The impact of the legal system on educational programming for young children with autism spectrum disorder

J Autism Dev Disord. 2002 Oct;32(5):495-508. doi: 10.1023/a:1020502324718.


Since 1990, State Educational Agency (SEA) and Local Educational Agency (LEA) policies and practices of educational programming for young children with autism have evolved in response to the due process system and court decisions. This has become an issue because of an increase in the identification of children with autism, reclassification of children previously reported under other disability categories, publicity about the competition between methodologies, parent advocacy for specific methodologies, shortages of qualified personnel, and the demand for due process to ensure appropriate services. A review is made of substantive and procedural issues presented in due process and court cases, the legal standards used by hearing officers and judges, and a synthesis of the case law. It is recommended that school districts consider legal standards as programs are designed, that programs fit the unique needs of the child, that programs ensure appropriate progress educationally and socially, and that communication between parents and school districts be open and honest so that the due process system is used as the last resort.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Autistic Disorder / diagnosis
  • Autistic Disorder / rehabilitation*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Civil Rights
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Early Intervention, Educational / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Education, Special / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Health Services Accessibility / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • United States