The New York State Education Department
Office of Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities
Special Education Policy, Planning and Partnerships

 

The Availability and Effectiveness of Programs for Preschool Children with Autism

A Report to the Board of Regents,
The Governor and The New York State Legislature

March 2004


Table of Contents

Executive Summary

Study of the Availability and Effectiveness

Major Findings

Conclusions

Regional Analysis


Executive Summary

This report has been developed to comply with Chapter 405 of the Laws of 1999 to report on the availability and effectiveness of approved programs providing special education services to preschool children with autism. The information in this report was obtained through a study conducted by the State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany: Report on the Availability and Effectiveness of Preschool Programs for Children with Autism in New York State.

When viewed from a statewide perspective, there appears to be sufficient availability of preschool programs for children with autism. However, select areas of the State are reporting limited capacity to serve additional students with autism and the growing trend in the numbers of identified children with autism is expected to significantly impact the availability of programs in the future. A combination of many factors (e.g., program model, instructional approach and expertise) affect program availability for preschool children with autism. The study findings regarding program effectiveness, based on the demonstration that programs address important components of educational practices, suggest that special education programs in New York State (NYS) that serve large numbers of preschool students with autism are meeting the educational needs of these students in key programmatic areas. However, select areas of need were identified to improve effectiveness in the areas of family involvement and support, community collaboration and opportunities for inclusion. One particular model of service or instructional approach was not found to be notably more effective than another on the dimensions measured by the Autism Program Quality Indicators (APQIs).

While current statewide capacity to serve preschoolers with autism is generally available, further regional analysis and follow-up are necessary. Many preschool programs need to consider a shift in the capacity of their programs to focus on the needs of children with autism. The distribution of particular service and program models needs to be addressed, with a goal of making a greater variety of service options available for preschoolers and young school-age children with autism. The policies of the State Education Department (SED) and the Department of Health (DOH) need to address program concerns relating to the transition of children with autism from the early intervention system to preschool special education programs.

To address program effectiveness findings, approved programs need to enhance their capacity to assist parents in understanding the special needs of their children with autism and in acquiring the skills to support the implementation of their child’s individualized education program (IEP). Opportunities for children with autism to generalize skills acquired in the formal context of a preschool program need to be expanded. Additional resources for preschool programs to access training and technical assistance initiatives would serve to increase program availability and enhance program expertise to serve preschoolers with autism.


Study of the Availability and Effectiveness of Preschool Programs for Children with Autism in New York State

SED was directed by the State Legislature’s passage of Chapter 405 of the Laws of 1999 to report on the availability and effectiveness of approved programs providing education services to preschool children with autism. In response, SED contracted with SUNY at Albany to conduct this study. The following sections of this report describe the major findings and policy/program implications based on the Report on the Availability and Effectiveness of Preschool Programs for Children with Autism in New York State." 1

Definition of Terms

Preschool Children with Autism

To report on the availability and effectiveness of programs for preschool children with autism, it was necessary to identify the number of preschool children with autism in NYS. In this State, a preschool child aged three to five who is eligible to receive special education services is classified as a "preschool student with a disability" [section 200.1(ee) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education]. School district committees on preschool special education (CPSE) identify eligible preschool students with disabilities using this general term and not by a specific disability category or classification. Consequently, existing State and local school data do not specifically identify the numbers of preschool children with autism. To determine the prevalence of preschool students with autism, the study provided an operational definition of the term "preschooler with autism," as follows:

A child having a developmental disability affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction who may have behavioral characteristics associated with autism such as engagement in repetitive activities and stereotypical movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences; and who is likely to be classified as having autism upon reaching school age.

This term was used as the basis for CPSE chairpersons and directors of NYS approved preschool special education programs to estimate the numbers of children with autism determined eligible for preschool special education and enrolled in the approved preschool programs during the period of the study.

Preschool Programs for Children with Autism

Preschool special education programs in NYS are approved to serve "preschool students with disabilities" as defined in section 4410 of the Education Law and section 200.1(ee) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. This means that preschool programs are not approved to serve specific categories of disabilities (e.g., autism) and, therefore, the identification of specific programs required the study to rely on self reports from approved preschool programs and CPSE chairpersons.

Program Models

SED approves three program models for preschool students with disabilities: special class, special class in an integrated setting (SC/IS) and special education itinerant teacher services (SEIT). (Those providers that offered only SEIT and/or related services, but did not also provide classroom-based services were not included in the study.)

To identify the number and location of preschool programs in the State that serve preschool children with autism, the study investigated availability in terms of the different program models, capacity, expertise and instructional approaches. The following operational definitions were used for program capacity, program effectiveness, expertise and instructional approaches.

Program Capacity

Program directors of approved preschool programs serving five or more students were asked if additional students with autism could have been served on June 1, 2001. A program’s capacity to serve additional students with autism is reported as a percentage generated by dividing the number of students enrolled in the program by the number of students that a program was approved to serve by SED. [Note: Study results relating to "program capacity" must be interpreted cautiously, since approved preschool programs must, for fiscal viability reasons, operate at or near approved capacity by June 1st of the school year. Over 50 percent of preschool students exit approved preschool programs by July 1 or September 1, thereby creating vacancies for the new school year.]

Expertise

To determine "expertise," each Director of a program serving five or more children with autism was asked the extent to which the program had a specific expertise in educating children with autism on a scale ranging from "not at all" to "completely."

Instructional Approaches

Since theoretical and instructional approaches are an important factor in consideration of program placement, directors of approved preschool programs serving five or more children were asked to identify the primary and secondary theoretical and instructional approaches used with preschool students with autism. These included:

These terms were not further defined since it was assumed that due to their common usage, providers would be familiar with their meaning.

Study Methodology

A number of methods were used to determine the availability and assess the effectiveness, or the quality of programs and services, for preschool students with autism in NYS.

Major Findings

The following provides a summary of the major study findings with suggested policy and program implications statewide. The summary reflects global findings and implications based on cumulative reports of the ten regions of the State.


The study results present a "picture in time" based on the responses to the different surveys and site visits. The major findings and State implications for policy and program development must be viewed within this context.

Availability

Preschool Children with Autism

Number of Preschool Programs for Children with Autism

Of the preschool programs that responded to the survey:
  • Program directors from 292 approved preschool special education programs reported the total number of children with autism they served.

  • 121 programs reported that they served five or more preschool children with autism.

  • Preschool programs were located in 57 of 62 counties in the State.

  • Programs serving five or more preschoolers with autism were located in 38 counties statewide.

  • The statewide distribution of preschool special education programs follows the distribution of the population. Approximately 74 percent of NYS residents live in NYC, Long Island, Hudson Valley and the Upper Hudson Valley regions, which also have 74 percent of the State approved preschool programs. These results suggest that proportionally the distribution of preschool special education programs across the State is consistent with the population distribution of students in need of those programs.

Service models in which preschool children are served

Based upon reports from program directors and CPSE chairpersons that responded to the survey, during the 2000-01 school year, preschoolers with autism were served as follows:

  • 65 percent attended self-contained special education classes.

  • 20 percent attended special classes in integrated setting (SC/IS).

  • 15 percent received SEIT services with related services.

  • Of the students in special classes and SC/IS placements, 23 percent attended half-day programs and 77 percent attended full-day programs.

  • 94 percent of students with autism received extended school year services (during July and August).

  • More than 90 percent of the students with autism attend programs serving five or more students with autism.

  • Regional differences in service model availability were noted. For example, less than three percent of the preschool children with autism from the NYC and Long Island regions were served in a SC/IS model contrasted with 88 percent in the North Country. Further, two percent or fewer of the preschool children with autism in the Long Island and the Central NY regions were served in SEIT/related services programs.

Factors impacting the availability of programs and services for preschool children with autism

  • In addition to the number and location of approved preschool programs serving students with autism, CPSE chairpersons that responded to the survey identified other factors that affect the availability of programs and services for preschool students with autism. The most widely reported factors were:

    • limited availability of inclusion opportunities for preschoolers with autism;

    • limited availability of programs offering full day special class placements, including special classes in integrated settings (particularly in the NYC, Long Island and Hudson Valley regions); and

    • limited availability of programs offering behavioral programs.

  • Regional differences in the factors affecting program and service availability are provided in the regional analysis beginning on page 15 of this report.

Theoretical and instructional models available in these programs

Of the preschool programs that responded to the survey:

  • ABA, multidisciplinary special education, positive behavior, augmentative communication and sensory integration are all widely used approaches, with more than half of the programs reporting using these for more than 65 percent of their students. (Note that programs responded independently for each approach, so they could respond to multiple items).

  • The majority of programs serving five or more preschoolers with autism utilize primarily multi-method instructional approaches in educating their students with autism; these approaches are widely used in the Western parts of the State and the Upper Hudson Valley.

  • Behavioral programs comprise approximately one third of the programs serving five or more preschool students with autism; they are concentrated in the Eastern and Northern parts of the State, which includes NYC, Long Island, Hudson Valley, Mohawk Valley and the North Country.

  • Relatively few programs (34 percent) incorporate semantic-pragmatic and incidental teaching methods for some of their students, and fewer programs utilize Floor time or TEACCH approaches with their students.

Expertise in serving children with autism

  • Preschoolers with autism are largely served in programs that describe themselves as experts in the field, with three-fourths of the preschoolers with autism in the State being served in programs identifying themselves as experts "to a large degree" or "completely."

  • Thirty-six percent of the programs that responded to the survey reported being experts "to a large degree" or "completely."

  • Thirty-eight percent of these programs identified themselves as "somewhat" expert in educating preschoolers with autism.

  • Across most regions, comparable percentages of programs (30-38 percent) identified themselves as experts in educating children with autism, with a somewhat greater proportion in Long Island (42 percent) and the Upper Hudson Valley (46 percent), and much higher in the Central region (60 percent).

  • Statewide, one-fourth of programs serving children with autism, which responded to the study, indicated that they were "not at all" expert in serving children with autism. The distribution of programs describing themselves as not at all expert ranged from 17-25 percent, with fewer in Finger Lakes (11 percent) and relatively greater number in NYC (33 percent).

  • Only three percent of students with autism were reported as being served in programs identifying themselves as "not at all" expert.

