sed seal                                                                                                 

 

 

THE STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT / THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK / ALBANY, NY 12234

 

TO:

EMSC-VESID Committee

 

FROM:

Rebecca H. Cort   signature

 

SUBJECT:

Education programs and services for students with autism, including Aspergers Syndrome

DATE:

November 16, 2007

STRATEGIC GOAL:

1 & 2

AUTHORIZATION(S):

 

 

 

SUMMARY

 

Issue for Discussion

 

Education programs and services for students with autism, including students with Aspergers Syndrome.

 

Reason for Consideration

 

For information.  This item was on the October Regents schedule but due to time constraints, we were not able to complete the discussion of it.  It is being brought back for further discussion and to answer any questions the Committee members may have.

 

Proposed Handling

 

Review and recommendations

 

Procedural History

 

Autism is a developmental disability significantly affecting a child’s verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction.  The State rules and regulations most directly related to the education of students with autism include:

 

 

In 1978, section 3 of Chapter 410 (an unconsolidated law) required the State Education Department (SED) to promulgate regulations relating to education programs for students with autism.  The Regents adopted section 200.13 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education to require that students with autism:

 

 

These rules were developed at a time when autism was best understood to include students with significant cognitive and language disabilities.  Within the past decade, there has been a better understanding and diagnoses of the spectrum of autism related disabilities, including Asperger’s Syndrome. 

 

Chapter 143 of the Laws of 2005 directs the Commissioner to prescribe regulations that require training in the needs of students with autism be provided to school administers/supervisors working in special education and authorizes the Commissioner to require training of teachers in the area of children with autism. 

 

In alignment with federal and State requirements for placement in the least restrictive environment, section 200.7 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education establishes the program approval process for private schools serving students with disabilities, including those that may be approved to serve students with autism, to require documentation of regional need and sufficient evidence to establish that the proposed program will serve only those students who, because of the nature or severity of their disability, would require a separate facility.

 

Background Information

 

Autism, as defined in section 200.1 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education, means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age 3, which adversely affects a student’s educational performance. Characteristics often associated with autism also include engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or changes in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences.  The spectrum of autism has, within the last decade, included students with Asperger’s Syndrome.  A student with Asperger’s Syndrome may have normal intelligence and exhibit exceptional skills or talents in specific areas, but may have very literal language skills and difficulty using language in a social context.

 

              In February of this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released findings that approximately 1 in 150 8-year-old children in multiple areas of the United States had an autism spectrum disorder. New York State (NYS) school districts reported, as of December 1, 2006, that there were 15,459 children between the ages of four and 21 that were identified with autism, of which 11,569 were between the ages of four and 13.  Data over the past five years shows significant increases in the number of students classified with autism, as follows, 7,918 in 2001, 9,141 in 2002, 10,617 in 2003, 12,137 in 2004, and 13,617 in 2005 to the 15,459 students identified in 2006. 

 

As the prevalence of autism in NYS as an educationally related disability has increased, so has the demand for information about autism, for more school programs with expertise to deliver effective services for students with autism and for more training for teachers and administrators.  NYS has taken significant steps to address the unique needs of students with autism. However due to the growing number of students with autism, there continues to be an ongoing need for program development in public and private programs to ensure program availability remains consistent with population needs and to enhance program expertise to serve students with autism. 

 

From 1999 to the present, VESID initiated several targeted activities to improve education services and results for children with autism, including the following:  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Current Initiatives to Expand the Availability of Education Programs for Students with Autism

 

              Over the past two years, the Department has made significant progress in increasing its in-State capacity to serve students with disabilities currently placed out-of-state or at risk of being placed out-of-state.  However, there continues to be a need for in-state programs to serve students with developmental disabilities, particularly those with autism.

 

Chapter 392 of the Laws of 2005 (“Billy’s Law”) has resulted in a five-year interagency plan to create additional in-state residential capacity by providing new placement options for students with disabilities currently placed out-of-state and those at risk of such placement. 

 

 

 

 

The NYC Department of Education (NYCDOE) has recently introduced the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) Nest Program, an inclusion program specifically for higher functioning students with autism (Asperger’s Syndrome) in kindergarten through grade five. The program is designed to help children learn how to function academically, behaviorally and socially in their school and community.  The program uses standard public school academic framework but with environmental modifications and individual adaptations to meet the needs of the students with autism spectrum disorders.  The ASD Nest Program currently serves close to 200 children on the autism spectrum in neighborhood schools across all five boroughs.  In addition, NYCDOE/District 75 plans to pilot a program within the next year to support and facilitate students with autism (Asperger’s Syndrome) entry into college. 

 

VESID has approved expansion in day programs in eight approved private schools located in NYC to serve an additional 382 students with developmental disabilities, including students with autism and autism spectrum disorders. 

 

Summary, Recommendations and Next Steps

 

The above initiatives exemplify NYS’ and the Department’s ongoing commitment to establish policy and provide technical assistance to ensure school personnel in NYS have the knowledge and skills to establish quality programs to meet the needs of students with autism. While it is the responsibility of school districts to ensure appropriate educational programs, we know that families of children with autism often need supports and services that extend beyond the school day.  The participation of other agencies, such as OMRDD, is needed to develop the full range of specialized supports and services needed by students with autism and their families.  VESID will take the following steps: