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First Published Sunday, 6th July, 2008.

Little Wall Lake, Iowa

FWD:  *From ASAN-Iowa leader Jeff Gitchel:


*The Honorable Dennis Cohoon
816 Randall Lane
P.O. Box 157
Burlington IA 52601


Dear Representative Cohoon,


I am an autistic father of two autistic sons. I live and work in downtown
Des Moines, and am a volunteer advocate for my fellow Autistics. I publish a
weblog (Perseveration. org) dedicated to Autistic advocacy, and am affiliated
with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, a national non-profit organization
run by and for Autistics.


I am writing in regard to a deficit in House File 2031, which is currently
in sub-committee in the Education Committee. I hope to correct what may have
been an oversight in Section 2, which creates an Autism Council to advise
the State Board of Education and Board of Educational Examiners on “best
practices which school districts and accredited nonpublic schools can
utilize to better educate and assist students with autism spectrum
disorders.”


According to HF 2031 Sec 2-2, “The membership shall include parents of
children with autism, school district administrators, teachers,
representatives of area education agencies, representatives of accredited
nonpublic schools, autism research specialists, physicians who possess a
background or expertise in a pertinent medical field such as psychiatry or
behavioral science, and individuals with a recognized expertise in the best
practices for providing instruction to children with autism.” Although I
applaud the effort to be inclusive, there is one very important group that
is not being asked to contribute its experience and insight. *The proposed
council does not include any adult Autistics*.


Despite popular misconceptions, autism does not disappear at adulthood. Many
grown Autistics live independently and join the workforce. Many raise
families, and some raise autistic children. Adult Autistics can contribute a
unique and invaluable perspective on the education of autistic children,
since they represent the end result of the educational process. Only they
can offer a firsthand, long-term evaluation of what works, and what doesn’t.
Theirs is a perspective we can not afford to neglect when considering the
futures of autistic children.


I recommend that the language of HF 2031 Sec 2-2 be modified to be similar
to SF 2425 Sec. 126-2a (256.35A), recently signed by the Governor, which
creates the Iowa Autism Council. It reads, in part, “The majority of the
voting members shall be individuals with autism or members of their
families.”


Specifically creating a place for autistic adults on this advisory council
is the best way to inform its deliberations with an involved, intimate
understanding of the relationship between education and autism.


Sincerely,


Jeff Gitchel
Autistic Self Advocacy Network
jeff@perseveration. org
Perseveration. org



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