Capacity

Note: Capacity (the potential to serve additional students with autism) was studied to determine if there may be a correlation between availability based on expertise and the type of model and instructional approaches used by a program. However, programs must operate at full capacity for fiscal viability purposes. The implications derived from assessing program vacancies at the end of the school year are limited.

  • Of the 292 programs responding to the survey, 59 percent (173) had no vacancies; that is they were operating at 100 percent capacity as of June 1, 2001.
  • Considerable variables among regions were found with respect to programs’ additional capacity to serve preschool students with autism. In the NYC, Long Island and Hudson Valley regions, programs were operating at 93 to 96 percent of total capacity for students with autism on June 1, 2001. In contrast, the Southern Tier and North Country regions reported operating at 57 percent and 68 percent capacity, respectively.

Program Effectiveness 4

Effectiveness was defined on the basis of the extent to which a sample of programs across the State met the quality indicators of effective programs of students with autism as assessed through the APQI based on (1) self reviews by approved programs; (2) ratings by CPSE chairpersons; (3) ratings by parents and (4) ratings by site reviewers.

Program Models and Quality Indicators

  • All program models (e.g., special class, SC/IS and SEIT) received generally high ratings with respect to instructional environment, instructional methods, curriculum and instructional activities.

  • In general, all program models yielded lower ratings in terms of providing opportunities for inclusion, program evaluation and community collaboration.

  • Ratings among program directors and CPSE chairpersons, while different in some respects, were generally comparable in that no single program model was consistently rated higher than another.

  • Comparatively, few statistically significant differences emerged among program models.

  • Those dimensions on which significant differences were found included instructional environments and inclusion. With respect to instructional environments, the SEIT/Related Service model received the lowest ratings.

  • As expected, in terms of providing opportunities for inclusion, the special class model rated the lowest.

Instructional Approaches and Quality Indicators

  • Overall, study participants rated programs using behavioral, multi-method and TEACCH programs similarly across all programmatic areas.

  • The majority of programs statewide utilize multi-method teaching approaches.

  • Most of the programs that use primarily the behavioral and TEACCH instructional programs tend to be concentrated in the NYC, Hudson Valley, Upper Hudson Valley-Capital District and North Country regions.

  • All instructional program models (e.g., behavioral, multi-method and TEACCH) were rated as having some or clear evidence of quality indicators in the areas of instructional environment, instructional methods, curriculum and instructional activities.

  • School administrators gave lower ratings to all program models in the areas of program evaluation and community collaboration.

Parental Ratings on Program Effectiveness

  • In general, across program models and instructional approaches, parents tended to be highly satisfied with the classroom environment, teaching strategies, planning and behavior approaches.
  • Parents tended to be less satisfied with their program’s performance in the areas of helping parents to understand the child’s disability and giving ideas to work with their children at home.
  • Parental satisfaction was generally not a function of the child’s level of disability or service model.

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)

  • All program models yielded low ratings in terms of providing opportunities for inclusion.
  • In general, students with autism are placed in more restrictive placements at kindergarten age. At school age, 72 percent of preschool students with autism typically transition into special class placements either in or out of district. Only three percent of students were declassified and 17 percent of preschoolers received consultant teacher, resource room, or related services in kindergarten.

Conclusions
Summary Findings Regarding Availability and Effectiveness

When viewed from a statewide perspective, there appears to be sufficient availability of preschool programs for children with autism. However, select areas of the State are reporting limited capacity to serve additional students with autism and the growing trend in the numbers of identified children with autism is expected to significantly impact the availability of programs in the future. A combination of many factors (e.g., program model, instructional approach, expertise) affect program availability for preschool children with autism.

The findings regarding program effectiveness as reported in the Report on the Availability and Effectiveness of Preschool Programs for Children with Autism in New York State were based on the demonstration that programs address important components of educational practices. The findings suggest the following:

  • Special education programs in NYS that serve large numbers of preschool students with autism are meeting the educational needs of these students in key programmatic areas. Select areas of need were noted, however, in the following areas:

    • family involvement and support;

    • community collaboration; and

    • opportunities for inclusion.

  • One particular model of service or instructional approach is not notably more effective than another on the dimensions measured by the APQIs.

Policy and Program Implications

As a result of the findings of the study and discussions with regional SED staff, the following implications for policy and program development for preschool children with autism have been identified.

Program Availability:

  • While current statewide capacity to serve preschoolers with autism is generally available, further regional analysis and follow-up are necessary.

  • The trend of increased numbers of students with autism needs to be monitored on an ongoing basis to ensure program availability remains consistent with population needs.

  • Many preschool programs need to develop their capability to meet the needs of children with autism.

  • The distribution of different service and program models throughout the State needs to be reviewed to promote a greater variety of programming options for preschoolers with autism.

  • Resources for training and technical assistance need to be available statewide that would serve to increase program availability and enhance program expertise to serve preschoolers with autism.

  • Policies and practices relating to the transition of children with autism from the early intervention system to preschool special education programs, both at the State and local levels, need to be aligned.

Program Effectiveness:

  • Approved programs need to enhance their capacity to assist parents in understanding the special needs of their children with autism and in acquiring the skills to support the implementation of their child’s individualized education program (IEP).
  • Opportunities for children with autism to generalize skills acquired in the formal context of a preschool program need to be expanded.
  • There need to be resources available throughout the State to provide training and technical assistance on the needs of students with autism.

