For any student, being taught in a standardized setting can be incredibly difficult; however, to be a student that does not meet any “standard criteria” these academic challenges can be almost impossible.

According to NBC Montana, the State’s Office of Public Instruction is hoping to change the way that students are treated by providing more services for those with special needs and changing the process of receiving accommodations.”We feel that if we don’t change our criteria, we’re going to be far, far behind the times,” said Doug Doty, an autism specialist with the Office of Public Instruction.

Since 2016, the rates of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnoses have been rising. According to, this significant increase comes from the number of cases identified, as more and more individuals with ASD are receiving diagnoses.

Doug Doty agrees that the methods should be updated. “Our current criteria for autism was developed in 2000 and was based on some language by the American Psychological Association at that time — it’s tough for people to interpret,” he said, in an interview with NBC Montana.

While adding criteria with a point system that determines a student’s qualifications may help educators have a better sense of their student’s learning difference, some are afraid students will continue to go unnoticed.

“There are a lot of kids who have autism who may be significantly impaired in, say, two of the three areas, but might not meet the points in the third area, and under this new definition they may not qualify,” Bozeman’s Special Education PTA, Alyson Ball, says. However, these types of conversations are still important. Schools and administrations should continue rethinking how to accommodate students with special needs through current systems and modifying outdated criteria.

A public hearing was held on Tuesday, March 12, in Helena to present the proposed changes. Modifications to the criteria could be made as soon as July 2019.

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