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Special Education


A developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction. The term shall have the meaning given it in federal law at 34 CFR 300.7.

Federal Definition:

  1. Autism means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age 3, that adversely affects a child's educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. The term does not apply if a child's educational performance is adversely affected primarily because the child has an emotional disturbance, as defined in paragraph (b)(4) of this section.
  2. A child who manifests the characteristics of "autism" after age 3 could be diagnosed as having "autism" if the criteria in paragraph (c)(1)(i) of this section are satisfied.

Massachusetts Organizations/Resources

Massachusetts Act Early Campaign
Massachusetts Act Early aims to educate parents and professionals about healthy childhood development, early warning signs of autism and other developmental disorders, the importance of routine developmental screening, and timely early intervention whenever there is a concern.

Massachusetts Advocates for Children (MAC)
Massachusetts Advocates for Children (MAC) has launched a new Autism Special Education Legal Support Center last year to provide training, technical assistance and advocacy services to ensure that children with autism overcome lowered expectations and receive equal educational opportunities.

Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH)
The DPH website offers links to information and resources for parents and anyone with interest in autism.

Shriver Center

  • The Shriver Center provides Distance Learning opportunities designed to meet the education and training needs of diverse professionals, paraprofessionals and parents as they seek to better serve the needs of persons with disabilities nationally and abroad.

National Organizations/Resources

Asperger's Association of New England (AANE)
The Asperger's Association of New England (AANE) is made up of individuals with Asperger's Syndrome (AS), their families, friends and professionals. They are dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with AS and related conditions.

Autism Network International
Autism Network International is an autistic-run self-help and advocacy organization for autistic people.

Autism Research Institute
The Autism Research Institute (ARI) is primarily devoted to conducting research, and to disseminating the results of research, on the causes of autism and on methods of preventing, diagnosing and treating autism and other severe behavioral disorders of childhood.

Division TEACCH (Training and Education of Autistic and related Communication handicapped CHildren)
TEACCH is a research-based program that describes a system of structuring learning environments and providing instruction to meet the needs of individuals with autism.

Flutie Foundation
The Foundation's mission is to aid financially disadvantaged families who need assistance in caring for their children with autism; to fund education and research into the causes and consequences of childhood autism; and to serve as a clearinghouse and communications center for new programs and services developed for individuals with autism.

Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC)
The National Institute of Mental Health sponsors this committee whose primary mission is to facilitate the efficient and effective exchange of information on autism activities among the member agencies, and to coordinate autism-related programs and initiatives.

National Autism Center (NAC)
The goal of the National Autism Center is to serve children and adults with autism by responding to the rising demand for reliable information and by providing comprehensive, evidence-based resources for families and communities.


Autism Research Center of Excellence - Boston University
The central purpose of this Center is to develop an integrated interdisciplinary program of research, which addresses the underlying causes, developmental course, and treatment of the social and affective deficits that define the syndrome of autism.

Autism Treatment Network (ATN)
ATN's mission is to create a "gold standard" of medical treatment that will be made broadly available to physicians, researchers, parents, policy makers and others dedicated to enhancing the care of individuals with autism.

Collaborative Programs of Excellence in Autism (CPEA)
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) started a five-year, $45 million, international Network on the Neurobiology and Genetics of Autism. The Network included 10 Collaborative Programs of Excellence in Autism (CPEAs) that would conduct research to learn about the possible causes of autism, including genetic, immunological, and environmental factors.

Family-School Autism Project - University of Massachusetts Boston
The Family-School Autism Project is a major longitudinal study of parental involvement in educational programs for young children with autism.

Studies to Advance Autism Research and Treatment (STAART)
The STAART Network is comprised of eight centers across the country. Each center contributes to the autism research base in the areas of causes, diagnosis, early detection, prevention, and treatment.

Last Updated: April 2, 2012

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Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
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