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Autism: Autism was added as a separate disability in the 1997 amendments to IDEA.  Autism is legally defined as “a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age 3, that adversely affects a child’s education performance.  Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetititive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences.” 34 C.F.R. § 300.7 (c)(1)(i);   

Autism is a term often used to define a wide spectrum of disorders beyond the attributes of “classic” autism.  Because many students may present the various autistic traits to varying degrees, it is possible that some students fitting within the autism spectrum (PDD-NOS) may not meet the precise criteria for the educational criteria of autism.  In such cases the OHI category (See below) for disability eligibility may be used to qualify the student for services.