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Moran Introduces Autism Legislation That Could Benefit Arlington Schools

by ARLnow.com — April 27, 2012 at 2:35 pm 2,491 22 Comments

Rep. Jim Moran (D) introduced legislation today that would provide funding to schools for additional training for teachers who work with students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

At a press conference this morning, Moran was joined by officials from Arlington Public Schools, along with several Arlington parents of autistic children. The bill — the “AUTISM Educators Act” — could specifically benefit Arlington schools, where more than 10 percent of the special education population has been diagnosed with ASD, according to Moran’s office.

From a press release:

Congressman Jim Moran, Northern Virginia Democrat, today introduced legislation, the “Autism Understanding and Training In School Methodologies for Educators Act of 2012,” or the “AUTISM Educators Act,” to establish a pilot program to train teachers who work with children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Moran was joined at the bill announcement by original cosponsor Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) parents, children with ASD, and local officials from Arlington County and City of Alexandria Public Schools.

“This legislation is the product of a grassroots effort by parents, instructors, school officials and caring communities,” said Rep. Moran. “Autism Spectrum Disorders are being diagnosed at an exploding rate. We have a responsibility to do everything in our power to provide the best education for our children.”

Autism Spectrum Disorder is now the fastest growing serious developmental disorder in the United States, increasing the number of children with high-functioning autism (HFA) taken out of special education and placed in mainstream classrooms.

Moran’s legislation will create a five-year grant program to allow local school systems to partner with experienced university or non-profit programs to establish a training program for general education teachers who have large numbers of HFA students. The programs will also incorporate parental involvement and retention of skilled educators.

The AUTISM Educators Act has received endorsements from a wide range of organizations including Autism Speaks, the Arlington County School Board and Arlington Special Education Parent Teacher Association.

“Congressman Moran’s bill will provide much needed funding for local school districts as they strive to meet the needs of the growing population of students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). In Arlington, as across the nation, we have seen a significant increase in the number of students with ASD: from 100 students in 2003 to more than 350 students this year with ASD,” said Abby Raphael, Chair of the Arlington County School Board. “Providing general education classroom teachers and others with additional training is essential to ensuring that students with ASD are successful. The Arlington School Board appreciates Congressman Moran’s leadership and recognizes the work of our very active parent community in working with him, which has resulted in this important legislation.”

In March the Centers for Disease Control released a new study citing the growing rate of ASD. One in 88 children in the United States are diagnosed with ASD before their eighth birthday. Boys are five times more likely as girls, with one in 54 diagnosed with ASD.

“Congressman Jim Moran has brought renewed hope to families across Arlington who have a child on the autism spectrum,” said Alex Arriaga, Arlington resident and parent of a child on the spectrum. “The AUTISM Educators Act of 2012 can help bring essential training to classrooms across the country, improving the outcomes for students on the autism spectrum and making it more likely that they can fulfill their great potential.”

The targeted pilot program would be available only to schools with high incidences of ASD; qualifying school systems must have 10 percent or more of the special education population diagnosed with ASD.

  • Jim

    We are $16 trillion in the hole… where are we getting the money to pay for yet another federal program. Good cause, wrong approach. it has to be paid for at the local and state level. the Fed is way past broke. Rep. Moran… when are you going to be responsible??

    • drax

      Educating now saves money later.

      • SA

        If that’s the case (educating now saves money later), why is it being limited “only to schools with high incidences of ASD; qualifying school systems must have 10 percent or more of the special education population diagnosed with ASD”?

        A similar argument is also being used for “preventive” health care services paid for by insurance as a result of mandatory government regulations. After all, prevention now also saves money later, right? (Even if it didn’t used to be considered outrageous to make people pay at least the co-pay portion of the cost of birth control pills.)

        An issue is that people like Moran have no problem making the federal government the one-stop entitlement shop for every feel-good idea. Ask the folks in Greece and other countries in Europe how that’s turned out.

        • drax

          I agree. Special ed is underfunded for all needs, not just autism.