State Initiatives Relating to Autism

While much is now known about autism and the benefits of early diagnosis and appropriate education, widespread practice of effective educational interventions has been slow to follow. In New York State, some significant efforts have been made in recent years to address the unique needs of children with autism through the following SED sponsored initiatives.

Technical Assistance, Training and Support: The New York Autism Network (NYAN)

From 1997 to 2002, SED funded NYAN, which was comprised of four regional technical assistance outreach centers. The four centers of NYAN were coordinated through SUNY at Albany. NYAN provided outreach and information to parents and school personnel statewide relating to the education of students with autism. These centers assisted educators and parents to better understand effective methods, program structures and other considerations for developing services and supports to meet the needs of individual students; and promoted regional collaboration in providing information, training and technical assistance on effective educational approaches for students with autism.

State of the State Meeting on Autism

In 1999, a State of the State Meeting on Autism was conducted by NYAN to identify statewide issues on the education of students with autism. Data and other information were presented on issues affecting parents of children with autism, teachers and other school personnel and teacher preparation programs. As a result of this meeting, SED, in consultation with a State Task Force on the Education of Students with Autism, implemented a comprehensive plan to address issues related to quality educational services to students with autism. The goal of the activities is to improve results for students with autism by:

  • increasing the knowledge and skills of teachers and paraprofessionals to work with children with autism;
  • increasing the availability of quality education programs for these children;
  • providing information and technical assistance to parents and educators; and
  • promoting the early identification and intervention for children with autism.

Autism Program Quality Indicators

NYAN developed "Autism Program Quality Indicators" (APQI) which reflect research-based components linked to high quality and effective educational programs for students with autism in the areas of evaluation; individualized education program (IEP) development; curriculum; instructional activities; instructional methods; instructional environments; progress monitoring; family involvement and support; inclusion; transitions; behavior; community collaboration; personnel resources and program evaluation. The APQI serve as a self-review and quality improvement guide for schools and programs serving students with autism spectrum disorders. The APQI also help parents to identify those features of educational supports and services that combine to result in effective programs, regardless of specific methodologies used. The APQI, with permission from SED, are now also being used in schools in Utah, Tennessee, South Carolina, Hawaii, California, New Jersey, Idaho, Indiana, Canada and France.

Preservice and Inservice Courses

The results of a survey of colleges and universities in New York State (NYAN, 1999) showed that with few exceptions, undergraduate education does not specifically prepare teachers to work with students with autism. When instruction is provided on autism, it tends to be as a component of general special education content or methods courses. Supervised field experiences with students with autism is rarely offered systemically. Where courses are offered, they are often at the graduate level, primarily in psychology degree programs. In some regions of the State, courses in autism for teachers and paraprofessionals were not available at all.

As a result, teachers were graduating from our colleges and universities with limited understanding of autism as a disability category and with limited exposure to effective ways to provide instruction to such students. To respond to the need for teachers and paraprofessionals to be provided with specific knowledge in the unique needs of students with an autism spectrum disorder, SED awarded three-year grants to 17 NYS colleges and universities and graduate school programs with teacher training programs or paraprofessional training programs. Each of these colleges has developed and is now offering courses relating to the education of students with an autism spectrum disorder, both on an inservice and preservice level.

The 17 colleges and universities awarded grants to develop and deliver courses and inservice training in the education of students with autism include:

  • Brooklyn College,
  • Buffalo State College,
  • Canisius College,
  • Columbia University,
  • Daemen College,
  • Hunter College,
  • Long Island University,
  • Manhattan College,
  • Queens College,
  • Rochester University,
  • Russell Sage College,
  • SUNY Albany,
  • SUNY Binghamton,
  • SUNY Canton,
  • SUNY Cortland,
  • SUNY New Paltz, and
  • Syracuse University.

Autism Distance Education Network:

Through distance-learning media, the SUNY at Albany is offering a certificate program focused on the education of children with autism and related disabilities. The program consists of a series of three courses. Each three-credit course is offered at both the undergraduate and graduate level, with a total of nine credits leading to a certificate in Autism. Courses are offered through regular classroom or CD-ROM/online instruction or through video-teleconference at sites throughout New York State. To date, over 500 educators and parents have completed parts of the sequence. The Autism Distance Education Network is a project funded, in part, by SED.

Effective Instructional Programs for School-Age Students with Autism

SED has identified five school-age programs with demonstrated research-based effective instructional practices for students with autism that promote teaching towards the learning standards. These include positive behavioral supports and strategies, inclusion programs, instructional approaches to teach social skills, instructional approaches and teaching methods, family involvement and support, parent counseling and training programs, transition and generalization strategies, and/or programs and services to promote transition to adult services. The selected schools include:

  • Arrowhead Elementary School of the Three Village Central School District;
  • PS 176 of District 75 in the Bronx;
  • Half Hollow Hills Central School District;
  • Ridge Mills Elementary School in the Rome City School District; and
  • Wildwood School, Young Adult Program.

These schools have been awarded grant funds for July 1, 2003 to June 30, 2004 to support replication activities in other schools.

