Mandated Autism and Special Needs Training- Why is it Necessary?

Every special needs child has the right to a free and appropriate education; it is a basic right that is given to all citizens and regardless of disability, children deserve to get an education. The individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which was first enacted in 1975 and most recently revised in 2004, mandates that each state provide all eligible children with a public education that meets their individual needs. However, there has always ben room for improvement and in recent years, as the focus and understanding of autism spectrum disorders has improved,  the mandated autism training needs for educators has also changed and adapted.

Universal Right to Public Education

“The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) was most recently revised in 2004 (and, in fact, renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, but most people still refer to it as IDEA). The law mandates that the state provide all eligible children with a free and appropriate public education that meets their unique individual needs. IDEA specifies that children with various disabilities, including autism, are entitled to early intervention services and special education. If your child has been diagnosed with a form of autism, the diagnosis is generally sufficient to gain access to the rights afforded by IDEA” (Autism Speaks).

Giving Teachers the Tools to Teach

Teachers are the primary source of education for children aside from their own parents. This is why educators have always had to have specified degrees and years of experience before they are allowed to teach in the public school system. However, many state laws did not go far enough and teachers were allowed to instruct classes of autistic and learning disabled children with no specialized training. This of course meant that those children were not getting a specialized education and were often falling behind their peers who did not have disabilities to overcome.

“Having well-trained staff is key to ensuring good quality autism services, especially since people affected with autism generally tend to have higher support needs than other populations in terms of daily living, as well as their mental and physical health. Poorly-trained staff can have detrimental effects on service provision and staff morale and can lead to staff burn-out, as well as increased service user anxiety and stress… [recent studies] expose an acute lack of autism-specific training that has detrimental impacts. At best, this training was based on brief and very basic awareness raising rather than on in-depth understanding of issues related to autism or skills for evidence-based practice. Service users were concerned with the effects that the lack of staff training had on the services they received” (NCBI).

Mandatory Training is Becoming the Norm

Thankfully, with renewed focus on autism and an increasing understanding of the disorder and how it impacts children and young adults, training for education has greatly improved. Many states are now implementing mandatory autism education training for all teachers and school personnel who work with children who are on the spectrum. This is a step in the right direction and holds a promise for a near future where children who suffer from autism and similar disorders do not have to struggle every day to get a fair and equal education.

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