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Lawmakers Want More Autism Training For Teachers

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A pair of congressman are pushing for legislation to dramatically enhance training for educators who teach students with autism.

A bill introduced in Congress late last week would establish a five-year federal grant program to allow school districts to team with universities and nonprofits to train general education teachers and other school staff to best support students with autism.

“We’ve learned a lot about autism spectrum disorder over the last 10 years, and over that time period the number of children diagnosed with ASD has grown dramatically,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa. who’s cosponsoring the bill along with U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va. “Consequently, it’s essential that educators are able to take advantage of our rapidly growing knowledge base — and that we increase the number of teachers trained to help autistic students.”

In addition to training educators, the pilot program established under the proposed legislation would also focus on parent involvement and the retention of skilled teachers to better the experience of students with the developmental disability, backers said.

Under the bill, the program would be available in school districts where at least 10 percent of special education students have an autism diagnosis. Participating schools would be required to partner with at least one university and one nonprofit with autism expertise to implement the program.

Known as the “Autism Understanding and Training In School Methodologies for Educators Act of 2012,” it’s unclear when the bill may progress in Congress.

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Comments (6 Responses)

  1. jcg says:

    This initiative sounds like a good plan for educators to implement evidence based practices in school and home settings. I hope the law mandates professional standards and professional qualifications for personnel at partnering non-profits. There is a dearth of misguided loopholes in federal law HR 3082 Sec. 163 passed in secret.

    According to the Public Advocates legal team:
    “a broad coalition of civil rights, disability, parent, student, community and education groups has formed to advocate for repeal of Section 163 of H.R. 3082 and for stronger federal policies to promote teacher quality and equity, especially in the anticipated reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

    Section 163—inserted in the law in the final days of the 111th Congress and without public debate—undermines the federal definition of a “highly qualified teacher” in the No Child Left Behind Act by allowing states to label teachers as “highly qualified” when they are still in training – and, in many cases, just beginning training – in alternative route programs. This misguided federal policy permits intern teachers-in-training to be disproportionately concentrated in schools and classrooms serving low-income students, students of color, English language learners, and students with disabilities, and then allows states and districts to hide this reality from parents and the public when complying with their federal reporting requirements.”

  2. Bumpkin says:

    I have an Autistic child, and he was fortunate enough to be special-schooled by an award-winning Special-Ed teacher for a portion of his childhood, However, that was only for a portion of his childhood. Although as he is an adult now, Autism wasn’t even recognized as a likely diagnosis for the DD kids when he was a baby/child. None of his Docs, -not even the prestigious crew at Doernbecker’s Children’s hospital in the PNW mentioned Autism, even though he is a very classic case. While I love the idea of the Autism Education for the teachers, I have but ONE question: Exactly where are you going to find the money to fund this? America is broke, and it is NOT getting any prettier! I think adding new programs is a bad idea until ‘We’ are actually growing again, and unemployment is eased significantly- and not just in the media, but FOR REAL. The problem with bulling ahead on this education idea is that ultimately, it could make life even much worse for our Autistic kids, by forcing the economy into far worse condition than it is now, causing our Special Ed public to not be able to afford even basic housing or to live a very no-frills, humble existence. As far as I can see, government support for this population is not 100% support- there is only a portion of their financial needs provided, and it is VERY far behind the times in amount provided- Lots of these folk cannot hold a job, and have no marketable skills, and certainly no adequate COLA in their finances. In their lives, most of the time, teachers who understand them better is a big comfort to our Autistic kids and their families, but it will not usually help these folk gain a higher-paying employment after they get out of school. So, in my opinion, the work/ effort needs to actually upgrade the programs that are already in place before they go into new ground.in place

  3. annie says:

    I think this sounds great. Integration is all well and good, but have you ever seen a child with special needs show up to a class with a teacher who doesn’t understand their needs? Being in my early 20′s I still clearly remember high school and the actual downside to integration when proper training is not involved. In the special ed room, children with DD were aided by a few qualified experienced teachers, but they were segregated from the general population which deprived them of that experience. Then integration happened, and YES, students with special needs where sent to class with me, but when teachers didn’t have the training, “that kid,” was always excluded for lack of knowledge on how to include them. Teachers would assume they didn’t have the skills to participate and would leave them to their own devices, just trying to get them through that class period and on to the next teacher. For integration to be truly beneficial teachers need to thoroughly understand the needs and capabilities of their students, autism training would be an ideal start because it is so prevalent and present in every school.

  4. Mary Ashland says:

    For years schools and administrators have used money as an excuse for not providing a Free Appropriate Education in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). Please tell me I am not hearing that money should be even considered when providing appropriate services for people with disabilities. So much money is wasted by the government every day. I am sitting in a $29 M library that opened up in Ellicott City, Maryland in December which has doors that are not accessible by wheel chairs and very limited cell phone service so I can not get calls from my caregiver to let me know that she can’t get my children with special needs off the bus. You can spend the money now to provide the services that people with disabilities need while they are young or you can spend the money latter to provide very intensive services to care for them when they are adults. Early intervention is they key to success for people with disabilities.

  5. Vince says:

    Excellent initiative! Autistic kids grow up to be autistic adults. The best time to prepare them for lifelong successes and active community involvement is during their primary and secondary school years. I most appreciate the emphasis on parental involvement and retention of trained teachers.

    - Father of an adult Autistic son.

  6. Emily Malabey says:

    My question is if anything is mentioned in the bill requiring the same access to a full school day for students with disabilities. There is a systemic nationwide problem wherein so called “special ed schedules” are practiced throughout the public schools, but never published. Often parents are unaware of this practice, or of their children’s educational rights. This outrageous abuse and unlawful discrimination has to stop.

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