Enhancing the Lives of Children with Autism: Policies, Education, and Support

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Autism’s Lifelong Impact: Early Intervention and Adult Challenges

Children with autism spectrum disorder in Florida present a significant public health issue in today’s society. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability. It is quite complex and typically occurs during childhood. It is chronic and never resolves itself. ASD has an effect on a child’s ability to communicate with others. It may present as difficulty making eye contact with speech and language delays. The other symptoms include difficulties in the areas of reasoning, planning, sensory, and motor skills. Children with Autism typically have very narrow and intense interests and become severely agitated with changes in their routines. Common comingling conditions that are part and parcel of the landscape of ASD include obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), high anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders. (‘Early Screening,’ 2018)

Currently, there is no known cause of Autism, although there is thought to be some genetic link. It is not uncommon to see more than one child in a family with this condition. The pediatrician usually makes the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. This can occur as early as eighteen months of age. (‘Autism Facts,’ 2018) Upon this diagnosis, there is a referral to a specialist, which can include a neurologist, psychologist, and board-certified behavioral analyst. As there is no cure, the approach to treatment is to address the individual symptoms. Research has proven that increased awareness, early diagnosis, and early intervention produce the best health outcomes. (‘National Autism Society,’ 2018) Early diagnosis leads to access to necessary speech, behavioral, physical, and occupational therapies, which is the reason for the positive improvements and overall outcomes. (‘CARD,’ 2018)

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As of 2018, the prevalence of Autism is one in fifty-nine births in the United States. This number has increased significantly over the years. In 2004 the rate of Autism in US births was one in one hundred and twenty-five. In fourteen years, the number of cases has doubled, and there is no known reason for this increase. (‘Autism Facts and Statistics,’ 2018) The costs of treating Autism over the course of a lifetime are approximately two and one half million dollars. It is estimated that the United States pays out ninety million annually in costs related to ASD. (‘Learn The Signs,’ 2018) These high annual expenditures include monies spent on research, Medicaid waivers, education, housing, employment, non-covered services, insurance costs, and caregiver costs.

Autism has no cure, and therapies are directed at treating the symptoms. The best outcomes are achieved when the condition is diagnosed early, and the treatment modalities are implemented very early on a regular and consistent basis. Children with Autism grow into adults with Autism, and the condition does not resolve itself. Adults with Autism can lead productive, independent, economically independent lives. Often they achieve success in their fields of study, and there are many highly educated professional men and women who have a form of Autism. In some cases, by the time an autistic child has grown into an adult, the signs of Autism become less apparent to the casual outside observer. The costs of treating Autism are extremely expensive due to the types, frequency, and duration of the treatments. Children with Autism who receive a late diagnosis and do not receive the necessary therapies and treatments grow into adults who have great difficulties.

Supporting Autistic Individuals through Guided Principles

These difficulties typically lead to the autistic person being unable to work and become self-supportive and independent. The results are often adults who rely on numerous forms of public support in order to manage. These supports can include Medicaid, Social Security Disability, SNAP, federal housing vouchers, and numerous other public aides. The goals are to enhance develop and enhance programs aimed at early diagnosis and intervention. Policies that serve to protect the civil rights of autistic people and allow for access to all areas of education, employment, housing, healthcare, and society in general. Autistic children are a vulnerable population with special health and educational needs. However, these needs are relatively easy to meet with the implementation of appropriate policies.

Policies that are developed for the purpose of enhancing the lives of children, adolescents, and young adults with ASD should demonstrate adherence to certain guiding principles. Policies should be people-centered, allowing the individual the right to choose to access services that are in line with their goals and aspirations. Policies should be built upon strong community networks that integrate services and resources and lead to healthy development.

Collaboration between non-disabled groups with the alignment of common goals should be implemented to achieve policy change on a systemic level. Policies should make certain that all supports and services are portable from one state to another. This includes all healthcare, educational, and all other related supports. Policies should address the inequity in the services available to individuals with a disability and autism spectrum disorder. Policies should serve to make the goals and wishes of the individual a priority throughout, with input from necessary family and team members. Policies should be culturally sensitive, ensure respect, and appreciate diversity. (‘ Autism Resources FDOH,’ 2017).

Autism is a lifelong chronic disease with no known cure. The prevalence of Autism is increasing annually with no known reason. There is always going to be a need for policies to protect this vulnerable population. Currently, there are a few policies that contain the necessary provisions to make a positive impact on the autistic community. In order to promote awareness, the CDC developed a program called Learn the Signs Act Early. The goal of this program is to improve early identification of ASD and other developmental disabilities. Children and families are then linked to the necessary services and support. Learn the Signs Act Early is comprised of a health education campaign, research, evaluation, and the Act Early Initiative. (‘Act Early Ambassadors,’ 2016)

The health education component of the act encourages parents and providers to understand normal development and closely monitor a child’s development, taking immediate action when there is any concern. Tools such as checklists, children’s books, mobile apps, and resource information are provided at no cost. The milestones checklists are from ages two months to five years; a growth chart is included. The mobile application for ios and Android phones includes an interactive checklist and tips for supporting development. There are educational videos and a free one-hour online training for childcare providers. There are tip sheets to assist parents when speaking with their physicians when there is a concern. (‘Learn The Signs,’ 2018)

