Changes to the APA definition of Autism Spectrum Disorders - what will this mean for Montana students?

The American Psychological Association (APA) has changed the definition of Autism Spectrum Disorders as of May 2013. You can read the new DSM-5 criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorderhere.

There are several changes which concern parents, education professionals and people with autism spectrum disorders. Very briefly, these changes are:

1. The new APA criterion for autism spectrum disorders is different from the current APA, IDEA and Montana educational criteria for autism spectrum disorders.

2. Asperger's Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder will no longer exist as separate APA diagnostic categories, but will be subsumed in the revised APA criteria for "Autism Spectrum Disorder."

What will these changes mean for students with autism spectrum disorders in Montana's public schools?

1. Montana is unlikely to change the current criteria for identification of a student as having autism until the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) is reauthorized.

2. The IDEA was last reauthorized in 2004 and the revised regulations were published in 2006. There is no anticipated date for when the next reauthorization will occur.

3. When the IDEA or Montana educational criteria for educational disabilities change, there is no requirement that students who are currently identified as eligible for special education and related services be reevaluated to determine eligibility under the new criteria. These students have previously been determined as eligible using the criteria which were in effect at the time of their identification.

4. Children and youth who are evaluated and diagnosed by non-school agencies as meeting the current or revised APA definition of Autism Spectrum Disorder are still required to have a separate educational evaluation by the school district.

5. If necessary, the OPI Division of Special Education will provide guidance and technical assistance in interpreting any differences between the new APA criteria for autism spectrum disorders and the current Montana educational criteria for autism.

If you have questions, please contact Doug Doty, Statewide Coordinator of the OPI Montana Autism Education Project at ddoty@mt.govor 459-5303.