Continuum of Services: Development and Expansion

The number of children identified with autism has steadily increased over the past few years. Correspondingly, there is a need to ensure that schools are prepared to provide a continuum of services to these children. SED has awarded grants to the New York City Board of Education and to other regions of the State where there was an identified need to expand the continuum and quality of services available to students with autism. As a result of these grants, a continuum of quality, research-based educational programs for school-age students with autism have been developed in regions where such programs were not previously available.

Early Identification and Intervention for Children with Autism

Current research supports the need for early identification of children with autism spectrum disorders and the provision of appropriate education programs and services to support their learning and development. Physicians and family care providers have a primary role in assisting families to identify the needs of their children in order to obtain appropriate supports. In collaboration with the American Academy of Pediatrics, New York State Chapter, SED developed a brochure for health care providers regarding the early identification of young children with autism. This brochure also provides important information to parents on the early identification of children with autism and sources of referral and information to promote early intervention.

Assessment of the Availability and Effectiveness of Programs for Preschool Children with Autism

In response to Chapter 405 of the Laws of 1999, SED contracted with SUNY at Albany and its funded program NYAN, to conduct a study on the availability and effectiveness of preschool programs for students with autism spectrum disorders. This study was conducted from December 2000 through March 2002. The following is SED’s summary of the study, including recommendations.

Questions regarding this report should be directed to Rebecca Cort, Ed.D., Deputy Commissioner, New York State Education Department, Office of Vocational Educational Services, Special Education Policy, Planning and Partnerships, Room 1606, One Commerce Plaza, Albany, New York 12234.


REGIONAL ANALYSIS

Following is a summary of regional findings, excerpted from the NYAN Report on the Availability and Effectiveness of Preschool Programs for Children with Autism in New York State to facilitate regional comparisons. Each of the sixty-two counties in the State were categorized into one of ten regions: New York City, Long Island, Hudson Valley, Upper Hudson Valley/Capital District, North Country, Mohawk Valley, Central, Southern Tier, Finger Lakes and Western New York. The section "interpretation of summary findings" for each region is taken verbatim from the NYAN study. These regional findings should be interpreted consistent with the study methodology and definitions reported in pages 5-8 of this report.

REGION: NEW YORK CITY
Bronx, Manhattan, Kings, Richmond, and Queens

  • One hundred thirteen approved preschool programs returned a completed survey, representing 84 percent of programs in the region.

  • Seventeen CPSE chairpersons completed and returned a survey, representing 44 percent of school districts in the New York City region.

Interpretation of Summary Findings:

  • Approximately nine percent of children in special education preschool programs in the New York City region are preschoolers with autism.

  • Preschool students with autism in New York City region are primarily served in self-contained special class settings.

  • The majority of preschool students with autism in the region (92 percent) are served in 43 programs, located across the region. More than half of these programs reported utilizing multi-method instructional approaches with their students with autism and one-third used behaviorally-based methods. Few programs reported using TEACCH methods.

  • Among those programs serving the largest proportion of students with autism in the region, only seven also identified themselves as experts in serving children with autism. In fact, approximately one third of programs in the New York City region reported that educating children with autism was "not at all" an expertise of their program.

  • Nine programs indicated an ability to serve additional preschoolers with autism as of June 1, 2001. Seven of these programs were identified themselves as experts in autism and served five or more students with autism. These programs were located in four out of five counties in the region.

  • There were no "expert" programs in Richmond County reported to have vacancies as of June 1, 2001.

  • The New York City region had limited capacity to serve additional students with autism. This was found for all programs and particularly among those considered to be experts in educating children with autism. In "expert" programs capacity to serve additional preschoolers with autism was greatly restricted.

  • In terms of program effectiveness, CPSE chairpersons’ ratings of programs in the New York City region were generally favorable. Programs in this region were rated highly in terms of curriculum and enlisting family support and involvement. Programs in the New York City region were rated less favorably with regard to program evaluation and quite low with respect to providing inclusion opportunities for their students.

REGION: LONG ISLAND
Nassau and Suffolk Counties

  • Thirty-three programs returned a completed survey, representing 69 percent of the programs in the region.

  • One hundred five school districts returned completed surveys, representing 78 percent of the districts in the region.

Interpretation of Summary Findings:

  • Approximately 9 percent of children in special education preschool programs on Long Island are preschoolers with autism. However, estimates of the proportion of children with autism served by preschool programs differed significantly by reporting source. Program directors reported serving twice the proportion of children with autism as CPSE chairpersons. While this difference may be a function of varying response rates among program directors and CPSE chairpersons, it may also be associated with the larger sample of preschool students reported by CPSE chairpersons. That is, overall CPSE chairpersons and program directors reported comparable numbers of children with autism but CPSE chairpersons reported a greater number of preschoolers with disabilities. Therefore, children with autism represented a smaller proportion of the total number of preschoolers served.

  • Preschool students with autism in Long Island are primarily served in self-contained special classes.

  • The majority of preschool students with autism in the region (92 percent) are served in 13 programs, located in Nassau (6) and Suffolk (7) counties. Half of these programs utilized behaviorally-based instructional approaches in educating their preschool students with autism and the remaining programs are multi-method. There are no TEACCH programs on Long Island.

  • Among those programs serving the largest proportion of students with autism, nine identified themselves as experts in serving children with autism.

