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Monday, December 13, 2010

Autism in Hawaii

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports:

Through the last decade, the number of public school students with autism has doubled to more than 1,200 even as the total number of special-needs students has dropped.

And some parents say that growth is outpacing increases in services.

Those frustrations can be seen in due-process claims parents file when they disagree with the services offered for their child.

Last school year, 38 percent of the 148 requests for due process statewide were filed on behalf of children with autism, who make up 6 percent of the public schools' special-education population.


The department could not comment on specific cases. But officials did say that schools are many times doing their best, and sometimes parents can make unreasonable requests, call for therapies that are untested or get misinformation from others about what schools have to offer.

Education officials noted that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act mandates a free appropriate public education but does not mandate the best education.

The department did say annual spending on autism is considerable.

In 2008-09 the department spent $22 million on its autism programs alone. Additional funds were also spent on autistic students through other programs.

By comparison, students with a "specific learning disability" make up the largest percentage of special-needs youth, numbering about 8,000 last year. But only 17 due-process requests were filed for the group in 2009-10.