Learn Your Special Education Laws, Special Education Rights, and Share IEP Goal Ideas

Apr 27
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by Doug Goldberg

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:

  1. Was there a Functional Behavior Assessment Performed?
  2. Is there a Behavior Intervention Plan in this child’s IEP?
  3. Has there been an Occupational Therapy assessment performed to determine whether this child needs a sensory diet for the classroom?
  4. Are there any aides in the classroom that have been trained in behavior support?
  5. Has the Teacher had any training in working with children with Autism?
  6. Have they taught the child any coping strategies to use prior to entering full meltdown?
  7. Is there a contingency plan on where to go and what to do with the child if the meltdown cannot be stopped?
  8. What other accommodations have been listed in the child’s IEP?
  9. 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.



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11 Responses to “Why Teacher Education and Supports Matter for Children with Autism”

  1. Wow. Part of me thought this was made-up and there’d be some sort of “punch-line” — like, this is an article written in the 1950’s, before society was more inclusive.

    Well written point of view. I also wonder why the students in the class were not educated about the child’s special needs so as to demystify his “behavior.”

    Best regards, Nancy, SLP (C)

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  2. This letter makes me very sad.
    I tried to read it as if I had received it because you see, my son is one of those aggressive and explosive kinds of children. I could imagine some day getting a letter like this and I have no idea what I would do about it. cry, get angry and cry some more.

    awareness is key and training the schools and the teachers needs to become a priority.

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  3. Our Special Families Village This article is so important. This is clearly a case of Inclusion gone bad and no one is being served. While I do not agree or condone the opinions of the parent(s) who wrote the letter, I do understand their concerns and frustrations. And I suspect that this situation is more common than we realize. This is why Autism Awareness (or whatever PC term you want to use) is so important. Then the parents of the other students in the classroom could have worked with the teachers and admins and the Special Needs Family involved to find a solution and supports that meet everyone’s needs. And all of the children would learn that everyone is special. And no, I don’t feel that is an unattainable or naive goal. Because I’ve seen it happen.

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    • Shell said on May 2, 2012

      Because of the FAD of Inclusion, children who are disruptive and have severe issues are being MORE SECLUDED than when in resource rooms and multiple disabilities. A child like this needs a small class, intensive therapies, SOCIAL skills groups all REMOVEd from education when Inclusion began. Granted there are a few who benefit from Inclusion but most lose. You can reword the IEP all you want but this child needs a different environment. Hiring aids who read to children does a great disservice. It further handicaps the child. It is nothing more than hiring a day time babysitter. 1 in 6 kids now have Developmental Disabilities. Only since Inclusion have we seen 5 and 6 year olds getting arrested , put in handcuffs from an Inclusion class. Get them back to the services that will teach them how to fit in. Shell of Recovering Autism ADHD and Special Needs,” as introduced on youtube.

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  4. Man! This letter makes me mad, but the point Dennise makes in this post is so important – proper supports and ongoing education are IMPORTANT for those who will be educating children with special needs, especially the variable and complex autism spectrum disorders.

    That these kinds of letters are commonly written is very sad.

    More sad?

    That the underlying problem might not every be fully resolved, because the child with special needs isn’t being well-served in this instance, and their classmates aren’t either, but do we improve that situation with threats about removal or do we work toward a solution? Action … beyond awareness – it’s a theme I think.

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  5. Better yet, this letter should have been sent to the school to complain & make them aware that they are not providing FAPE and positive strategies for the benefit any of these children, etc. Especially, when things are going good with parents/families of the child because of the trainings, education, support, and environmental awareness that we have actively attained. Or. sadly, in a nutshell, it actually sounds like what my son’s superintendent’s secretary verbally said directly to me.

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  6. Our son’s school won’t even let him in the building. They have deemed it to be “unsafe” for him to attend. Wanted us to ship him off on a 100 mile daily commute to another school. We said no. So we are homeschooling him until we can get our complaints heard by our state department of public instruction.

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  7. Unfortunately…this perspective is more widely held than you think. Just look at the comments of most articles with the topic of inclusion. I have purposed to just stop reading the comments…it makes me crazy!

    As a teacher…it is vitally important to get the support for every student (whether they are on the spectrum or not). No support is not an option…it only leads to “failed” inclusion programs and due process.

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  8. Reading this letter made me so mad and even sad. I understand that the parents are concerned but that letter could have been written differently. As parents how dare they use such words and day such things. Every child is different, and different in their own way. Some just take longer to learn. I think that schools need to be more prepared to deal with special children and make parents aware

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  9. Erin said on May 5, 2012

    Each state has at least one parent training and resource center to help parents navigate through the special education process. If you have questions concerning special education, IEP’s, behavior plans, transition, etc… I urge you together in touch with the resource center in your state.

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  10. Jodi said on July 5, 2012

    Sadly, a similar thing happened to me. My son was attending a full inclusion class in Ohio. His teacher adored him, he flourished. If he had issues in the class there was a strict behavioral management plan, and the most he ever spent out of an inclusion class was 20 minutes. Other than that he was fully included. Sadly, we moved to another state with a military move. He was placed in a self contained classroom, with a teacher who barely liked her job. I don’t know what happened during the school day, but 3-4 days out of the week, I was told he was obnoxious, annoying, ill behaved, hyper active, disruptive. They refused to follow the behavior plan laid out by his previous school or his current behavioralist. They refused to call anyone, the first answer was always no. After 6 weeks at school, my son was allowed to bang his head against a table 14 times without being stopped. We pulled him out of school, and sent him to a private school where he is just getting back to square zero. He went from reading DRA level A books with 90% accuracy to not reading, not writing, and not doing any level of mathematics. I have filed state, congressional, and written to everyone and their mother about our case. It’s ridiculous. Sadly, we can’t even get a lawyer to represent us. And we aren’t the only ones, there are 10 other families in our area facing the same crap from the school district. I don’t care what any family says about how disruptive my son is, he went from learning to being a behavioral nightmare, and it’s the school’s fault. Maybe if schools actually followed IEPs, Behavioral plans, and listened to parents and therapists instead of deeming themselves experts after 36 credit hours of education, then stuff like this would not happen.

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