Autism one of many problems in schools

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 16, 2007

One in 150 children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. Every day we see the brightly colored puzzle piece ribbons displayed on cars throughout our state.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in February there is no information as to why autism is increasing. Nevertheless, we see more of these children in our schools every day.

ASDs are developmental disabilities that cause substantial impairments in social interaction and communication with others. These conditions all have some of the same symptoms, but they differ in each individual child that is diagnosed.

The complexities start when a child’s eligibility for special education is being determined. The specific needs of the student with autism must be considered when recommending an educational placement for a child. Some students with autism have better success in school when receiving individual support; others benefit from an inclusive setting, while other students may need both. These needs are likely to change as a child gets older.

While all of this sounds confusing, it can also be highly frustrating for a special education teacher trying to work with these students.

Autism is sometimes referred to as a mysterious disorder since the specific cause is still unknown even though we know that education is the primary form of treatment.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act that passed in 1975 gave a very important role to public schools around the country. In 2001, the National Research Council published the book Educating Children with Autism. The information in the book is a compilation of the knowledge regarding best practices in autism education from some of the brightest minds in the country. The question is how much of this have we put into practice here in Alabama?

It is challenging to educate a student with ASD, but the importance of high quality education for a child and the impact it will have on long-term outcomes is undeniable.

Children with ASD need to have the ability to communicate on their own level, which allows them to develop social and emotional skills.

It is important for us to keep in mind that we are learning more and more about the intervention strategies that are useful to the student with ASD. Knowledge is power.

Alabama’s school personnel deserve the most up to date research on intervention strategies so they can implement them effectively in their classrooms. Also, community support is vital to success.

In confronting autism, the principal as well as the teacher, custodian, and crossing guard should all be the on the same page in communicating with the child. A child with autism is best served by a consistent delivery of services throughout the year. At this time, year-round programs are limited due to a lack of state funding. We must work to change this.

Your input at Alabama Autism Task Force meetings is crucial. The deliberations are open to the public, and all are welcome.

If you don’t know a student who has autism now, chances are you will soon. If you would like more information on the Alabama Autism Task Force you can visit or go to

Educators are a vital piece of the puzzle in finding the best way to teach children with autism.

Our greatest hope for bringing about real success for these students is the communication of parents, educators and legislators in Alabama working together to find much needed answers for this growing challenge