Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Point of View; Results Are Needed for Autistic Children

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Point of View; Results Are Needed for Autistic Children

Article excerpt

Byline: Julie Delegal

Last Tuesday night, the Duval County School Board voted unanimously to build a laboratory school on Jacksonville's Westside for children with autism.

Parent reaction to the Oak Hill Autism Lab School proposal has ranged from skepticism to outrage. That's no surprise, given Duval's track record in serving students with disabilities.

Even in schools where administrators and teachers understand best practices and want to implement them for their students, resources often fall short.

And there are those schools whose administrators would rather send disabled students somewhere else. They spend more energy, time and district money defending their intransigence than they would to serve the child.

Already stretched thin by the demands of their special-needs children, parents are involuntarily drafted into a war: the fight to meet their children's educational needs.

Getting it right when the child is young affects the child, the family and the community. Appropriate interventions for many children can mean the difference between a near-normal life, and one in a state of dependence.

We as a nation have set high standards for how we are to educate children with disabilities: appropriately, individually and with an eye for opportunities to interact with nondisabled peers.

But we as a nation have never ponied up the cash it takes to truly meet disabled students' educational needs. Intensive, full-time, applied behavior analysis for young children with autism costs more than $40,000 per year.

The public school allotment for a profoundly autistic child, however, covers only half that amount.

There is a shortage of degree-holding, licensed behavior analysts in our area, as well as a critical need for more intensive ABA-based training for paraprofessionals in the classroom.

A coordinated effort to build an associate-level army of behavioral paraprofessionals would go a long way toward effectively implementing many students' educational programs. …

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