When You Believe Your Child Needs Accommodations at School for Aperger's Syndrome or Autism
In the United States, children with Asperger’s syndrome (AS) are often not diagnosed until middle school or later. Because they have average or above average intelligence, social skills deficits, although not necessarily unnoticed, are seen more as personality quirks than a neurological disorder. But children with AS may still benefit from accommodations and modifications in school.
Specific procedures may vary depending on where you live, but the following steps should provide an outline for steps you can take to help your child get needed services in the classroom:
Document your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Gather up any paperwork you have regarding your child’s condition. If you have a diagnosis from a medical doctor, include a copy of the evaluation. Organize information about school performance, including examples of tests and homework. Write down areas where you believe your child needs help, along with examples of each.
Talk with your child’s teacher. Use this time to ask questions about your child’s performance at school. Be sure to ask questions about social aspects of the school day, such as whether your child has friends, what he does at recess, whether he is “accepted” in the classroom or if he spends much of his time set apart from classmates. Take notes during this discussion and include these notes with your documentation.
Write a letter to the school requesting an evaluation. Outline the reasons you believe an evaluation is necessary. Attach copies of the paperwork you have gathered to back up your request. Outline any behaviors or academic problems your child is having, including problems at home while doing homework. Make sure you date your letter and keep a copy for yourself. Teachers are also allowed to initiate an evaluation, however, the school district cannot begin the evaluation without your consent.
Once the evaluation is completed, you will be asked to attend a meeting to review the findings. School administrators, teachers, the school psychologist or person who administered the assessment are usually included in this meeting as well. The findings will be discussed as well as recommendations. The evaluation may indicate that your child is eligible for an IEP or Section 504. It may also show that your child does not fit the criteria for services. In this case, the school may offer to work with you to offer informal accommodations or may deny your request for services. If your child is found not eligible, you have the right to request a Due Process Hearing where you can outline your reasons for believing your child should receive special services. The school will provide you with information on how to request a hearing.
Attend IEP or Section 504 meetings. If your child is found eligible for services, the school will set up additional meetings, with a team of educational professionals to discuss what types of accommodations, modifications or services would benefit your child. It is important to attend these meetings and work together with the team. You can bring someone with you to help if you want. At these meetings, be prepared to discuss different services and accommodations. If you believe there are ways and services the school can institute to help your child, ask. Depending on whether your child is eligible for an IEP or a Section 504, the level of services will be different.
Review any documentation or agreements. Once the meeting is over, the school district should provide you with a written agreement outlining any accommodations, modifications and services your child will receive. Before signing, read it over and make sure you agree. If you do not, request a second meeting to review your concerns. If you do agree, sign and return the agreement. Many times services will not begin until you have returned the agreement.
Monitor teachers and school administrators to make sure the IEP or Section 504 is followed. You should know what is in the agreement and pay attention to what happens in school. For example, if your child received extra time for taking tests, but he is not given the chance to complete the test, talk with the teacher and find out why. You have the right to file a complaint (different procedures based on what law your child is receiving services under) if the school is not complying with the agreement.
Attend annual meetings. Your child’s IEP or Section 504 should be reviewed on an annual basis. At this meeting, you and the educational team will review progress, decide what accommodations are working and determine if additional services should be added. It is important for you to attend these meetings and keep apprised on how things are going at school as well as share any pertinent information about your child. See: Ten Tips When Advocating for Your Child with Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome
If your child needs services or accommodations, it is important to understand the laws, your rights and your child’s rights. The website WrightsLaw.com offers a wealth of information on special education laws.
“Asperger Syndrome,” Date Unknown, Staff Writer, Matrix Parent Network and Resource Center
“Parents Guide to Special Education,” Revised 2010, Staff Writer, Virginia Department of Education
“SPED & IEP Summary Packet,” Date Unknown, Staff Writer, Community Resources for People with Autism