It seems like every week I am reading an article about another school district struggling to keep up with the expenses of educating children with autism and how instead of adding resources, they keep getting taken away!
In South Carolina, $1.4 million were taken away from the already struggling programs. This means that children might not get the needed treatment that they need, such as ABA. More than $700,000 is being dedicated to serving the children with autism, which will cover ABA for only 30 students. It seems to me that solutions must be found which can spread the limited amounts of money further, how can schools serve more children with the same amount of money while still providing the quality treatment that is needed?
It is time for researchers to start thinking about solutions for schools, there is a large amount of data supporting ABA and some other approaches as well. However, I would like to see studies looking at how to develop ABA treatments further so as to be able to serve more children, perhaps in small group instruction, or utilizing technology, or simplifying procedures for less expensive staff to implement, or other creative solutions to deal with this critical issue in our education system.
In addition, I would like to see more funding and grants for school programs and more education for school staff to more effectively educate children with autism spectrum disorders. This could be done easily through online learning programs or local conferences for educators. In addition, more funding and research is needed for how to effectively and efficiently educate school staff so that they are empowered and motivated.
The other important thing that is needed for school systems is training and accountability for student outcome. Researchers should consider designing assessments that are feasible and easy for schools to implement, and standards should be set for what exactly schools are expected to measure and report. While some school districts require teachers to use standardized measures of assessment, these measures are often not appropriate or informative for measuring the progress of children with autism spectrum disorders. If measurements are required, they should be scientifically validated for the autism population. In addition, managable and efficient tools need to be developed and available to teachers to make data collection accurate and consistent.
Some states are taking measures to address these important issues, such as California and the Blue Ribbon Commission. I recently served on the task force for education for this group, and was pleased to see that I am not alone in these concerns and that there are initiatives out there that are working toward solutions. I will post updates on this Commission as they are available. Please post other initiatives or solutions that you think are helpful!