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The University of Iowa
Regional Autism Services Program
Child Health Specialty Clinic

Iowa's Screening Description for Identification of Infants and Toddlers Birth to Three Years, At Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorders, click here for the description

Autism Definition-school age

Federal Regulation/Iowa Definition

"Autism" means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and non-verbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three, that adversely affects 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. Autism does not apply if a child's education performance is adversely affected primarily because the child has a serious emotional disturbance, as defined in subrule 41.50(2). A child who manifests the characteristics of autism after the age of three could be identified as having auitsm if the crieria in the first sentence of this subrule are satisfied. This term includes all conditions described by the term "autism spectrum disorder," which adversely affects a child's educational performance.

Proposed State of Iowa Educational Definition:
Accepted only as Educational Description

"Autism" is a lifelong developmental disability which typically appears in early childhood. Students with autism may exhibit varying degrees of atypical behavior that significantly interferes with the learning process in the following areas:

(1.) Communication: The student displays problems extending into many aspects of the communication process. Language, if present, may lack usual communicative function, content, or structure. Characteristics may involve both deviance and delay in both receptive and expressive language.

(2.) Social participation: The student displays difficulties in relating to people, objects, and events. Often students are unable to establish and maintain reciprocal relationships with people. The capacity to use objects in an age appropriate or functional manner may be ` absent, arrested, or delayed. The student may seek consistency in social events to the point of exhibiting rigidity in routines.

(3.) The repertoire of activities, interests, and imaginative development:
The student displays marked distress over changes, insistence on following routines and a persistent occupation with or attachment to objects. The student may display a markedly restricted range of interest and/or stereo-typed body movements. There may be a lack of interest or an inability to engage in imaginative activities.

(4.) Developmental rate and sequences: The student may exhibit delays, arrests, regressions in physical, social, or learning skills. Areas of precocious or advanced skill development may also be present. While other skills may develop at normal or extremely depressed rates. The order of skill acquisition frequently does not follow normal developmental patterns.

(5.) Sensory processing: The student may exhibit unusual, repetitive or non-meaningful responses to auditory, visual, olfactory, gustatory, tactile, and/or kinesthetic stimuli. The student's behavior may vary from high levels of activity and responsiveness to low levels.

(6.) Cognition: The student may exhibit abnormalities in the thinking process and in generalizing. Difficulties in abstract thinking, awareness and judgment may be present as well as perseverative thinking and impaired ability to process symbolic information.

The diagnosis of autism does not dictate a specific placement. Autism may occur by itself or in association with other disabilities. Educational placement decisions must be based on the assessed strengths and weaknesses of the student and educational needs rather than on reactions to the label of autism. Students with autism may be served in a variety of educational settings.


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