Autism Program

picture of children

About the DARS Autism Program

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the fastest growing serious, developmental disability, affecting an estimated 1 out of 68 children in the United States. With this number growing at a significant rate, there continues to be an unmet need for services. The DARS Autism Program was developed in an effort to mitigate this need.

The DARS Autism Program was developed as a pilot project in Fiscal Year 2008, intended to extend treatment services, including Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to children ages 3-8 with a diagnosis on the autism spectrum. Initially, the pilot served two geographic areas of Texas: Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth. Subsequent increases in funding from the Texas legislature allowed the program to expand to Austin and San Antonio. DARS proposed and adopted initial rules for the Autism Program which were effective March 14, 2013.

The appropriations bill of the 83rd Texas Legislature required development and implementation of a plan to increase the number of children receiving services through the program. As part of the plan, DARS contracted with the University of Texas (UT) to research evidence-based treatment modalities based on specific criteria, analyze the outcome date for children in the DARS program, and make recommendations to DARS for changes to the Autism Program which would result in serving more children while continuing to make a measurable improvement in their behavior and development. As a result of the recommendations made in the UT study, DARS proposed the repeal of Chapter 105, Autism Program, and replaced the entire chapter with new Chapter 105, Autism Program, to enable DARS to successfully implement program changes. The rules were effective September 1, 2014. The rule changes adopted two classifications of ABA that are used with children with autism: comprehensive and focused. Other rule changes included parent participation requirements; attendance requirements; and additional staff training requirements. Lastly, the appropriations bill expanded services to two additional geographic areas of Texas: El Paso and Corpus Christi.

The DARS Autism Program champions excellence in the delivery of services for families of children with autism. Services are provided through grant contracts with local community agencies and organizations that provide applied behavioral analysis (ABA) and other positive behavior support strategies. The program helps improve the quality of life for children on the autism spectrum and their families.”


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