How can I get help at School for my ASD Child?

“What to do when you have a son with a (private) diagnosis of ASD and approach the school for assistance but the school denies any form of help because they don't believe the diagnosis because he is compliant and doesn't cause problems in the classroom.”

Unfortunately children who do not disturb the classroom may find it harder to get help and just because a child has a diagnosis does not mean they always require special services. The school must do their own case study to determine if the child requires special services. While the result of the medical diagnosis may plainly state that the child has a certain condition, the school is only obligated to provide services if the child's condition interferes with child's ability to get an education.

However, if you have a child who has been diagnosed with autism, you have no time to waste. According to the National Academy of Sciences, “the diagnosis of autism can be made reliably in two-year-olds by professionals experienced in the diagnostic assessment of young children” with autistic disorders. Early diagnosis is crucial because education is the primary form of treatment, and the earlier it starts, the better.” There may also be a difference between a "medical" diagnosis of ASD and an educational evaluation and finding of "autistic spectrum disorder".

Here are my suggestions:

  • Ask your school to show you their “educational definition” of ASD and then see how this differs from the diagnostic criteria set out in the DSM IV.

  • Write a polite, business-like letter to the school special education team that describes the problem and your proposed solution. Ask what the school plans to do for your child. Include the evaluation and really try to describe what your child is likely to experience or is already experiencing in the classroom, not just his diagnosis. It’s much easier to get what is needed if you do that, because it brings to life his particular learning profile and experience. When you can convey things from the point of view of your son, how he perceives a particular moment, it will be easier to draft the IEP. For example; he may consistently score in the 99th percentile on standardized tests, but can't figure out how to dress for the weather, keep track of his belongings or figure out how to get from class to class.

  • Initially request for the least restrictive and highest functioning environment. Be very honest about what you know about your child and his areas of difficulties. Some typical areas where your child may need support at school are:

  • Social Skills Development (reading the social cues and acting accordingly)

  • Structure and Consistency (help with transitions)

  • Academic (generally the written language and reading comprehension)

  • Executive Functions (breaking tasks down into manageable parts)

  • Help Understanding Directions (these must be explicit and the teacher must make sure the child has really understood them).

  • Say that you had your child evaluated privately, and your child was diagnosed with ASD. You would now like the school to do whatever evaluations are necessary in order for your child to receive the necessary accommodations and specialized instructions he needs. If he is already at the school, then you can state that this letter should be considered permission to evaluate in accordance with federal and state laws. If there are any forms they want you to sign, they should forward them to you immediately, and you will sign them, effective this date, and the time line for the evaluation to be completed should run from this date.

  • Keep copies of everything you send.

  • IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) is the law that provides every child with the right to a free, appropriate public education. When a child’s needs are presented as evidence, the law’s requirement for an appropriate program and placement to meet those needs will be recognized at some state of the IEP process.

Finally Four Rules for Parents:

1. Your child is NOT entitled to the BEST special education.

As a parent, you must eliminate the word "best" from your vocabulary when you discuss your child's educational needs. Remember: Your child is entitled to an appropriate education. not to the best education, nor to an education that will maximize your child's potential.

2. Parent testimony carries little weight in the eyes of hearing officers and judges.

Loving parents are biased. Parents want the best education for their children with disabilities. Testimony from parents about what their child needs is not persuasive and rarely carries the day.

3. School staff will testify that their program is appropriate about 99% of the time.

At least 99% of the time, school staff will testify that their program is appropriate and the best program for the child. (Note: School staff can and do use the word "best," but parents cannot.)

4. Parents must have experts who know the child and who are willing to educate the IEP team about the child's unique needs and what an appropriate program must include to meet these needs.

If you have a dispute with the school, you need to have experts in the private sector who have evaluated and observed your child. Experts must never use the terms "best" or "maximizing potential" in their reports or testimony. Your experts should be able to describe the child's strengths, weaknesses and needs. They should describe the educational program that will meet the child's needs, why the public school program is not appropriate, if the child will be damaged if he does not receive an appropriate education, and the nature of the damage.

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