Critics say HISD identifies far fewer autistic students than Katy

- From the day he was diagnosed, through his teenage years, Cynthia Singleton fought with Houston ISD for the Autism services her son Carl needed to progress.

Sometimes she won, sometimes not.

What she learned along the way was that the nation's 7th largest district was shortchanging disabled children in a widespread, systematic way--a contention confirmed with hard data in a devastating Houston Chronicle investigation.

"There are a lot of school administrators, licensed professional counselors, licensed school psychologists, speech pathologists who are violating the ethical requirements of their licenses and they need to be gone,"said Singleton.

Now there's new information uncovered by National Autism Association Boardmember Leslie Phillips.

She found that HISD identifies only one out 119 of its students as challenged with some form of autism.

That's substantially lower than nearby Katy ISD which reported one out of 52 of its kids on the autistic spectrum, a number consistent with the national average established by the CDC.

Phillips doesn't believe HISD kids are less neurologically challenged. She contends they're just under diagnosed to save money.

"What it is is they are not being identified. They are not being served. I think that HISD is in violation of Child Find to identify and find these students and evaluate them and give them the proper services they need and deserve," said Phillips.

It's one of many complaints HISD will likely hear at three upcoming forums for parents of special needs students. Singleton hopes both the new superintendent and trustees professing concern will truly listen and act.

"These labels don't hold the kids back, they are the key to unlock the supports that allow them to be successful in school," said Singleton.

HISD issued the following statement in response to disparity:

HISD is committed to improving programs provided to students who qualify for special education services. Over the last several months, the district received feedback from the community regarding the district’s special education programs. HISD is currently reevaluating how it delivers special education services to students and families.  In addition to reorganizing the special education department to better serve students, an internal review has begun under the direction of an ad hoc committee.

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