Monday, February 11, 2008

Senator Easley's Bill SB 1686 passes Senate Ed Committee

Oklahoma State Senate

Senator Mary Easley

Senate District 18

Mayes, Tulsa and Wagoner counties

February 11, 2008


Contact: Senator Mary Easley

State Capitol: (405) 521-5590


Senate Education Committee Passes Easley Bill

On Autism Professional Development Training

OKLAHOMA CITY-The Senate Education Committee passed legislation Monday, vote count 11-1, that would encourage school districts to include a special emphasis on autism as part of any professional development program on special education that may be provided to teachers in the district.

Senate Bill 1686 is authored by State Senator Mary Easley, D-Tulsa, and will now go to the full Senate for consideration.

Senator Easley said she is particularly passionate about this piece of legislation because autism personally touches her life every day through interaction with a special family member.

“There are many children out there who don’t have the same kind of help we are able to give our family member,” Easley said. “We want to do something to help these children and their families as well as give Oklahoma teachers as many tools necessary to help these wonderful children.’

Rene’ Daman, director of the Oklahoma Autism Network, said one in every 150 children will be diagnosed with some form of autism, making it more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined.

Autism is characterized by impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and unusual, repetitive, or severely limited activities and interests. These behaviors can range in impact from mild to disabling. Scientists aren’t sure what causes autism and there is no cure.

“There is an absolute need for this kind of help,” Daman said. “We get a lot of calls from families seeking help for their child. Everyone in the schools, from administrators to bus drivers needs to have a basic understanding of autism. This will help them have a better understanding of the child and the type of support they need to be successful.”

Stephanie Canada, a physical education teacher from Shawnee and Oklahoma’s reigning Teacher of the Year, said she supports Senator Easley’s bill.

“Any professional development to help us better facilitate learning for a child is helpful, especially the autistic child,” Canada said.

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