Parent Perspective of Autistic Students on Factors of Denial from Special Education in Texas: A Multiple Case Study




Ota, Michael

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In 2005, the Texas Education Agency implemented a new accountability measure for school districts that penalized those that had more than 8.5% special education enrollment. The policy that lasted for over a decade and its implications, which continue to this day, created inequitable access to services for students with disabilities of all socioeconomic and racial/ethnic backgrounds as school leaders struggled to keep percentages down. Researchers and advocates provided ample evidence that Texas was artificially suppressing special education enrollment using narratives and statistical analysis by arguing that the state had an 8.7% enrollment compared to a national average of 14%. The evidence got the attention of the U.S. Department of Education, which issued a report in 2018 confirming the agency’s multiple violations and including corrective actions. Most compelling was that the policy resulted in some estimates to be around 25,000 students with disabilities not receiving a free appropriate public education. One of the fastest growing segments of special education is autism; yet, as many as 36% of those with an eligible autism disability are not receiving services, which may have been exacerbated by the special education cap policy. Current research is clear on why this happens: poor evaluator training; inappropriate assessment tools; and insufficient funding. However, many of these barriers to services could be resolved by implementing the inclusion mandate, which includes community resource involvement and collaboration in the eligibility process. The purpose of this study was to examine how the Texas special education cap policy affected families with autism, in particular the student with a medical diagnosis of autism enrolled in a public school, in receiving services and their perspectives of school administration as agents of oppression, which may be continuing today. Themes were analyzed against a community model framework based on critical disability theory, including collateral costs of eligibility denial, lack of quality evaluators and training as a major factor, and a pervasive “culture of denial” that appears to exist today. Recommendations were provided so that school administrators and district leaders can take immediate corrective action. In doing so, I hope to change the systemic factors that created and continue to propagate inequities for families with autism.



autism, special education, Texas, cap, Counseling, Leadership, Adult Education, and School Psychology


Ota, M. (2023). Parent Perspective of Autistic Students on Factors of Denial from Special Education in Texas: A Multiple Case Study (Unpublished dissertation). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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