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At noon today: NY Board of Regents may take away important promises to students with autism

Update 11/17/2010: The NY State Board of Regents did it! They voted to take away the specific requirements for speech services for students with autism. By many media accounts, they set back the clock 20 years on services to students with autism. Story and list of NY State Regents Board members: here.

There is an information and action alert below signed on to by a long list of autism advocacy organizations.  I called the NY State Board of Regents and received an update. Yesterday, 11/15/2010, the committee voted unanimously to pass this to the full board. So, today is an important vote for the future of young people with autism. Please try to contact the Board of Regents by noon, when they will be voting on this. You might also consider calling your NY State legislators who are part of the political force behind the Regents.

NY Autism Organization’s Unite in Opposition to Cuts in Speech Therapy and Bigger Classes

New york The New York State Regents, an appointed board that sets policy for the state’s schools will be voting today on new regulations that will reduce speech therapy requirements  for students with autism in New York to the federally mandated minimum and increase the maximum number of students in specified classrooms for students with autism. A coalition of New York autism organizations has come together to oppose these unnecessary cuts in education for some of New York’s most vulnerable students. The Regents claim this is a cost saving measure but have not bothered to determine what the purported savings would be.

If you are a New York Resident and would like to send a copy of the letter below to the Regents please click on the following link.

http://www.capwiz.com/a-champ/issues/alert/?alertid=19416501&type=CU

To the New York State Board of Regents:

We the undersigned organizations are strongly opposed to the proposed changes to New York State regulations affecting educational standards for students with autism that are being considered at the November 15th and 16th meeting of the Board  in Albany, NY.

The changes that are being proposed that we object to are as follows:

  • repealing the minimum service delivery requirements for speech and language;
  • authorizing school districts to add up to two additional students to integrated co-teaching classes; and
  • repealing the requirement that each student with autism receive instructional services to meet his/her individual language needs at a minimum of 30 minutes daily in groups not to exceed two, or 60 minutes daily in groups not to exceed six.

Children diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) have significant speech and language needs. Language affects appropriate play, social skills, and a child’s ability to read, learn, comprehend and express himself or herself, appropriately. In addition, children with autism need to be able to engage in discussions on or off topic, change their minds or make up their minds, understand ideas and where they come from, and be able to write and understand what is written. These language needs affect individuals with autism throughout their lifespan, and are at the heart of personal relationships, self-advocacy, everyday problem-solving, and employment skills . These are just a few examples of what language entails for a child with autism and to reduce these currently regulated services would negatively impact these children.

It is our understanding that several attempts have been made over the years to reduce the minimum amount of speech therapy for students with autism.

These changes are justified in terms of “mandate relief” and reducing costs, never in terms of what is appropriate for a student in need of speech therapy. Despite repeated requests for information on the purported savings that would accrue from these changes, we have not seen any such analysis.  These data would seem to be an absolute essential for rational decision making.If there is an imbalance in the amount of speech therapy offered to all students with disabilities, the error is on the side of insufficient services for the current demand. Many students with a medical diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder are categorized as Other Health Impaired for educational purposes where there are no speech standards. We know many classified students are denied the minimum service standard unless parents educate themselves on their children’s rights and fight to secure the minimum. Hard, objective data should be gathered on how many students are actually receiving adequate speech therapy to address their needs before any changes are made to the New York regulations. 

Further, no one has offered any cogent argument of how larger class sizes in integrated co-teaching classes will assist students in receiving a free and appropriate public education. In the absence of such information, the Regents should defer any consideration of these issues until a full analysis has been done of the possible implications of these decisions.

New York policy has wisely sought to offer students with autism education that exceeds the bare minimums required by federal law.  Adopting these proposals would mark the beginning of an educational “race to the bottom” for students with autism. All three proposals are not in the best interest of students with autism, our schools, or the people of New York as whole, and they should be rejected by the Regents.

We are asking for the opportunity to meet in person with the Board of Regents, Commissioner David Steiner and others regarding this issue to discuss this pending proposal.  We collectively represent thousands of families with autism and believe our input is imperative and necessary prior to any changes in the current standards.

Sincerely,

Autism Action Network (AAN) www.autismactionnetwork.org

Autism Action Network (AAN) NY Chapter www.autismactionnetwork.org

Elizabeth Birt Center for Autism Law and Advocacy (EBCALA) www.ebcala.org

National Autism Association (NAA) NY Metro Chapter www.naanyc.org

Foundation for Autism Information and Research, Inc. (FAIR) www.autismmedia.org

Nassau Suffolk Chapter of the Autism Society of America (ASA) www.nsasa.org

The Central New York Chapter of Autism Society of America www.cnyana.org

Western NY Chapter of the ASA www.autismwny.org

The Autism Society of the Greater Capital Region, New York www.albanyautism.org

Autism Society Bronx Chapter ny-bronx@autismsocietyofamerica.org

Autism Society Hudson Valley Chapter www.autism-society.org/site/Clubs?club_id=1223&pg=main

Project LINK www.projectlinkforkids.org

Advocates for Autism www.advocatesforautism.com

Developmental Delay Resources (DDR) www.devdelay.org

ADHD Autism Advocates www.ADHDAutismAdvocates.com

Upstate New York Families for Effective Autism Treatments (UNYFEAT) www.unyfeat.org

Upstate New York Autism Awareness www.upstatenyautism.org

Elmcrest Early Education Center www.elmcrestearlyed.com

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