Autism is a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three (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. A child who manifests the characteristics of autism after age three (3) could be identified as having autism if the other criteria in this definition are satisfied.
Autism is one of the four birth mandate classifications in Delaware. Children identified under those classifications are eligible for services to be provided by their local school districts through free and appropriate public education (FAPE). When a referral to Child Development Watch (CDW) is requesting an evaluation due to suspecting one of the above classifications, CDW will be immediately notify the local school district to include them in all aspects of the referral, evaluation, eligibility determination and Individual Education Plan (IEP) development.
If concerns exist regarding autism for a child age birth to three, please contact Child Development Watch (CDW). They will collaborate with your local school district to evaluate, determine eligibility, develop an Individual Education Plan and provide services, if needed. Please refer to the Autism Birth Mandate Process for a detailed description of collaboration between CDW and school districts.
The current eligibility criteria for Autism under state law is found in Title 14 Education Delaware Administrative Code Section 925. If a student is found to have a disability, the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team must also determine the need for special education and related services (6.0 Determination of Eligibility).
According to the Delaware Administrative Code, the educational classification of autism encompasses the clinical condition of Autistic Disorder, as well as other typically less severe Pervasive Developmental Disorders, (i.e., Asperger Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified). These conditions share important features, and together, comprise the Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). Students with educational classifications of autism may have ASD of differing severity as a function of the number and pattern of features defined in the eligibility criteria listed in Section 925 (6.6.1).
An educational classification of autism is established:
- Using specialized, validated assessment tools that provide specific evidence of the features of ASD.
- By individuals who have specific training in the assessment of students with ASD.
- Based upon an observation of the student in a natural education environment, an observation under more structured conditions, and information regarding the student's behavior at home.
Age of Eligibility: The age of eligibility for children with autism falls under the birth mandate. This shall be from birth until the receipt of a regular high school diploma or the end of the school year in which the student attains the age of twenty-one (21), whichever occurs first.
* Retrieved from Title 14 Education Delaware Administrative Code.
Office of Early Learning
Delaware Department of Education
Dover, DE 19901