The other day I read a blog by Phillip Hain, the West Region Director of Autism Speaks, called Why Awareness Matters that deeply disturbed me. In this blog Phillip shared a letter so ignorant, so abhorrent it made my skin crawl. It also made me angry, not only with the people who wrote the letter, but with the School this child attends. As you are all aware I am a Special Education Advocate and I spend my days championing for every child’s needs and writing Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) to meet those needs. Before we get into exactly why I am angry with the school and what IEP’s have to do with my anger I think it’s important for you to read the letter:
Prior to moving on, take a deep breath and count to ten and try and get your anger in check. It took me a few minutes to fully wrap my brain around this much ignorance before I started questioning, why did it get this bad? In his blog, Phillip Hain writes that we need more awareness, compassion and action surrounding Autism. I completely agree with Phillip and not because I know him. I also feel it got this bad because the School and the District did not do their jobs.
If a child with a disability is going to be placed in a general education setting the school needs to include supplementary aids and services to support that child’s needs. Furthermore, one of the five special factors to be considered when drafting an IEP is behavior. The Individual’s with Disabilities Education Act says:
In the case of a child whose behavior impedes the child’s learning or that of others, consider the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports, and other strategies, to address that behavior.
I have so many questions I would like to ask the School. My inner advocate is screaming to get out:
- Was there a Functional Behavior Assessment Performed?
- Is there a Behavior Intervention Plan in this child’s IEP?
- Has there been an Occupational Therapy assessment performed to determine whether this child needs a sensory diet for the classroom?
- Are there any aides in the classroom that have been trained in behavior support?
- Has the Teacher had any training in working with children with Autism?
- Have they taught the child any coping strategies to use prior to entering full meltdown?
- Is there a contingency plan on where to go and what to do with the child if the meltdown cannot be stopped?
- What other accommodations have been listed in the child’s IEP?
- Has a Social-Emotional Assessment been performed and does the child need school counseling?
My list could go on and on but the point is this child’s IEP was not working and needed to be amended. Also, children with autism are being placed in general education classrooms on an increased basis but the Schools are not educating or training the Teachers about Autism. I’m a big believer that we need to do a better job educating our educators on autism. It is unrealistic for us to assume a Teacher will just know how to teach a child with autism or that they can at all if they don’t have the proper supports. The Schools need to start educating and training their Teachers and providing them the supports they need.
Unfortunately, letters like the one above happen way too often. At least once a year I hear a story similar to this. A group of Parents get together to try and have a child with a disability removed from their classroom. Just once I would like to hear a story about Parents rising up against the School District and demanding they provide an appropriate IEP for the child with a disability. While we are asking for awareness, compassion and action how about we demand the School District develops and appropriate IEP.