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Education Services for Children With Autism 

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Author: Theresa McFarland (Wednesday, November 14, 2007)

Once a child is diagnosed with autism, families have many questions and concerns. One of the major dilemmas is determining how a child with autism will be educated. Each child is different with unique qualities; the education of each child with autism is determined by their needs and strengths.

Autism is considered to be a spectrum disorder. It is a disorder characterized by symptoms that include repetitive behaviors or interests, deficits in social interaction and deficits in verbal and nonverbal communication. Furthermore, children with autism often have unusual responses to sensory stimulation. Children with autism may also display symptoms that include an inability to form relationships, delay in the development of speech, lack of imagination, repeated patterns of activities, extreme aloofness and insistence on consistency in routines and isolated areas of strong ability.

Research has determined that early intervention is crucial for children with autism. Early interventions include services from speech therapists, occupational therapists, adapted physical education, applied behavior analysis, social skills training and other therapies. Some of the services are provided through the local school district; however, many families choose to hire private therapists and aides.

Children with autism are eligible for special education services under the federal law once they turn three years old. The services include children who are in both general education and special education classes. Some parents keep their children in a general education class for their education with support services being provided for specialized needs. Many children with autism are educated in a special education class. Special education classes are designed specifically for students with disabilities and are taught by a special education teacher. A child can also be serviced by a resource specialist who is a special education teacher who either goes into a general education class or pulls students with disabilities out of the general education class. The related services that are available include school psychologists, school nurses, speech specialists, physical/occupational therapists and behavioral therapists. Other special education services available are community-based training for the older child and summer school for many special day class students. Services vary according to the child's needs. A child with autism may have difficulty with communication and may need services specifically focusing on speech and language development. A child with Asperger's disorder which is on the autism spectrum may have average or above average intelligence but may still be in need of services.

Services required for a child with autism will most likely change over time. The most important thing a family can do once a diagnosis of autism is determined, is to seek support and services. Recent reports reveal one of every 166 children is diagnosed with autism. Fortunately, the exposure of the topic is providing extensive and exciting research and hope!  

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