Navigating the public school system when you have a child with special needs of any kind can pose a challenge. Even parents of children without special needs may find themselves dissatisfied from time to time. My son is on the spectrum, and that means we’ve had a lot of meetings with teachers and the principal and special ed director in our district to figure out how we can best help Max. If you’ve found yourself wondering how you can ensure your child on the spectrum gets the most out of his or her public school setting, take a look at these things you should do starting now.
Take the time to get on the Autism Speaks website. This site is a wealth of information that can help you find local resources to gain support for you and your child, allow you to get involved, find local events that welcome those affected by autism and so much more. If you just received a diagnosis, the site even offers a free 100 day kit to assist newly diagnosed families with children of all ages.
Know your child’s rights
There is federal legislation in place to protect Americans with Disabilities, and in addition, each state has slightly different rights for those with special needs. Familiarize yourself with those rights. Where we live in Indiana, all students must be given the necessary, individualized supplementary aids and services, modifications, accommodations and supports to meaningfully participate in the general education curriculum, according to the Indiana Department of Education. It’s vital you know your child’s rights – remember those rights and don’t be afraid to speak out if you feel your child should be receiving better or more supports in the school setting.
Track progress/lack thereof
The parents of every child with an IEP will be invited to regular case conferences to discuss the student’s progress and set new goals. If you want to meet any time outside of a case conference, request a meeting. You need to speak up about any concerns you have, changes in goals for your child, or ask for additional supports. Make sure you’re tracking you child’s progress with the help of daily papers the teachers/school therapists send home. We had a collection of all of my son’s papers and it was helpful to have those (even though the school has access to them too of course) just to really reiterate that we want to see more supports and changes for our son as we transition him from the Behavioral Strategies classroom to a 1st grade general ed classroom with supports. As painful as it is, I was actually glad my son was diagnosed with autism because it helped me learn more about the disorder and how I can best help my child succeed in life.
Don’t give up
Your child has rights. Always remember that. If you aren’t happy and his or her rights aren’t being met, do something about it! Familiarize yourself with autism and how students at school can find greater success. As a parent, you’re the only one who can stand up for your child since he or she is unable to. Have faith in yourself, educate yourself, and be confident and persistent. I remember feeling really helpless in the situation as the school struggled to find the best fit for Max. My husband and I were upset and it felt like he was falling through the cracks. We love our home school and the people who work there, and they love Max and work really hard to accommodate his needs. It’s just taken some time to get the changes made we have been hoping for. If you can’t seem to get your child what you feel he or she deserves to find the most success in the public school setting, don’t be afraid to find an advocate for those with special needs. Autism Advocates of Indiana can help spark the changes as school you are ready to see happen. Advocacy can make ALL of the difference.
Finding the best plan for your child with autism can be a really frustrating and frightening process. Educate yourself and always stand up for your child if you feel he or she could better benefit if some changes were made at school. Don’t be afraid to hire an advocate if you need help getting your student what he or she deserves!
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