Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Senate Passes Easley Bill On Autism Professional Development Training

The Oklahoma State Senate approved legislation Tuesday that encourages 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 House of Representatives 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.

“Autism is affecting a growing number of families both here in Oklahoma and nationwide and many of them aren’t receiving the help they need,” Easley said. “There is a gap in training and preparing educators to deal with these students. As more and more Oklahoma children are diagnosed with some form of autism every day, we must prepare our school systems and our teachers to be able to handle these educational needs. This legislation takes a positive step in that direction giving our educators the additional tools they need to work with these 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.

Robyne Rohde is a member of the Oklahoma Autism Coalition. She and her husband Wayne are parents of a son Nick, who was diagnosed with autism. They support Senator Easley’s legislation.

“I hope the passage of this bill means Oklahoma educators get the autism training they need,” Robyne Rohde said. “Every adult, teachers and administrators, in the school should be able to approach an autistic child, who on the surface will look like most kids yet might lack the ability to communicate in a manner of which the teacher is accustomed. Teachers should be as prepared as possible to interact, teach and mentor these students and Senator Easley’s bill will give them the tools they need to do just that.”

For more information contact:
Senator Easley's Office: (405) 521-5590

No comments: