Autism Programs in the Commonwealth of Virginia: From Theory to Practice
Educational law did not recognize autism as a disability category until the passage of The Education for all Handicapped Children Act (Public Law 101-476) in 1990. More recently, in 2005 the federal government issued a report from the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) detailing rising prevalence, expenditures that exceed general education per pupil spending, and multiple educational services. Furthermore, the Virginia Department of Education created an ad hoc committee to study autism in the Commonwealth. Therefore, the study sought to answer: (1) What programs are being used in the Commonwealth of Virginia to serve children identified with the educational disability label of autism? (2) What is the degree of effectiveness of these programs as perceived by directors of special education? and (3) Do selected demographics of the school division influence the types of programs that are delivered? A survey instrument was used to answer the research questions. The data were analyzed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences 14.0 (SPSS 14.0) resulting in descriptive statistics and One-Way ANOVA with post hoc Multicomparison.
Analysis revealed that 48.4% of school divisions responding primarily rely on traditional special education to serve children with autism. Post hoc testing revealed that the mean score for school divisions using a combination of specially designed programs (M = 3.38) were statistically significantly different from the mean score of school divisions that primarily use traditional special education services (M = 2.9).The results of this study may be used to promote the use of specially designed programs for children with autism in school divisions in the commonwealth of Virginia and focus training for school divisions that serve metro, urban, and rural areas.