Arizona Department of Education’s Exceptional Student Services recognizes the challenges experienced by families, caregivers and educators around the state to provide effective, targeted support to individuals with autism. An individual with autism may need specialized instruction, assistive technology, therapies, and positive behavioral supports that reflect their unique strengths in order to develop the skills to actively participate in the world. It is our goal to share the knowledge, practices and supports that will help define effective services and programs in schools, districts and homes.
Autism Definition and Eligibility for Special Education Information
Autism is a developmental disability that affects more than 9,000 school children in our state. The characteristics of autism include challenges in communication, socialization and behavior. Any one of these areas may be affected to a greater or lesser degree, and for that reason it is called an autism spectrum disorder. To receive special education in schools, a child who is impacted by social, communication, and behavioral challenges as defined in the law is evaluated by a team of professionals who know the child. This team, which includes the parents, then determines if the child requires specialized instruction to benefit from the school experience. The child may be eligible to receive special education services under the educational disability category of autism if the disability is found to impact his or her performance and access to the general education curriculum.
A medical diagnosis is another avenue for identifying the presence of autism, which is defined in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Individuals who demonstrate communication, social and behavioral difficulties that are seen by a practitioner such as a pediatrician, neurologist, psychiatrist, or clinical psychologist and are found to have the conditions specified in the definition receive a diagnosis of autism.
A diagnosis does not automatically establish eligibility for special education. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) describes the procedural regulations for determining eligibility. To receive special education in the school setting, an educational team that includes the parents will review all of the documentation about the child, which can include the medical diagnosis, to determine the impact of the disability on the child’s performance in the educational setting. The team will document how the disability is affecting the child’s ability to participate in the educational setting at grade level and whether additional testing is necessary. The review of the documents and all of the data about the child takes place before placement in special education. If you have questions about this process please contact the special education director in your school or the Arizona Department of Education Exceptional Student Services.
Updates, Bulletins and Notices:
Early Identification of Autism
Efforts are underway to decrease the initial age of diagnosis of autism so that children who are identified may begin to receive services. First Signs is a web site that can assist early educator teams, parents and other professionals to learn about autism. This non-profit agency has earned endorsements by physicians in the American Academy of Pediatrics. Video examples of behaviors that are indicative of autism are provided to support early its identification. Within Arizona, family support centers such as Raising Special Kids, and other research and resource organizations share early detection strategies that point toward improved outcomes:
- Learn the Signs, Act Early – Track you child’s development and act early if you have a concern.
- Detecting, studying, and treating autism early: the one-year well-baby check-up approach. -PubMed, NCBI
- Intervention in 6-month-olds with autism ameliorates symptoms, alleviates developmental delay. -UC Davis MIND Institute
- Additional resources for early identification may be found within the Arizona Department of Education AZ FIND site
- Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center on early detection of Asperger’s Syndrome- ThinkAsperger’s which is now part of ASD
Thanks to a generous grant from the Board of Visitors, the Barrow Neurological Institute at Phoenix Children’s Hospital is providing training and support for regional autism assessment teams across the state of Arizona. Each team consists of one pediatrician (PCP), an Arizona Early Intervention Program (AzEIP) provider and a school representative. Development of these regional teams will help to significantly increase access to intervention, therapies and school services for hundreds of children across the state. They are currently recruiting for the Maricopa County cohort (training starts in January 2016). If you are interested in participating, or would like additional information on Early Access to Care-Arizona, please contact [email protected].
Autism and Safety
The safety of children with autism is of paramount importance. Wandering, or elopement, is a concern for parents and education professionals. A recent report by the Department of Health and Human Services provides sample preventative measures, and ways to respond in the event of a missing child. Please feel free to share the following slide show, prepared by the Department of Health and Human Services, with your school district and with parents: Autism and Safety.
Youth and children with autism may have limited communication skills and may not be aware of the dangers that are around them. The National Autism Association’s video portrays this issue for parents, educators and first responders.
The National Autism Association’s Caregiver Toolkit provides information and awareness materials. A checklist for planning and responding to wandering behaviors is included with suggestions for safety tools, first responder profile forms, social stories and caregiver logs.
Evidence Based Practices
Many interventions and practices have been developed for teaching individuals with autism. The practices shown to be effective have been identified by such organizations as these:
- National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders
- National Autism Center
- Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI)
- Autism Focused Intervention Resources and Modules
Resources from these sites will help educators adopt the practices needed to support students with autism as well as other developmental disabilities. Examples of the resources include training modules, videos, handouts, program evaluation tools and self-assessments of knowledge such as the following:
Web Based Training
The Autism Internet Modules (AIM) are designed to provide high-quality information and professional development for anyone who supports, instructs, works with, or lives with someone with autism. AIM modules are available at no cost. Each module guides the participant through case studies, instructional videos, pre- and post-assessments, a glossary, and much more.
Exceptional Student Services’ Professional Learning and Sustainability Unit invites you to view the presentation “Topics in Autism: From Incidence to Independence” presented originally at the 2013 Director’s Institute. This presentation shares information on the five “I’s” of Autism- Incidence rates, Identification practices, Instructional strategies, Inclusive practices, and Independence. Resources for trainings, supports for transitions, and a supporting document are included to help you prioritize your professional development needs in this 35 minute video presentation.
Additionally, the IRIS Center has a comprehensive module that:
- Provides information on the early signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as well as
- Includes an overview of the difference between a medical diagnosis and an educational determination of ASD,
- Shares instructional considerations for teachers who have children and students with ASD in their classrooms and,
- Includes tips for working with the families of those children and students.
The Iris Center is funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), and is headquartered at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California.
New! National Professional Development Center on Evidence Based Practices in Autism presents their new AFIRM modules.
AFIRM Modules are designed to help you learn the step-by-step process of planning for, using, and monitoring an EBP with learners with ASD from birth to 22 years of age. Supplemental materials and handouts are available for download.
Each AFIRM module offers an option to earn a free professional development certificate. Use AFIRM certificates for professional development credits and licensure requirements (with district approval).
Modules available for: Exercise, Functional Behavioral Assessment, Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention, Prompting, Reinforcement, Social Narratives, Task Analysis, Time Delay, and Visual Supports
The Classroom Walk-Through Checklist: Supporting Teachers to Address Student Needs Using Evidence Based Practices
The Classroom Walk-Through Checklist is designed to engage teachers in a self-assessment of the classroom practices that benefit students with autism and other developmental disabilities. These supports are divided into four categories: 1.) Schedules and Visuals, 2.) Behavior, 3.) Instruction and 4.) Social-Communication. Each category includes four to five descriptors of practices that should be established within the classroom. On the following pages of the document, each of the descriptors is supported by examples and suggestions teachers might use to incorporate the practices into the school program. Additional program evaluation tools and resources are provided here.
Specialized program and classroom resources are available here.
Assessments, Behavior, Coaching, Instructional Resources, Paraprofessional Resources, Program Planning, Parent Resources, Rights and Laws, and Social Skills folders contain resources that may be of support to your program.
Training and Technical Assistance
Training is available on such topics as Autism, Video Modeling, Visual Supports, and IPads in the Classroom. Please contact the ADE’s Assistive Technology team for information, resources and training or visit the Assistive Technology webpage.
For technical assistance and support for autism and other low incidence disabilities, please contact:
Links to other websites do not imply an endorsement of the materials. Although every effort has been made to ensure that the articles and resources provided herein are accurate and timely, the Arizona Department of Education is not responsible for the materials and resources contained at any website linked to this site.