These comments were sent to the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall/Virginia Department of Education, after approval by ASAN's Board of Directors.
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network, the leading organization run by and for autistic people rather than parents or providers, recommends the following:
The developmentally delayed category must conform, at a minimum, to the age range of three through nine, as detailed in 34 CFR Part 300.8(b). Many children will not be identified by the age of 5; additional time will ensure that children are correctly identified and avoid miscategorization, which can cause severe educational delays. We recommend keeping the current Virginia definition of developmental delay intact, with a definition of 2-5 for preschoolers and 6-9 for elementary-aged children. All language in the proposed regulations that restricts a child’s access to FAPE based on “age eligibility” should be removed.
Expand the definition of autism under 34 CFR 300.8(c)(1)(i) so that the full autism spectrum ranging from what is often called “classic autism,” Asperger Syndrome, PDD-NOS, Rett Syndrome, and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder are included. This will underscore that appropriate services should be provided to all children on the autism spectrum, and also avoid the pitfalls of mislabeling or denial of eligibility for FAPE.
Retain the specific learning disability of dyslexia in the form found in 34 CFR 300.8(10)(i). The proposed revision of the definition of dyslexia is too narrow and by its focus on phonological component of language disregards other components of dyslexia and may result in the denial of appropriate services.
Interpreting services are beneficial for children with disabilities other than deaf and hard-of-hearing. Children with Down Syndrome, apraxia, autism, and other disabilities can benefit from interpreting services. Eliminate disability-specific language so that a broad range of children who need these services can be included.
Retain the child study committee. Elimination of the child study committee may result in missed opportunities for the identification of children with disabilities, which will adversely affect subsequent eligibility for services at an appropriate age. This could set a child up for long-term difficulties in the school setting.
Retain all parental involvement as defined in the current special education regulations, including participation in Functional Behavioral Assessment, parental consent for the termination of services, and involvement in, determination of members of, and notification of changes to the IEP. Parents must also retain all rights outlined in 34 CFR 300.530(e)(1), (2) and (3): Discipline Procedures, in order to ensure that all pertinent information is received and considered, regarding a manifestation determination of a child’s disability.
Address disproportionality concerns by implementing Early Intervening Services found in 34 CFR Part 300.226: “An LEA may not use more than 15 percent of the amount the LEA receives under Part B of the Act for any fiscal year….to develop and implement coordinated, early intervening services…”
Work to address underdiagnosis of the autism spectrum in rural, minority and low-income communities by dedicating funding towards training and other identification measures through the state Child Find infrastructure.