Living With Autism and Other Special Needs: Back to School Tips

Most parents look forward to the end of August because it is back to school time.

Back to school time for parents with children who have special needs can be a mixed blessing. Transitions and change are difficult for all children, but particularly children with autism.

Here are some tips for parents to help make back to school time more pleasant for you and your child with autism.

  1. Begin getting into the school routine early. Make a picture schedule of the morning routine and start following it. Start getting up a little bit earlier each day and going to bed earlier at night. This will make thing easier instead of waiting until the night before school starts and saying, “School is tomorrow. You need to go to bed at 8:00” when your child has been staying up until 10:00.
  2. Think twice before purchasing new school clothes. In my experience children with autism do not generally like the feeling of new clothes. To send a child to school with all new scratchy clothes might be a bit of sensory overload. Instead, consider buying used clothes or washing them several times before school starts. Encourage your child to wear his new clothes and shoes at home.
  3. Consider getting a haircut early. Some children with autism don’t like getting haircuts and if they start to associate haircuts with school it will add to their anxiety.
  4. Glasses If your child wears glasses, and he doesn’t wear them during the summer (which I don’t recommend), have him wear them at least a week prior to school starting.
  5. Read books and watch t.v. shows about going back to school.
  6. Make a social story featuring your child and read it to him every day. Social stories are helpful for children with autism because it helps them prepare for things that are going to be different. You can include photos if you wish. Here is an example:
  7. Summertime is almost over.
    Kevin is getting ready to go back to school.
    On August 24 th Kevin will ride Bus 456 to “Canyon Elementary School.”
    “Kevin’s” teachers this year are Mrs. Brown and Mrs. Jones.
    Kevin’s Dad bought him new shoes for school.
    Kevin’s Mom bought him new clothes for school.
    Kevin is getting ready to go back to school.

  8. Use a calendar to mark down the days until school starts. Put a picture of a school bus on the date of the first day of school.
  9. Make plans to meet the teacher ahead of time. For tips on meeting the teacher, read my article Meeting the New Teacher.

Special Education Lesson Plans

Special education lesson plans are specially designed teaching methods or educational techniques for students of all age groups, with mild to profound disabilities. The lesson plans would vary depending upon the child’s nature, age, and the extremeness and type of disability. These lesson plans are mainly meant to promote student engagements, to prepare students to function independently and to master skills, to build and support social competence, and to help children and their families lead a problem free life. Special education lesson plans include math, science, music, language and art lessons, computers and the Internet, social studies, physical education and health, and other multi-disciplinary lessons.

Special educators should design presentations to cater to different levels of individual disability. Music, dance, and other art forms are great aids to enhance learning in students with disabilities. Reading, writing, and public speaking can be encouraged by special educators. Well thought out lesson plans will enhance the child’s reasoning ability and reading skills, feelings and response, create a sense of personal fulfillment, encourage language development, promote communication, help to achieve motor control and physical wellness, and cultivate positive attitudes towards the school.

The response of disabled students towards the curriculum depends on the nature of the disability, i.e., physical, emotional or cognitive. A good teacher can encourage each student to participate in the learning experience not only with the assistance of well-adapted materials, but also with proper instructional methods which would be practicable in a disabled individual.

One can find sample lesson plans for special education students in books, articles, and on the Internet; however, these lesson plans are to be modified to suit individuals. A special education teacher can design individual activity sheets for each child in consultation with physical therapists, counselors, doctors, occupational therapists, psychiatrists, and social workers.

Do Special Education Success Stories Exist – And How Do I Obtain This for My Child?

As a parent and advocate for over 25 years, I often become frustrated by how long it takes to successfully advocate for one child (even my own children)! Sometimes it seems like I am banging my head against a wall (giving myself a concussion), with little to no outcome. I was recently reminded that advocacy is difficult by its very nature, but even when it seems like I have not done much or the parent has not done much—the child can really benefit!

1. I was helping parents in another state with their high school son’s education. Things had gotten very bad at school for the young man, and the school wanted to send him to an alternative school. I immediately began working with the mother and educating her on IDEA 2004 and discipline laws. I read letters, helped her write letters, worked on a settlement with the school, and encouraged her to keep fighting despite how bad things were. The situation worsened, and the young man left school-which was frustrating for his parents and me! Imagine my surprise when a few months later I received an E-mail from his mother with a picture of his high school diploma! I am so excited for the young man, and I realized that if his parents and I had not fought for him, he probably never would have graduated! Great outcome!

2. I advocated for a child with autism for over a year. The young man could not read, was delayed in all academic areas, and had developed school phobia. In my advocacy, I had to do a lot of educating of the school staff about dyslexia; research based instruction, as well as extended school year services. Another issue is that the school district insisted on bringing their attorney to all IEP meetings; even after giving them a copy of the OSEP policy letter to Clinton discouraging this practice. After a year, we had made some inroads, and the parents (and I) decided they would try on their own (with me helping them by phone etc.). After I stopped coming to meetings the school district stopped having their attorney attend IEP meetings—and the treatment of the parents is somewhat better. The young man is learning academically and no longer has school phobia-awesome!

There are success stories in special education advocacy; and here is what you can do to increase the chance of success for your child:

1. Assertive and persistent advocacy for as long as it takes. Sometimes advocacy is like a long journey, rather than a short one! Hang in there and you will be glad you did!

2. If your child is having difficulty with reading it is critical that you find accurate information on dyslexia, to use in your advocacy, and research based ways to deal with the disability. Try this link to the International Dyslexia Association ( http://www.interdys.org/ ).

3. Learn about best practices in special education for your child’s disability, and advocate for them. For example: ABA is still considered best practice for children with autism.

4. Call your states PTIC and ask about free or low cost advocacy trainings. You will not only learn lots, but you will be able to connect with other parents!

5. Consider the use of a qualified experienced advocate-this can often go a long way in advocacy success! Make sure that the advocate has experience with your states dispute resolution processes.

6. If the school continues to deny and/or delay needed services consider using the dispute resolution processes (due process, mediation, and state complaints).

Advocacy success stories to exist and this article has given you a few examples. You have also learned some dragon slaying tips to work toward your own child’s success story! Good luck!

Orange County Schools’ Special Education Alliance

The Orange County Schools ‘ Special Education Alliance was created by the 28 districts in Orange County in 2003. The primary goal of the Orange County Schools’ Special Education Alliance is to meet the need for a countywide system that can focus on special education. This includes offering staff development and training to school employees, creating leadership in advocating for legislative and administrative change, overseeing the decisions and rulings rendered by administrative agencies, offering a way to fund the litigation and appeals of administrative and judicial decisions and rulings especially when the outcome has a countywide significance or precedent setting in its implications for all students.

The Orange County Schools’ Special Education Alliance was created with the intention of addressing all the concerns of all students regardless of if the student has any manner disability. Any student that is not receiving the full services they need changed because of lack of funding to support mandates created under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The main problem that Orange County Schools faces with meeting this federal mandate is drawing funds from the regular education program. Funds are often taken from the regular education program to support the needs of special education students. Orange County Schools’ Special Education Alliance aims to provide the services all students need to be successful in meeting academic standards.

Orange County Schools’ Special Education Alliance plans to accomplish this goal by providing staff development to its practitioners, use the legislative process to seek adequate funding to provide these high quality services, and when necessary, support litigation to achieve these goals. Orange County Schools’ Special Education Alliance also encourages staff members, parents, advocates and organizations to get involved by using their voices and contact the local officials and hold them accountable for promises and mandates for which regular education and special needs children are entitled.

Orange County Schools’ Special Education Alliance is lead by an Executive Committee that is composed of Superintendents from different school districts across Orange County. The actual carrying out of the goals is the responsibility of the Review Committee. The Review Committee is comprised of five Superintendents regionally nominated, Orange County Schools’ legal counsel, two private attorneys representing school districts in special education matters, two SELPA directors, and one business administrator. The Review Committee has been working hard for the past two years in order to try and meet the goals of the Orange County Schools’ Special Education Alliance. Even though the focus of the Orange County Schools’ Special Education Alliance is in the areas of legal and funding, it tries hard to work closely with teachers and staff members so that its members are informed about the needs of the schools at root levels.

Since the Orange County Schools’ Special Education Alliance was created it has accomplish a great deal to meet the needs of the school districts across Orange County.

3 Ways to Use Tape Recordings to Help Your Child in Special Education

Are you the parent of a child with autism? Are you the parent of a

child receiving special education services? Would you like to learn

parenting tips that will help you become an equal participant in your

child’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) meeting? This article will

discuss 3 ways that tape recording can help you in advocating for an

appropriate education for your child with a disability

3 ways to use tape recording:

1. Tape recording can allow you to focus on what is happening during

the meeting, rather than focusing on taking notes. Listen to

everything that is going on, and do write down important things. Speak

up and give your opinion as often as you need to, for the benefit of

your child.

2. If an IEP meeting is tape recorded, you will be able to go over it

at a later time, and fill in your notes. It will also allow you to

remember things that may have happened that you missed. IEP meetings

can be adversarial. A tape recording allows you to listen to the

interactions in the privacy of your own home.

3. Tape recordings of IEP meetings can be used as evidence at a due

process hearing. In order to use a tape recording, as evidence, it

will have to be transcribed. Tape recorders should be digital, and

powerful enough to pick up several different people’s voices.

A lot of special education personnel become very resistant when

parents want to tape record IEP meetings. Below is an interpretation

of tape recording under IDEA, by the Office of Special Education

Programs (OSEP).

OSEP published its question #12 opinion in the Federal Register Volume

57, No. 183, Sept. 29, 1992 interpreting tape recording IEP meetings

and stated “that it is permissible to tape IEP meetings at the option

of either the parents or the agency.”

There have also been several law suits that have given parents the

right to tape record IEP meetings. One of these court cases in

Connecticut V.W. v. Favolise had the court reason that parents have a

statutory right, to attend and participate in IEP meetings, and the

district could not legally engage in an act to limit the parents

rights.

If special education personnel refuse to allow you to tape record,

because they say that they have a district policy, ask for a written

copy of the policy. OSEP in a memorandum 91-24 July 18, 1991 stated

“Thus any policy limiting or prohibiting a parent’s right to tape

record the proceedings at an IEP meeting must provide for exceptions

if they are necessary to ensure that the parent is able to understand

the proceedings at the IEP meeting. . .” Ask your school district for

an exception, so that you can understand the IEP meeting.

With the written policy in hand, cancel the IEP meeting, and send a

state complaint to your state department of education. Tell them that

you asked school personnel for an exception and they refused. The

state will have 60 days to resolve your complaint.

Tape recording can help you be an active participant in your child’s

IEP meeting. Your child is depending on your help, do not let them

down.