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Oregon Public School Autism Evaluation & Treatment vs. Autism Medical Diagnosis & Treatment

Ever wonder how the school system can dismiss a medical diagnosis of autism? They can because they have a loophole in the autism evaluation to qualify for autism services: the disability must be shown to inhibit learning during three 20-minute observations. There are some other parts of the evaluation but I suspect this is one that might keep some kids from qualifying for autism services, especially in the special education (ages 5+).

In addition to differences in diagnosis, both systems have vast differences in treatment. Here is some comparison between a medical approach and a school-based approach to treatment:

Psychology/medical community School system
A science-based approach A system within the arts
Data drives your teaching practices Whatever the state has chosen drives teaching practices
Science and research is what makes up the methodology State choses the methodology
Taking data is an important part of ABA. In the least, probe data should be taken. Teachers find taking data difficult because it gets in the way of teaching. Therefore, data is often not taken or taken inconsistently.
Developmental tests are given like the ABLLS that determine the curriculum and where to go next. Instead of taking data on how and what the child is learning, various sporadic standardized, developmental, and subjective tests are given to determine where the child stands. Tests can include the EOW, GSI, language samples, etc. The GSI is supposed to be used to develop curriuculum.
The certification process in ABA is pretty tough, they have a high standard of ethics and requirements of knowledge and experience. Western Oregon University admits that they have one single class that touches on methodologies for their Special Ed teachers and Early Intervention masters student. The are, as they admit, a "Jack of all Trades and Master of None".
Certified (and even many uncertified) ABA providers will tell you what your child needs. They are honest. They have a strong desire to work themselves out of a job by helping your child achieve self-sufficiency - a "recovery" of sorts. Public Education is often driven by "gag" rules inhibiting teachers and specialists from suggesting services that cost money or from being honest. This includes being forthright in giving newly diagnosed parents a list of options (ABA is not one of them).
ABA claims a "recovery" rate of about 37-47% where the child is tested with normal IQ, is indistinguishable from peers, requires no assistance, and gets average or better grades. One county in Oregon has claimed a 13% rate of improvement but the definition of improvement was not well defined. Others have found that Oregon actually has a rate of regression. This needs to be further studied and critiqued. Current research indicates a 3% rate of "recovery" in the school system. Sadly, autism has a recovery rate from 1-3% due to unknown reasons.
ABA, from competent providers, *requires* high level of parent involvement and training. The ABA field realizes that best outcome children come from highly involved and motivated families. Parent training is minimal to non-existant. Parents are viewed as "getting in the way", incompetent, and their presence in the classroom is often limited with time constraints (for only 1/2 hour) or requires advance notice.
Providers work with the family. The family "buys" services that meet their needs. The family is a consumer within a openly competitive group of providers. Take it or leave it. There are no vouchers, medical coupons, Katie Beckett type medicaid waivers, or alternative schools available in most areas. If a poor working relationship develops between the school system and parents, retaliation can occur.
If you don't like the ABA provider, you can simply choose another (if another is available, that is). If you don't like the school services, your recourse is to write a letter of complaint (free), mediation (cost of an attorney), or Due Process. Due Process has shown that the cards are stacked against parents with ODE biased hearing officers. In addition, the cost of attorney is estimated at $15,000-$60,000.