Thursday, March 27, 2008

Bryce's Law WILL make a difference

Dwight Scharnhorst talks about one of the best reasons to support Bryce’s Law—mainstreaming special needs and autistic children back into public schools through the great and strident benefits of early detection.

When it comes to autism, the window of opportunity to change their prognosis happens very early on in their development and without early intervention the possibilities of overcoming obstacles decreases year by year: it is very much a race against time.

The results of early intervention are obvious to parents and those who work closely with autism in a school or medical setting.

Laurie Stephens, Ph.D., has some points in EARLY INTERVENTION IN AUTISM: Forging the Architecture for Change that deal with best practices for early intervention. She says that between 25 and 50% of recipients of early intervention will move into mainstream education and many more will need significantly fewer services in the future.

She notes that the most notable factor of the effectiveness of a program is the intensity, in areas such as duration, individualization of the plan, and parental involvement. A teacher-student ratio of 3:1 is preferable, and she stresses that the child not be made to fit the program, but instead the program must be made to fit the child.

The results of this format were:

-Over 80% of students met annual IEP goals
-In 2005; 50% of graduates entered a district based Kindergarten program
-20% entered special ed. programs for children of average to borderline intelligence
-7of 10 non-verbal students acquired at least 3 functional words within 9 months

Missouri families need the ability to seek out this kind of help—and they are able to with the choices available to them before Kindergarten for early intervention. But once they enter mainstream public education, that choice goes away. Someone obviously thought giving parents the leverage to find a program that offers that low teacher-students ratio and is catered specifically to their child, and if it helps children at 6 years it can help at seven, eight, and on up.

A study of Texas estimates that the state could save over 2 billion dollars in autism education by shifting their budget towards some highly intensive, highly successful early intervention programs. So we have testimony from doctors, parents and teachers that early intervention makes a world of difference. We have very encouraging results and the fiscal benefit of a net decrease in services needed. We have individual children who have been able to move beyond their disorder. Let’s make Bryce’s law a priority, because we will see a difference.

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