Education refers to services and supports provided by the local school systems to students with autism and other related developmental disabilities age 3-21. What students are entitled to is driven by the Individual Education Plan (IEP) or 504 plan aligned with federal and state guidelines for special education.
School plays an important role in the life of every child, probably second only to the influence of home and family. Because of the importance of school, our society has determined that every child is entitled to a free and appropriate education (FAPE) at public expense. For children with specific educational needs, including Autism Spectrum Disorder/Neurodevelopmental (ASD/NDD), this can begin as early as a child’s third birthday and last until he or she graduates from high school or turns 21.
Most children who experience ASD will need some level of special education support. Because many children with ASD/NDD learn differently, their classroom teachers and special educators may also need to adapt lessons to accommodate their learning style — for example, demonstrating math concepts using a more tactile or visual approach. Additionally, children with ASD may need behavioral supports, assistive communication, and environmental modifications in order to be successful in the general education classroom.
All of these supports can be secured through a student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP), a document that outlines the goals and objectives for the student, along with the supports needed to accomplish these goals. One of the hallmarks of special education programming is that it be individualized to the needs of the specific student. Because the parents have an important role to play in understanding those unique needs, they are a crucial part of their child’s education planning team. This is not an easy role. There are, however, a number of resources that can help.
Step In the IEP Process – This booklet provides a description of parents’ rights, roles and responsibilities in the NH special education process. The special education process includes specific steps, each with its own requirements. Each step in the special education process includes procedures for parents and schools to work together and to resolve any disagreements they may have. The process includes an annual review of the child’s individualized education program (IEP) and placement, which is based on information such as formal and informal evaluations, observations and the child’s progress towards the current goals and objectives in his/her IEP.
Once the evaluation is completed the team meets to determine eligibility. The evaluations may determine that your child does have a disability, but the disability may not adversely affect their educational performance and require special education. Your child’s disability may still affect their learning, however, and qualify them for services and support under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1974. Section 504 is a civil rights law that provides services to a person of any age who:
- has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of the individual’s major life activities;
- has a record of such an impairment; or
- is regarded as having such an impairment.
Major life functions include walking, talking, taking care of one’s self, working and learning. While some children may need significant support, including special education, your child may need small adjustments and strategies to regular education. Some examples are:
- extended time on tests and assignments
- preferential seating
- reduced homework or classwork
- structured learning environment(s);
- repeated or broken down instructions;
- use of verbal/visual aids;
- behavior management supports, strategies and/or plans;
- adjusted class schedules;
- verbal tests;
- use of assistive technology;
- modified textbooks or audio/video tape materials;
- consultation with special education staff;
- one-on-one tutor, aide or notetaker;
- additional class personnel; and
- a services coordinator to oversee program and modification