Thursday, April 5, 2012

Students with Autism and Special Education Litigation

In an interesting blog article, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, Thomas R. Insel, M.D., has written about the increased number of children in the U.S. who have been diagnosed in with autistic disorders. Dr. Insel concludes that diagnostic changes and ascertainment do not account for most of the increase, and that at this point, on the basis of data collected and analyzed to date, it appears that more children are affected with autism spectrum disorders, and more of those children are being detected.

Dr. Insel's article comes on the heels of a study published last year by Perry A. Zirkel, professor of education and law at LeHigh University.  In that study, Zirkel looked at the incidence education-related legal actions involving involving children diagnosed with autism and the issues of a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) and least restrictive environment (LRE).  He found that while the number of students in special education who are diagnosed wth autism has increased, between 1993 and 2008, the percentage of special education cases involving FAPE and LRE issues in the education of a child with autism, has remained at at around 32 percent of the total number of special education litigations involving those issues.  Among his conclusions, Zirkel states that the ongoing high rate of such cases is probably due in part to the limited success that school districts have had in effectively addressing the needs of children with this complex disability.

The full text of Dr. Insel's blog is located at: 

The full text of Dr. Zirkel's article is located at:

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