  • Five programs in the region reported available program placements as of June 1, 2001. Two of these programs were considered to be experts and only one served five or more preschoolers with autism. These "expert" programs were located in Nassau County.

  • There were no expert programs in Suffolk County reported to have vacancies as of June 1, 2001.

  • Overall, Long Island had minimal capacity to serve additional students with autism and capacity in programs considered to be expert was significantly restricted.

  • In terms of program effectiveness, CPSE chairpersons’ ratings of programs on Long Island were generally favorable. Programs in this region were rated highly with regard to reviewing and monitoring children’s progress and enlisting family support and involvement. Less favorable ratings were found regarding program evaluation and providing students with opportunities for inclusion.

REGION: HUDSON VALLEY
Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester counties.

  • Forty approved preschool programs returned a completed survey, representing 85 percent of the programs in the region.
  • Ninety-one school districts returned completed surveys, representing 77 percent of the districts in the region.

Interpretation of Summary Findings:

  • Approximately 10.5 percent of children in preschool special education programs in the Hudson Valley are preschoolers with autism. However, estimates of the proportion of children with autism served by preschool programs differed somewhat by reporting source. Program directors reported serving a slightly greater proportion of children with autism as CPSE chairpersons. While this difference may be a function of varying response rates among program directors and CPSE chairpersons, it may also be associated with the significantly larger sample of preschool students with disabilities reported by CPSE chairpersons. That is, overall CPSE chairpersons and program directors reported comparable numbers of children with autism but CPSE chairpersons reported two third more preschoolers with disabilities. As a result, children with autism represented a smaller proportion of the total number of preschoolers served.

  • Preschool students with autism in Hudson Valley are largely served in self-contained special classes.

  • The majority of preschool students with autism in the region (94 percent) are served in 21 programs, located in Dutchess (6), Orange (2), Putnam (1), Rockland (3), and Westchester (11) counties. These programs utilize a variety of instructional approaches including behavioral, multi-method, and TEACCH. However, more than half of the programs in the region employ multi-method approaches in educating their students with autism.

  • Among those programs serving the largest proportion of students with autism, 14 identified themselves as experts in serving children with autism.

  • Seven programs in the region reported available program placements as of June 1, 2001. Three of these programs were considered to be expert and reported serving five or more preschoolers with autism. These "expert" programs were located in Westchester (2) and Orange counties (1).

  • In five out of seven counties in the Hudson Valley, there were no programs considered to be experts in the treatment of autism with vacancy on June 1, 2001.

  • In general, the Hudson Valley had minimal capacity to serve additional students with autism. Capacity to serve additional preschoolers with autism was further restricted among programs considered to be experts in autism.

  • In terms of program effectiveness, CPSE chairperson’s ratings of programs in the Hudson Valley were generally favorable. Programs in this region were moderately high on programmatic areas such as instructional activities, instructional environment, review and monitoring children’s progress, and enlisting family support and involvement. Less favorable ratings were found regarding program evaluation, community collaboration, and providing students with opportunities for inclusion.

REGION: UPPER HUDSON VALLEY/CAPITAL DISTRICT
Albany, Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schoharie, Schenectady, Warren, and Washington counties

  • Twenty-three programs returned a completed survey, representing 96 percent of the programs in the region.

  • Sixty-one school districts returned completed surveys, representing 82 percent of the districts in the region.

Interpretation of Summary Findings:

  • Approximately 14.5 percent of children in preschool special education programs in the Upper Hudson Valley are preschoolers with autism. However, estimates of the proportion of children with autism served by preschool programs differed significantly by reporting source. Program directors reported serving more than twice the proportion of children with autism as CPSE chairpersons. This difference may be a function of sizeable difference in response rates among program directors and CPSE chairpersons. Only one preschool program did not respond to the survey whereas, 18 percent of school districts did not.

  • Preschool students with autism in Upper Hudson Valley are fairly evenly distributed among special class settings (integrated and self-contained).

  • The majority of preschool students with autism in the region (95 percent) are served in 13 programs, located in Albany (3), Rensselaer (2), Saratoga (2), Schoharie (1), Schenectady (4), and Warren (1) counties. A large majority of these of programs utilize multi-method instructional approaches.

  • Among those programs serving the largest proportion of students with autism, eight identified themselves as experts in serving children with autism.

  • Ten programs in the region reported available program placements as of June 1, 2001. Four of these programs were considered to be expert and reported serving five or more preschoolers with autism. These "expert" programs were located in Albany (2) and Saratoga counties (2).

  • In seven out of nine counties in the Upper Hudson Valley, there were no programs considered to be experts in the treatment of autism with vacancies on June 1, 2001.

  • While programs in the Upper Hudson Valley had a moderate capacity to serve additional students with autism, capacity in programs considered to be experts in autism was significantly limited.

  • In terms of program effectiveness, CPSE chairpersons’ ratings of programs in the Upper Hudson Valley were generally favorable. Programs in this region were rated highly with regard to instructional activities, instructional environment, specialized personnel, addressing challenging behaviors in the classroom, and enlisting family support and involvement. Less favorable ratings were found regarding program evaluation.

REGION: NORTH COUNTRY
Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.

  • Nine approved preschool programs returned a completed survey, representing 75 percent of the programs in the region.
  • Sixty-one school districts returned completed surveys, representing 86 percent of the districts in the region.

