school program. Coordinated, systematic strategies should be developed to fund the interventions that are necessary in local communities for children under age 3 years and in local schools so that this cost is not borne totally by parents or local school systems.
How should personnel who work with children with autistic spectrum disorders be prepared and trained to guarantee a sufficient number of well-qualified specialists and regular teachers and administrators?
The nature of autistic spectrum disorders and other disabilities that frequently occur with them has significant implications for approaches to education and intervention at schools, in homes, and in communities. Approaches that emphasize the use of specific one-size-fits-all packages of materials and methods may understate the multiple immediate and long-term needs of individual students for behavioral support and for instruction across areas. Teachers and other professionals and paraprofessionals who often provide the bulk of service to very young children need familiarity with the course of autistic spectrum disorders and the