The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) defines autism as a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal communication, nonverbal communication, and social interaction. Other characteristics often associated with autism are: engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements; resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines; and unusual responses to sensory experiences. The characteristics of autism are generally evident before age three, but a child who manifests the characteristics after age three could be identified as having autism if the eligibility criteria are satisfied.
In the 2018-2019 school year, 71,951 Texas students received special education services due to the disability condition of autism. Students with autism represent approximately 13.5% of all Texas students receiving special education services (TEA 2018-2019 Special Education Reports).
In recognition of the unique learning needs of students with autism, Texas regulations (§ 89.1055) require that eleven specific strategies be considered and addressed, as practicable and as needed, in the IEP. The consideration of these strategies is documented in a portion of the IEP referred to as the Autism Supplement and must be based on peer-reviewed, research-based educational programming practices. TEA has provided guidance related to the Autism Supplement.
TEA Supported Resources
Texas Statewide Leadership for Autism Training: Through the network of 20 regional Education Service Centers (ESCs) and the support of TEA, the Texas Statewide Leadership for Autism Training (TSLAT) provides access to professional development, technical assistance, and resources for educators who serve students with autism. TSLAT maintains a website complete with online courses, webinars, information on opportunities for deeper learning, a video library, a blog, and more. Courses range in length from 30 minutes to six hours and are available to the public at no cost. The video library contains expert interviews, teacher interviews, parent interviews, and videos of strategies in action. The videos are beneficial for administrators, community members, paraeducators, parents, related-service providers, students, support staff, teachers, and anyone interested in autism.
TSLAT has developed the following additional resources:
The Texas Autism Circuit: The Autism Circuit teacher toolkit provides access to specific, user-friendly tools and techniques for students with autism. The Autism Circuit has recorded a series of webinars on evidence-based practices (EBPs) as identified by the National Professional Development Center (NPDC) on Autism Spectrum Disorder. The Autism Circuit Academy (ACA) endorsement programs are comprehensive professional development designed to help Texas educators acquire and effectively implement evidence-based practices (EBPs) for teaching students with autism. The ACA is committed to building district capacity by increasing the number of educators in the state who are skilled in effectively educating individuals with autism. A valuable element of coaching is included in the ACA programs and provided by TSLAT staff and network members. The training is free for educators across Texas who are employees of a local education agency.
The Texas Autism Resource Guide for Effective Teaching: The NPDC and the National Autism Center (NAC) have published systematic reviews of intervention practices for children and youth with autism. The Texas Autism Resource Guide for Effective Teaching (TARGET) summarizes the work of the NPDC and NAC and reviews additional literature. The site is divided into two sections: evaluations and interventions. The TARGET is designed to assist schools in developing practices from initial referral to program development and implementation with a strong emphasis on research-based and peer-reviewed strategies.