Interpretation of Summary Findings:

  • Approximately 8 percent of children in preschool special education programs in the North Country are preschoolers with autism.

  • Preschool students with autism in the North Country are largely served in special classes in integrated settings.

  • Preschool students with autism in the North Country are served in several programs across the region. More than half (68 percent) are served in three programs that typically serve large numbers of preschoolers with autism. The remaining students are served in four different programs.

  • Of the programs serving the largest proportion of students in the region, all three identified educating children with autism as a special expertise of their program.

  • The majority of programs (66 percent) serving five or more children with autism utilize behaviorally-based instructional approaches, the remaining third are multi-method. There were no TEACCH programs in the North Country region.

  • While five programs in the region reported available program placements as of June 1, 2001, two of these programs were considered to be expert and only one served five or more preschoolers with autism. These "expert" programs were located in Clinton and Franklin counties.

  • In four out of six counties in the North Country there were no reported vacancies in programs considered to be experts in educating children with autism.

  • The North Country had a sizeable capacity to serve additional students with autism, even in programs considered to be experts in educating children with autism.

  • In terms of program effectiveness, CPSE chairpersons’ ratings of programs in the North Country were generally favorable. Programs in this region were rated highly with regard to instructional activities, instructional methods, instructional environment, transition planning, providing opportunities for inclusion, and enlisting family support and involvement. Less favorable ratings were found on items pertaining to addressing challenging behavior in the classroom and program evaluation.

REGION: MOHAWK VALLEY
Montgomery, Fulton, Oneida, and Herkimer counties

  • Eight approved preschool programs returned a completed survey, representing 80 percent of the programs in the region.

  • Thirty-two school districts returned completed surveys, representing 84 percent of the districts in the region.

Interpretation of Summary Findings:

  • Approximately 9.5 percent of children in preschool special education programs in the Mohawk Valley are preschoolers with autism.

  • Preschool students with autism in the Mohawk Valley are largely served in self-contained special class settings.

  • The majority of preschool students with autism in the region (92 percent) are served in two programs, one in Oneida County and the other in Montgomery County. One of these programs is behavioral and the other is multi-method. Only one of these programs identified themselves as an expert in serving children with autism.

  • While two programs in the region reported available program placements as of June 1, 2001, only one of these programs was an expert and served five or more preschoolers with autism. This program indicated an ability to serve eight additional students with autism.

  • In two out of four counties in the Mohawk Valley there were no reported vacancies in preschool special education programs. In three out of four counties there were no reported vacancies in programs considered to be experts in educating children with autism.

  • The Mohawk Valley had a moderate capacity to serve additional students with autism, however, in a limited number programs isolated to one or two counties.

  • In terms of program effectiveness, CPSE chairpersons’ ratings of programs in the Mohawk Valley were generally favorable. Programs in this region were rated highly with regard to enlisting family support and involvement and less favorably on items pertaining to community collaboration and program evaluation.

REGION: CENTRAL
Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Onondaga, and Oswego counties

  • Ten programs returned a completed survey, representing 91 percent of the programs in the region.
  • Thirty-three school districts returned completed surveys, representing 75 percent of the districts in the region.

Interpretation of Summary Findings:

  • Approximately 5.5 percent of children in preschool special education programs in the Central region are preschoolers with autism.

  • Preschool students with autism in the Central region are largely served in integrated special class settings.

  • A majority of preschool students with autism in the region (87 percent) are served in six programs, located in Onondaga, Oneida, and Oswego counties. All of these programs utilize multi-method instructional approaches in educating their students with autism. There were no behaviorally-based or TEACCH programs in this region.

  • Among those programs serving the majority of preschoolers with autism in the region, four identified themselves as experts in serving children with autism.

  • While two programs in the region reported available program placements as of June 1, 2001, only one of these programs was an expert and served five or more preschoolers with autism. This program indicated an ability to serve nine additional students with autism.

  • In one out of three counties in the Central region there were no reported vacancies in preschool special education programs. In two out of three counties there were no reported vacancies in programs considered to be experts in educating children with autism.

  • The Central region had some capacity to serve additional students with autism, however, in a limited number of programs isolated to one or two counties.

  • In terms of program effectiveness, CPSE chairpersons’ ratings of programs in the Central region were favorable. Programs in this region were rated highly with regard to instructional activities, instructional environment, review and monitoring of students progress, family involvement and support, and inclusion. Less favorable ratings were found on items pertaining to community collaboration and program evaluation.

REGION: SOUTHERN TIER
Broome, Chenango, Chemung, Delaware, Otsego, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga, and Tompkins counties

  • Sixteen programs returned a completed survey, representing 88 percent of the programs in the region.
  • Seventy-two school districts returned completed surveys, representing 86 percent of the districts in the region.

Interpretation of Summary Findings:

  • Approximately 6.5 percent of children in preschool special education programs in the Southern Tier are preschoolers with autism.

  • Preschool students with autism in the Southern Tier are predominantly served in special class settings, however, the proportion of students reported to be placed in integrated and self-contained classes differed significantly by source. That is, program directors indicated that a majority of their students were placed in integrated classrooms whereas CPSE chairpersons reported comparable numbers of students in integrated and self-contained classes. It is not clear why this difference emerged, considering the high response rates for this region.

