Delaware House Passed Very Important Autism Bill

On Tuesday, the Delaware House of Representatives unanimously passed an Autism bill that will delight many parents and advocates in The First State.

State Representative Earl Jaques released the following statement on the House vote:

The House has unanimously passed my bill to enhance services for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. HB 292 would focus on implementing parent and family input through the enactment of the Parent Advisory Committee, along with additional review boards.

We want to help all students have a quality, inclusive education experience, and this bill will help accomplish that. The hope is to better help children get the Autism services they need in their local communities. The legislation also has the net benefit of creating more educational autism specialist jobs.

This is the synopsis for HB #292:

This Act implements the recommendations of the March 2015 Autism Educational Task Force report regarding § 1332 of Title 14, the Program for Children with Autism and its Special Staff. Enacted nearly three decades ago, this law established a network of educational programs initially within a separate school structure known as The Delaware Autism Program (DAP). Today, this network continues as a combination of both separate school programs and within local school district support services. However, the current model does not reflect current practices in special education, especially regarding inclusive education, and parents’ desire to have their children educated in their local communities. In addition, the increase in students with an educational classification of autism spectrum disorder (“ASD”) has made it difficult for the Statewide Director to provide the level of services and support that once was offered. This Act establishes the qualifications and duties of the Statewide Director and enhances the current mandatory committee structure to include a Parent Advisory Committee, in addition to the Peer Review Committee and Statewide Monitoring Review Board, to increase family input, monitoring, and protections. This Act creates a 3 year pilot program that revises the concept of DAP toward a system in which the statewide Director will work in collaboration with a team of experts to provide technical assistance and training to districts and educational entities. It allows for and provides adequate resources for all students with ASD in Delaware by eliminating the distinction between DAP-approved programs and other in-district options and by providing in-state experts at a lower cost than out-of-state residential treatment and consultants. The pilot program created under this Act makes changes that recognize and support the need for specialized technical assistance and training staff to be available to build capacity for teachers in all districts and other programs educating students with ASD. These changes expand available supports so that excellent, evidence-based training and technical assistance can be made available to all Delaware schools and the students who attend them. The pilot program created under this Act establishes a technical assistance team of educational autism specialists numbering a ratio of 1 for every 100 students (currently estimated at 15 positions). The fiscal mechanism to support the pilot program will be accomplished through mandated district participation that is consistent with the current needs-based funding system in Delaware and by redirecting state spending towards lower cost, community-based supports from out-of-state residential placements. The number of training specialists will be phased in over several years or until the pilot program ends. Finally, this Act is known as “The Alex Eldreth Autism Education Law” in memory Alex Eldreth, who passed away unexpectedly on November 24, 2017, and his dedication to this work.                    

Congrats!  The bill was also released from the Senate Education Committee yesterday.  It has not appeared on the Senate agenda but I anticipate final passage of this bill by June 30th.

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Big Changes Coming For Delaware Autism Program (DAP) With Senate Bill 92

SenateBill92

Delaware Senator Margaret-Rose Henry introduced Senate Bill 92 today, and it could mean huge changes for the Delaware Autism Program (DAP).  Citing an increase in reported Autism diagnoses in Delaware of 900%, this much-needed legislation will give extra supports and services these children desperately need.  From the official press release given today at Legislative Hall in Dover:

Lawmakers and stakeholders held a press conference Tuesday afternoon announcing legislation that would realign the state’s educational model for students diagnosed with autism by adding services allowing them to be educated in their home schools. The legislation also would create a panel to monitor the latest developments in educating students with autism spectrum disorders and craft policy reflecting those changes.

Sen. Margaret Rose Henry, D-Wilmington South, who co-chaired the Autism Education Task Force with Rep. Earl Jaques, said there was a pressing need for the changes.

“When you look at the sheer numbers, our population of students diagnosed on the autism spectrum has exploded,” she said. “There’s a need to modernize our policies for these students and ensure we’re equipping their teachers, families and the agencies who assist them, with the best possible information.”

Currently, there are about 1,500 students diagnosed with autism in Delaware’s public schools. That’s up nearly 900 percent over the 152 students diagnosed with autism in 1992, when an initial statewide autism program was first established.

Please read the proposed legislation below:

And as I reported earlier, only it didn’t have a bill number attached to it yet, Senate Bill 93, creating the Delaware Interagency Committee for Autism and the Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism: