Are you the parent of a child with autism that has behavioral difficulty at school? Does your school continually discipline your child for the behavior, rather than trying positive behavioral supports and plans? Would you like to learn about a few tactics that some special education personnel use in relation to behavior? This article will give you a few tactics to watch out for in advocating for your child.The Tactics that I have seen are:1. Suspending children over and over, for more than 10 days at a time, and refusing to consider positive behavioral supports. Special education personnel are not supposed to rely on punishment in the long term to change behavior; though it does not work anyway.2. Special education personnel often state that the child’s behavior is not part of their disability, so that they may give them long term suspensions and expulsions. This review is to determine if the behavior is part of the child’s disability. If not, then the child can be punished as if they did not have a disability. Parents must take the MDR process very seriously and advocate for their child to prevent this.3. Putting children in an Interim Alternative Educational Placement (IAES) for behavior that does not fall, under the three special circumstances category. IDEA allows for placement for 45 days in an IAES for 3 reasons: drugs, dangerous weapon, and causing serious bodily harm on school property. I have seen many children placed in IAES’s for behavior that does not fall under the three categories, which can be detrimental to their education.4. More and more school districts are resorting to calling the police for behavior of children with disabilities. Children with autism are especially at risk.!Jan. 14, 2008 An ABC news report stated that an 8 year old Idaho girl with Aspergers was arrested after a scuffle with her teacher. She was taken out of the school in handcuffs and arrested for battery. Her mother was horrified at her daughter’s treatment, at the hands of special education personnel that were supposed to work with her. The prosecutor Mr. Towry refused to press charges! Dr. Pauline Filipek of Irvine California stated that the schools reaction to the behavior was inappropriate. The parents are considering a law suit against the school district.5. More and more school districts are using restraint and seclusion on children with disabilities, for behavioral difficulties. Prone restraint (child is face down) has been linked to quite a few deaths and serious injuries. Seclusion can cause children receiving special education services to develop emotional disturbances. Insist that your child’s IEP have a statement that Restraint or Seclusion will not be used for your child.By understanding these tactics you will be ready in case any of these happen to your child. Continue to advocate for the use of positive behavioral supports which will help your child be educationally successful Good Luck!
Advocating at school on behalf of children with autism can be so frustrating that it’s like hitting your head against a brick wall. In fact, it’s a glimpse into what it must be like to have autism… you know what you want to communicate, but you just can’t seem to get your message through to the people who need to hear it. It is no wonder that people with autism often hit their heads against brick walls or with their fists out of sheer frustration, since one of their main difficulties is their communication skills.Advocating is all about communicating for others who can’t communicate their needs for themselves. Much of your frustration as an advocate can be alleviated if you gain the skills and the knowledge to be an effective advocate.Knowledge is PowerFirst, advocates/parents need to be knowledgeable about the child’s disability and how it affects their learning and well-being while they are at school. Since no child with autism is just like another child with autism, parents need to educate the school staff about the specifics of their child’s autism.For example, some children with autism seek out loud noises, while others are unable to tolerate loud noises. Some children may like specific types of noises like music or the sound of the toilet flushing, but can’t tolerate loud noises like alarm bells or blenders. If the school staff are told facts like these about the child, they can put accommodations in place to prevent triggers that may cause a meltdown, or they can use sounds that the child likes as a reward for good work. This is just one example of how seemingly insignificant information can make a huge difference for a child with autism while he/she is at school.Second, advocates need to be knowledgeable about the Education Act, especially the regulations which mandate the provision of special education programs and services. They should learn about their school district’s Special Education Plan. They should also educate themselves on what the Human Rights Code has to say about the Duty to Accommodate students with disabilities.And third, advocates need to learn how to advocate effectively. Verbal and written communication skills, negotiation skills, and documentation skills all come into play.Prepare a Plan for AdvocatingWrite a vision statement – describe how you would like to see your child in the future… be realistic: “My child will be a contributing member of society, working and raising a family.” or “My child will be living in a community group home where he will be happy and healthy and have the ability to participate in a variety of activities.” Always remember that it’s all about your child and his/her future. Put aside any personality conflicts that you might encounter along the advocacy journey and stay focused on the needs of your child.
Write a mission statement- your emotional commitment: “My mission is to obtain a good quality education for my child so that he will have a good life. I will master the information and skills required to be an effective advocate.” Advocating for your child will be an emotional roller coaster. Sometimes you will feel as if you are making headway, and other times you will feel as if all your efforts are in vain. It is important to stay on course and stay focused.
Set goals for yourself as an advocate – set timelines for yourself to improve your knowledge in the various areas listed above, but don’t become so consumed in advocating that you forget to live your life. Maintain a balance.
Prepare a Statement of Needs – write down everything you know about your child. Think about his/her likes, dislikes, strengths, interests, sensory issues, food issues, safety issues, social skills, communications skills, inappropriate behaviour, self-help skills, what causes melt downs, what motivates him/her, etc. This document will be shared with the school and updated by you every year.Tips for effective advocacyAlways document the issues – if isn’t in writing, it didn’t happen and it wasn’t said.