  • Preschool students with autism in the Southern Tier are served in a large number of programs across the region. About half of preschool students with autism in the region (56 percent) are served in three programs that typically serve large numbers of preschoolers with autism. The remaining students are served in nine different programs.

  • Of the programs serving the largest proportion of students in the region, only one identified educating children with autism a special expertise of their program.

  • The majority of programs serving five or more preschoolers with autism utilize multi-method instructional approaches with their students. One program in the region reported using TEACCH methods. There were no behaviorally-based programs in the Southern Tier region.

  • Eight programs in the region reported available program placements as of June 1, 2001. Five of these programs were considered to be expert, however, only one program served five or more preschoolers with autism. These five "expert" programs were located in four counties (Broome, Delaware, Chenango, and Tompkins).

  • The Southern Tier had a fairly sizable capacity to serve additional students with autism, even among programs considered to be experts in educating children with autism. However, those programs considered to be expert in the Southern Tier typically served fewer than five preschoolers with autism.

  • In terms of program effectiveness, CPSE chairpersons’ ratings of programs in the Southern Tier were generally favorable. Programs in this region were rated highly on enlisting family support and involvement. Less favorable ratings were found with regard to curriculum.

REGION: FINGER LAKES
Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, and Wyoming counties.

  • Eighteen programs returned a completed survey, representing 86 percent of the programs in the region.
  • Sixty-seven school districts returned completed surveys, representing 89 percent of the districts in the region.

Interpretation of Summary Findings:

  • Approximately 6.5 percent of children in preschool special education programs in the Finger Lakes are preschoolers with autism.

  • Preschool students with autism in the Finger Lakes are fairly evenly distributed among special class settings, although a slightly larger proportion of students are placed in self-contained classes

  • The majority of preschool students with autism in the region (91 percent) are served in eight programs, located in Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, and Wayne counties. These programs utilize a variety of instructional approaches including behavioral, multi-method, and TEACCH. Five of these programs also identified themselves as experts in serving children with autism.

  • While eight programs in the region reported available program placements as of June 1, 2001, four of these programs were considered to be expert and only three served five or more preschoolers with autism. These programs were located in Monroe and Yates County.

  • In seven out of nine counties in the Finger Lakes there were no reported vacancies in programs considered to be experts in educating children with autism.

  • The Finger Lakes had a moderate capacity to serve additional students with autism, however, the region’s capacity to serve additional preschoolers with autism in programs considered to be expert was much more limited.

  • In terms of program effectiveness, CPSE chairpersons’ ratings of programs in the Finger Lakes were very favorable. Programs in this region were rated highly with regard to curriculum, instructional activities, instructional environment, review and monitoring of children’s progress, and enlisting family support and involvement. Less favorable ratings were found regarding the provision of inclusion opportunities for preschoolers with autism.

REGION: WESTERN
Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, and Niagara counties

  • Twenty-two approved preschool programs returned a completed survey, representing 88 percent of the programs in the region.

  • Seventy-seven school districts returned completed surveys, representing 92 percent of the districts in the region.

Interpretation of Summary Findings:

  • Approximately 5 percent of children in preschool special education programs in the Western region are preschoolers with autism.

  • Preschool students with autism in the Western region are largely served in self-contained special class settings.

  • The majority of preschool students with autism in the region (90 percent) are served in nine programs, located in Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, and Niagara counties. Eight of these programs utilize multi-method instructional approaches with their students with autism and one is behavioral. There were no TEACCH programs in the Western region.

  • Among those programs serving the largest proportion of students with autism in the region, six identified themselves as experts in serving children with autism.

  • While eight programs in the region reported available program placements as of June 1, 2001, two of these programs were considered expert and only one served five or more preschoolers with autism. Both programs were located in Erie County.

  • In four out of five counties in the Western region there were no reported vacancies in programs considered to be experts in educating children with autism.

  • Although the Western region had a moderate capacity to serve additional students with autism, the region’s capacity to serve additional preschoolers with autism in programs considered to be expert was limited.

  • In terms of program effectiveness, CPSE chairpersons’ ratings of programs in the Western region were generally favorable. Programs in this region were rated highly with regard to instructional activities, trained and experienced personnel, and review and monitoring of children’s progress. CPSE chairpersons rated programs less favorably with respect to providing students with opportunities for inclusion.


Footnotes:

1 - Crimmins, Daniel B.; Sullivan, Colleen; Durand, V. Mark; Rafferty, Yvonne; Kaufman, Karin. Report on the Availability and Effectiveness of Preschool Programs for Children with Autism in New York State. A copy of this report is available by contacting the New York State Education Department, VESID, Room 1624, One Commerce Plaza, Albany, NY 12234.

2 - This number does not include preschool children with autism that are served by agencies or approved programs, which provide only related services and/ or SEIT services.

3- The difference in the projected estimates of program directors and CPSE chairpersons may be attributed to program directors’ knowledge of the students they serve who are more likely to observe the more subtle manifestations of autism in a child because they see the children on a day-to-day basis.

4-Effectiveness was rated on a scale of 0 to 3 (no evidence – clearly evident) based on evidence of quality indicators as assessed by the New York State Autism Program Quality Indicators.