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Autism Center

Autism Special Education Legal Support Center

The Autism Special Education Legal Support Center was launched in 2002 in response to the skyrocketing numbers of calls to MAC’s Helpline from parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder calling our Helpline. School systems throughout Massachusetts, and across the nation, are continuing to face substantial increases in the number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Most recent studies from the Centers for Disease Control indicate that the prevalence of ASD is now as high as 1 per every 88 children diagnosed on the spectrum.

Children on the spectrum face tremendous obstacles in the public schools, as policy makers and administrators frequently limit service options based on erroneous presumptions about limited competence and educational potential of youth with autism. Children and their parents face additional barriers in this economic climate of severe budget cuts, an inadequate state system for monitoring noncompliance, inadequate transition from high school to adult services, and cultural and linguistic barriers which make it even more difficult for children in immigrant communities to obtain critical services.

Since its inception in 2002, the Center has become a vital force within the autism community in Massachusetts (click here for Center’s highlights), providing training, legal assistance, advocacy, and services to thousands of parents and professionals to ensure that children with autism overcome lowered expectations and receive equal educational opportunities.

The Center also provides intensive training and legal advocacy for parents who face cultural and language barriers in selected Haitian and Latino communities.

DSM 5 Fact Sheet

DESE DSM-5 Advisory 2014-1

Tips for Parents available in English and Spanish (Consejos para Padres)

Tips for Professionals available in English

The Autism Parents & Professionals Training Project

Service Options available in English and Spanish (Opciones de Servicios)

In addition, the Center addresses system-wide barriers affecting children with autism. .The Center successfully led advocacy efforts to enact the following legislation: a) the Autism IEP Act, requiring school districts to consider and address specific needs for children with autism through the IEP process; and b) the Children Autism Medicaid Waiver Program which funds intensive home-based services to over 100 low-income children with autism at risk of institutionalization. Current advocacy priorities focus on legislation to ensure that all teachers are adequately prepared in method of augmentative and alternative communication for students who are nonverbal or with limited speech, and legislation to clarify that IEP Teams must address the pervasive bullying of children with ASD.

If you would like to learn more about the regulations governing special education rights for children, please refer to the links below:

State Regulations

Federal Regulations

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autism ribbon

For over 40 years, MAC has responded to the needs of children who are vulnerable because of poverty, race, limited English or disability and does not intend to stop. With education reform continuing to occupy a high priority on the state’s policy agenda, and with the severe economic crisis facing Massachusetts families, MAC is needed now, more than ever.

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