There’s no question that a new presidency and appointment to the role of Secretary of Education has the future of education in the United States top of mind. With 1 in 45 children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder according to a recent government survey, the growing concern and discussion surrounding these disorders, and their significant impact on the special education system, is likely to be key when it comes to discussions about reform.

But these latest events aren’t the only ones to make a big mark: there are four major, recent events that have transpired since the last reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that will have a substantial effect on the next iteration of the federal law. In their important new book How Autism Is Reshaping Special Education: The Unbundling of IDEA, Mark Claypool and John McLaughlin, Ph.D., discuss how the increase in the number of children diagnosed with autism, the rise of applied behavior analysis, the birth of social media, and the reality of unbundling have changed the special education process dramatically.

Drawing on their extensive backgrounds in the field of education – Claypool is Founder and CEO of ChanceLight Behavioral Health, Therapy, and Education, the nation’s largest provider of services for special education and at-risk students, and McLaughlin has over four decades of work in education as a school founder, professor, education-reform publisher, and researcher – the authors leave no rock unturned in their exploration of a shifting landscape and key changes that need to be made around IDEA.

“In the book, autism is addressed at the intersection of public special education, the overwhelmingly privately delivered applied behavior analysis, insurance mandates for covering behavior therapy for children and the advocacy, professional, state and federal regulations governing the world of autism,” Claypool says. Adds McLaughlin, “We hope to make a strong case for how IDEA should be reshaped in light of dramatic changes in the treatment of autism and other developmental disabilities.”

Thorough, fascinating, and timely, How Autism Is Reshaping Special Education addresses:

  • Applied Behavior Analysis: The best opportunities to lift the trajectory of the life of a child with autism is through this therapy seldom found in public special education
  • Access, Not Excellence: Special education in the United States is based on the concept of access, which is no longer sufficient
  • IDEA: The upcoming reauthorization will provide an opportunity for the law to catch up to scientific advances and social change
  • Unbundling: IDEA is likely to follow the societal trend of unbundling to offer more tailored services and protections
  • Social Media: The existence of social media greatly enhances parents’ ability to organize and advocate
  • Reading Disabilities: Why reading disabilities could be moved from special education to mainstream education
  • And much more

Mark Claypool is the founder and CEO of ChanceLight Behavioral Health, Therapy and Education, the nation’s leading provider of behavior, physical, occupational and speech therapy, and alternative and special education programs for children and young adults.

John M. McLaughlin, PhD is a school founder, professor, and researcher. McLaughlin is the author of The Last Year of the Season (North Star Press, 2014), a tale of education intrigue in fictional St. Luke, Minnesota.

In 2015, Claypool and McLaughlin published We’re In This Together: Public-Private Partnerships in Special and At-Risk Education (Rowman & Littlefield), which won an IPPY award for education commentary/theory and was an Indie finalist in the education category.

Learn more at (coming soon!) and connect on Facebook. Twitter (Claypool and McLaughlin) and LinkedIn (Claypool and McLaughlin).

How Autism is Reshaping Special Education can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.