As part of the Act Early Initiative, there are advocates in the program known as Act Early Ambassadors. These ambassadors collaborate with early childhood intervention programs in their individual states or territories. In this way, developmental monitoring and screening are both supported and advanced. (‘Act Early Ambassadors,’ 2016) Research and evaluation are conducted to develop strategies to implement materials in practice specifically to improve the learning of the signs of ASD and to improve the program materials. It is also done to increase understanding of the factors which have an influence on monitoring and referrals for intervention. Program materials are designed for parents, healthcare providers, early care education teachers, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) staff, and all others who work with young children. The information is available in multiple languages and can be downloaded or ordered from the CDC via their website or by calling a toll-free number. (‘Learn The Signs,’ 2018)

Transforming Education for Autism Inclusion

The Individual Disability Education Act (IDEA) is a Federal Education Mandate which allows autistic children to be educated in the public school system. Prior to the IDEA, children with Autism were excluded from the public school system. They were not allowed to learn in the same classroom environment as their typical peers. Prior to the act, the educational needs of millions of disabled children were not being met. Improving education for children with Autism increases their ability to become self-sustainable adults with consistent employment. Increased education leads to independent living, integration into society, economic independence, and better quality of life. (‘IDEA,’ 2018) Through the IDEA, the educational and legal rights of children have been strengthened.

The IDEA provided for the creation of a public school environment where the child with ASD is welcomed, safe, and a valuable member of the class and school. The act allowed for a seamless and positive transition between elementary, middle, and high school. It further enhanced a successful transition into college, employment, or meaningful day activities. It created a level of appreciation in the public schools for diversity and laid the foundation for equity in education.

The education of children with Autism can be enhanced by maintaining high learning expectations. Children on the spectrum have proven to perform better academically when placed in the same classroom as their typical peers. The IDEA oversees early learning programs such as early interventions and preschool programs. It maintains that these children should be educated in the least restrictive educational environment and provides services in the school.

The schools are mandated to implement an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for the child with ASD. Within the IEP, there will be numerous accommodations provided, which include extended test times, assistance with navigating the school campus, technology, and assistive devices. Often the child will be assigned an individual facilitator who oversees the child’s daily routine. The public school is required to provide related services under the IDEA. These can include therapies such as speech and language, occupational therapy, behavioral therapy, and counseling services. Assistance with organization, homework, and staying on task is provided in the school setting. (‘IDEA LAW,’ 2017)

Elevating Equity and Excellence for ASD Education

Under the IDEA, the IEP of an autistic child is considered a legal document. Meetings occur only with formal notice and are held annually by law. Parents are advised of their legal rights and their ability to attend the IEP meetings and bring their own physicians, psychologists, advocates, educational lawyers, and other pertinent members. Parents are given access to their child’s records by the school and may request interim IEP meetings as frequently as every thirty days. Public schools are required to provide due process to children when there is a dispute concerning their education.

ASD children in the public school system have protection under the Office of Civil Rights, and complaints concerning the public school are filed with this agency. The IDEA has made major improvements and advances in the education of children with ASD. It has allowed these children to maximize their greatest level of potential and lead productive, independent lives while positively contributing to society. It has set a level of expectation that children with ASD are capable of secondary education, gainful employment, community service, and volunteerism. (‘IDEA,’ 2018)

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into law by President Barack Obama in December 2015. It includes provisions that help to ensure success for disabled children in public schools. The ESSA is significant as it is the first law to require that all students in this country be taught to high academic standards. These high standards apply to all children, disabled and nondisabled. ESSA provides an enhancement to education equity standards and upholds important protections for ASD and disabled students.

Another key facet of the ESSA is that it helps to support evidenced-based interventions developed by educators to enhance the learning environment. The ESSA increases access to high-quality preschool programs for ASD children. The ESSA has strict guidelines and maintains there will be strict accountability within the school system. It contains specific guidelines and protocols for schools that are underperforming and have low graduation rates. It has further enhanced the laws contained within the IDEA allowing for the best outcomes in the education of disabled and ASD children. (‘ESSA FL,’ 2018)

The aim of any policy directed at improving the lives of children with Autism requires an inherent understanding of the nature of this lifelong disease. People with Autism have tremendous potential, which can be equal to or greater than their typical peers. Autistic children can grow to lead productive, successful, economically independent lives while greatly contributing to society. Advocacy groups and professional organizations such as Autism Speaks, the Center for Autism Research and Development, and the National Autism Association provide necessary support and guidance for those newly diagnosed and seeking information.

References:

  1. Act early ambassadors 2016-2018 learn the signs act early. (2016). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/act/early/ambassadors-list.html
  2. Autism facts and statistics. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.autismsociety.org
  3. Autism facts. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.autismspeaks.org
  4. Autism resources Florida Department of Health. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/people-with…/bright…/autism.html
  5. Autism spectrum disorder. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.fldoe.org/academics/exceptional/-student…/autism-spectrum-disorder-asd-.stml
  6. Center for autism and related disorders (CARD) Inc. resources. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.autismspeaks.org/resource/center-autism-and-related-disorders-card-ince-37
  7. Early screening of autism spectrum disorder pediatrics. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.pediatrics.aapublications.org/content/1361/supplement_11541
  8. Every student succeeds act ESSA Florida Dept. of Education. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.fl.doe.org/academics/essa.html
  9. Every student succeeds act ESSA US Dept. of Ed. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.ed.gov/essa
  10. IDEA Law and regulations Wrightslaw. (2017). Retrieved from https://www/wrightslaw.com/idea/law.htm

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Enhancing the Lives of Children with Autism: Policies, Education, and Support. (2023, Aug 15). Retrieved from https://edusson.com/examples/enhancing-the-lives-of-children-with-autism-policies-education-and-support

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