mental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences.
There is no question of the intent of Congress to include children with autism in this legislation. However, there are two questions that must be answered before a child qualifies for services under IDEA: Does the child have a qualifying disability? Does the child need special education due to the disability?
The diagnosis “with autism” clearly answers the first question, and it is rare that a child with autism does not need special education services as well as a number of related services also approved under this law. Therefore, children with autism, including all autistic spectrum disorders, are a full-fledged subgroup entitled to all the provisions of this comprehensive legislation.
In addition to special educational services, children with autism can take advantage of the provisions in IDEA that deal with “related services.” These services include speech-language pathology and audiology services, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, recreation (including therapeutic recreation), early identification and assessment of disabilities, counseling services, including rehabilitation counseling, orientation and mobility services, medical services for diagnostic or evaluation purposes, school health services, social work services in school, and parent counseling and training.
Six major principles, extending back to the original legislation, have formed the basis of legal rights of children with special needs under the IDEA (Kirk et al., 2000):
Zero reject. All children with disabilities must be provided a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). This means local school systems do not have the option to decide whether or not to provide needed services. For children with autistic spectrum disorders, this means that no such child, regardless of degree of impairment or manifestation of difficult behavior, can be denied educational services.
Nondiscriminatory evaluation. Each student must receive a full individual examination before being placed in a special education program, with tests appropriate to the child’s cultural and linguistic background. For children with autistic spectrum disorders this means an appropriate evaluation that is carried out by personnel with experience in the use of the appropriate tests and protocols for children with these disorders.
Individualized Education Program. One of the unique aspects of this law was the requirement for an individualized education plan (IEP).