A bill introduced Friday by U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., would create a five-year pilot program that would pay for training for teachers who work with children with autism.
School districts would partner with universities or nonprofit organizations to create training programs for general education teachers who have many high-functioning students with autism in their classes. The program would also work on parental involvement and retaining skilled teachers.
Moran said the "Autism Understanding and Training In School Methodologies for Educators Act of 2012," or the "AUTISM Educators Act," was prompted by parents and school officials, who lobbied him about such a bill.
"Autism spectrum disorders are being diagnosed at an exploding rate," Moran says in a statement. "We have a responsibility to do everything in our power to provide the best education for our children."
To qualify, 10 percent or more of a local school system's special education population would have to be identified as having an autism spectrum disorder. The district would have to partner with at least one institute of higher education or at least one nonprofit with documented expertise in assisting children with ASD.
The federal government has continued to invest in autism research, and other legislation introduced this session would establish programs to provide services to individuals with autism and their families, increase public education and awareness about autism, and provide grants to programs that focus on critical aspects of life for children, transitioning youth, and adults with autism spectrum disorders.