Free Lance-Star reporter Amy Umble covers Stafford County schools and other education issues

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Va. Congressman Introduces Autism Education Bill

Rep. James Moran (D-Va.) has just introduced legislation that would pay to train teachers to deal with autism.

The AUTISM Educators Act  (yes, like every other bill these days, this one has a “clever” acronym) would offer grants to train classroom teachers how to identify the disorder and on the best ways to teach students on the autism spectrum.

Parents lobbied Moran for the bill after they realized that many teachers didn’t know how to deal with their kids who have autism. As the rates have increased, schools have often been left to muddle through the details of educating these children. The Centers for Disease Control recently reported that 1 in 88 American children have a form of autism. As that news spread, people have debated the cause of the rise: Are there really more children with autism, or is it just being reported more? But whatever the cause, the schools have to deal with the fallout of these rising numbers.

And many of these kids are not in self-contained autism classrooms. Many spend a good part–if not all–of their school day in general education classrooms. Even in the autism classrooms, it’s not uncommon to find a teacher who has little to no training in dealing with the disorder. Until recently, a special education major’s only introduction to autism could be a paragraph in a textbook.

But as the autism rates grew, school budgets have shrunk. The money to train teachers simply wasn’t there. And that’s why Moran said he introduced this bill, which would create a five-year grant program.

Area parents of kids on the spectrum: What has your experience been? Are you finding that many of your child’s teachers have autism training? And do you think it matters whether or not the teacher has been trained?

And teachers: How do you feel about this legislation?