Montana education officials are proposing to change how they identify children with autism by creating a checklist of characteristics that the student must meet.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen will hold a public hearing Tuesday on the changes, which would require that students meet 14 of 30 characteristics on the list to qualify as autistic.

Disability Rights Montana attorney Tal Goldin said Monday the changes are too rigid, are not based in science and would lead to a drastic reduction of education services to children with autism.

Goldin says the result would be more children with autism failing school because they would not have access to the specific, intensive services they need.

Of the 17,143 Montana students ages 6-21 eligible under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act last year, 874 were autistic.

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