Under the headline “Judging Autism,” the Richmond (VA, US) Style Weekly has a feature about two recent cases in which US District Court Judge Robert E. Payne found that local education agencies have failed to provide free and appropriate education for children with autism and should be responsible for the costs of their schooling at private facilities. Brandon Walters uses the second case about James Peterson as the launch point for examining the causes and consequences of these two cases (see previous EBD Blog posts on the first case regarding Reid Tutwiler here and here).
Linda and Karl Peterson may have won in court, but they say victory eludes them. They still donâ€™t know how, or for how long, their 12-year-old son, James, will be able to stay in the private school he attends. It costs $30,000 a year.James Peterson has autism, a developmental disability that significantly impedes a childâ€™s capacity to communicate, talk and socially interact with others.
In late August, U.S. District Judge Robert E. Payne ruled that Peterson didnâ€™t receive what federal law entitles every child under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: a free and appropriate public education in the least-restrictive environment.
There is a bit of misinformation in the article. Mr. lllllll reported “that there are more children diagnosed with autism than any other disability,” which is not accurate. According to the most recent (2003) Annual Report, 2,365 children between ages 6 and 21 were identified as having autism by schools in Virginia; this is fewer children than the number identified as having Learning Disabilities (155,373), Speech-language Impairments (77,330), Mental Retardation (13,630), Emotional Disturbance (12,503), Multiple Disabilities (2,413), and Other Health Impairments (16,103).