Great news! According to an article in the Washington Post this weekend, Representative Jim Moran (D-Va.) introduced a bill in Congress that would establish a program to train teachers who work with children on the autism spectrum.
It makes sense, given the rise in prevalence, that general education teachers learn about the ins and outs of ASD and the various ways it can affect a student’s learning.
What I like about the bill is that not only is training required but it looks like parents themselves will have some say in the programs that are developed on the local level. It won’t be just education experts.
Now the challenge will be making sure that kids on the spectrum are identified as such. You see, the bill states that the programs are intended for school districts where at least ten percent of the special-education population are children identified as having an autism spectrum disorder. But we have seen how reluctant schools are to make this designation. Even when we bring in diagnoses from private psychologists—diagnoses confirmed by a psychiatrist and a treating pediatrician with experience in ASD—the district demands that it perform its own evaluation by a school psychologist. And the school psychologist always seems to approach evaluations from a highly skeptical perspective.
Still, this bill is a good step forward. We have had enough teachers who have refused to consider ASD as part of the reason for one or another of our children’s academic challenges. Instead, they have chosen either to browbeat our kids for their lack of focus or to dismiss them as having below average intelligence—despite reports to the contrary from private evaluations. If these teachers simply understood the ins and outs of this disorder, they would adjust not only their attitudes but their teaching methods as well.
You can be sure I’m going to be following this bill as it makes its way through Congress. I also intend to let our own representative know about it and encourage his endorsement. Now, if only I knew what percentage of Saint Johns County special-ed kids are identified as ASD. I guess that’s my next step. Wish me luck!