Keep the lines of communication open -if communication breaks down, your efforts to advocate breaks down.
Never assume that the school knows what programs and services your child needs – it’s the parent’s job to make sure that the school understands what the child’s needs are. It’s the school’sjob to figure out the most effective way to meet those needs.
Improve your negotiations skills -negotiation ensures that both sides are working towards solving the problem and that both sides are happy with the solution, while keeping the parent-school relationship intact.
Keep your emotions under control-emotional outbursts are likely to undermine your advocacy efforts.
Always be on time for meetings -be respectful of everyone’s time and start the meeting off on the right note.
Identify key issues and stay focused-closely follow a prepared agenda and don’t get distracted. School meetings are usually very time limited. If you run out of time, re-schedule another meeting right away.
Follow-up on action items- many times a school meeting seems to have gone very well. However, in the days to come you realize that nothing has changed and nothing that was discussed in the meeting was done. It is important to put a mechanism in place to follow-up on action items, such as a follow-up meeting.
Don’t assume that school staff is knowledgeable about special education regulations and the accommodations that your child is entitled to – that is why it is important that the parent or advocate is knowledgeable. Your knowledge will be invaluable in assisting you to negotiate for appropriate programs, services, and accommodations for your child with autism. Knowledge is power!
All students in special education are required by law to have a complete evaluation every three years to determine eligibility for special education services. The following case study is about a student named “Adam”. Adam is seven years old and has autism. He is in a Special Day Class setting in a public school. The case study includes details of Adam’s three-year educational evaluation.The student in this case study has autism. His name is Adam. Adam is seven years old. He is in a Special Day Class for Severely Handicapped students. Adam’s 3-year evaluation needed to be completed to determine eligibility for his special education services. Adam has an advocate and parents who are intensely involved with his education. When the assessment plan was presented to the parents, they requested additional assessments including a functional analysis, occupational therapy and an assistive technology assessment. A copy of the signed assessment plan was given to the appropriate specialists: psychologist, occupational therapist, speech therapist, speech therapist, nurse and special education teacher.The school psychologist observed Adam on several occasions before administering the psycho-educational profile revised (PEP-R). The PEP-R covers a variety of developmental areas. The test items are presented with simple, concrete instructions and most of the expected responses are nonverbal. The PEP-R provides information on developmental functioning in imitation, perception, fine motor, gross motor, eye-hand integration, cognitive performance and cognitive verbal areas. The PEP-R consists of a set of toys and learning materials that were presented to Adam within structured play activities. The psychologist recorded Adam’s responses to the test. His scores were then distributed among seven developmental and four behavioral areas. The resulting profile revealed Adam’s strengths and weaknesses in the different areas of development and behavior.Adam’s portfolio was used as an assessment tool. Included in his portfolio were work samples, progress reports, behavior reports, notes from parents and daily reports. The teacher sent home daily reports that included performance, compliance and prompt levels on Adam’s tasks and goals/benchmarks. His parents signed and returned the daily reports and became part of his portfolio. The daily reports were used to assist in the assessment of Adam.The school psychologist also conducted the functional analysis to determine why Adam was exhibiting disruptive behaviors. Questionnaires were sent home for the parents to complete. Screaming and biting were behaviors his parents and teacher were concerned about. The classroom teacher was responsible for collecting data on the behaviors. The psychologist and the teacher created a data collection form. The teacher recorded the occurrence of the undesired behaviors. The information from the parents, psychologist observations and teacher were compiled by the psychologist and the report was written.The occupational therapist observed Adam, assessed him and wrote a report. The school nurse tested Adam with a special device. She was able to determine that his hearing appeared to be normal. Adam’s parents reported no problems with his vision and hearing. The speech therapist, who worked with him over the past year, also assessed him.Other tests that can be used to diagnose and assess students with autism are the Autism Behavior Checklist (ABC), Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R), Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) and Pre-Linguistic Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (PL-ADOS). These tests are individual autism assessment instruments that have been specifically designed to assess children with autism. Furthermore, these tests rely on either historical information about the child’s behavior (usually provided by a parent), direct observation of the child by a professional or a combination of these methods.Adam’s assessment for his 3-year evaluation was extensive and comprehensive. This assessment gave the team information on Adam’s development, behavior, communication, health, coordination and cognitive levels. With this information, the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team determined that his placement was appropriate. Occupational Therapy (OT) services were recommended. The occupational therapist wrote several goals and will provide services for Adam. The functional analysis concluded that Adam’s undesired behaviors occurred during transitions. The assistive technology assessment revealed that Adam excelled in this area. No recommendations were needed. Although Adam’s assessment was extensive and required hard work for the IEP team, valuable information was provided that assisted the team in making recommendations for Adam’s education. The assessment also revealed that Adam was making great progress in his special day class setting.