        • geri

          This bill is for teacher training. Classes these days contain students with many different needs. Knowing how to address the needs of ASD labeled students helps the teacher better address the needs of all students in the class.

  • Bumpersticker Education

    ‘course it does. I’d like your opinion of this, though. Hasn’t the quality of education in America gone down these past 40 years while the costs have increased dramatically?

    Or am I missing something?

    • louise

      I’d say if anything, the quality of education (at least in these parts) has gone up. Most teachers I know are better educated and a little savvier than the teachers I had 20 years ago. That being said, this article is about autism training–something all out SPED teachers need, these days.

      • Arlingtune

        Pardon this question, as I may have not have been the beneficiary of the fine levels of education being discussed here; but isn’t SPED kind of a derogatory term?

        • sassi

          SPED means “special education”.
          It is not a derogatory term.

        • CMG

          Many things related to special education use the shortened Sp. Ed. which is then shorted to SPED. It is even used on school forms because writing out “special education” takes up much more space!

          In one of my graduate classes, a colleague mentioned that it used to be used in a derogatory way, but I don’t think that’s been the case for a while now. I do not use the term when I’m speaking, just to be safe. I only use it on forms when I need to save space.

    • geri

      You’re missing something.

      • drax

        Proof?

        • KTC

          So to wonk out in support of Bumpersticker’s comment:
          Nationally, we’ve more than doubled our spending on education since the ’70s, while student performance has stagnated.

          Special ed is a great example – we spend huge amounts of money on special needs students, but almost no districts or states have evaluated whether the investments are actually improving achievement or outcomes for these kids. Hopefully Moran’s proposed pilot programs have evaluation or some other program assessment piece built in – they could be a real value-add to other schools and districts if so.

          Also, since I know this crowd likes proof:

          Quick introduction to school finance: http://www.impatientoptimists.org/Posts/2011/02/Flip-the-Curve-Student-Achievement-vs-School-Budgets

          Meta-review of 30 individual school finance studies: http://www.crpe.org/cs/crpe/download/csr_files/pub_sfrp_finalrep_nov08.pdf

  • PHD

    Special Ed? Is that considered derogatory? I didn’t think so.
    unless …. there’s a pun here that I’m missing …

    • drax

      Well, no, special ed isn’t derogatory, unless you use it that way.

      • novasteve

        SPED

  • roquer

    The best way to help every student is to remove the Spec.Ed. students from classrooms so these children can have their own teachers. The regular students can then be in class with other students like them. No one need feel anything bad about being the way they are then. Never think the schools can’t afford it. When a kid gets arrested and is suspended, or has house arrest, the schools afford teachers to go to the homes of these criminals and home school them. So surely we can afford all those special needs children to have classrooms of their own, while regular students also are in the same classrooms.

    • Loocy

      Not at all. You want education to go back 50 years, when the short buses whisked the special needs kids away to their own little classrooms and the rest of the world didn’t have to ever think about them. Many of these kids are capable of being educated and becoming productive (even taxpaying!) members of the community. That isn’t going to happen, however, if they are warehoused in special rooms with low expectations and no opportunity to interact with more typically developing youngsters. Special ed classrooms can help some students, but, especially when disabled students have typical cognitive abilities and can keep up in a regular classroom with support and/or modification, many of them learn best when they are taught among typically developing peers. That mainstreaming, however, can’t work unless the teachers are given the tools and supports they need to make it work.

      • PL25rd

        Loocy: Thanks for this! I completely agree, especially with the comment about disabled students with normal cognitive abilities (e.g., a blind student). Mainstreaming is essential for kids like that!

  • Kristine

    This is what Moran does every election. Sponsors this or that bill to benefit some disability special interest.

    • sped parent

      Good.

  • Wilbur

    +1. Moran does a good job representing A-town. APS does an excellent job in this area, but in doing an excellent job, establishes just how amazingly difficult this area is, and how the teachers need the support of the community.

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