Parents of autistic children feel like their lives are governed by guess work and trial and error. However, they don’t have to complete their journey alone. As a child with autism grows they will eventually enter the local school system. When this happens the school district will become an important partner in the development of the child.
The Captain of the Team
It is important for parents with autism to remember that regardless of who joins the team, that they are captain of their child’s education team. This means that they are in charge of what services their child is given, who their child works with and how their education is delivered. This is a difficult position to hold, but most parents do a great job. However, if you are struggling with your role as the captain you can strengthen your parenting and leadership skills by working with a counselor, by taking educating yourself about autism and by journaling how your child responds to various learning situations.
The IEP Team
The support members of the team will include your autistic child’s teachers, aids, the school psychologist, the school physical therapist, the school speech therapist, the school’s administration representatives and various other people. Their job is to help you evaluate your child’s skills and learning preferences and to design an education plan that will help them to achieve specific educational goals. These people will be called your child’s IEP team. IEP stands for Individual Education Plan, and they will meet at least once a year. You can call an IEP team meeting any time you want during the school year.
In addition to basic educational services, the school district can also offer you special services. These services include things like speech therapy, occupational therapy, vocational therapy and physical therapy. The costs of special services are covered by the school district, which can save you a lot of money on medical bills. Most parents will allow the school district to take over the delivery of these services after their child enters kindergarten.
One important set of services that the school district can offer is transitional services. These services will focus on transitioning a child from elementary school to middle school, from middle school to high school and from high school to adult life. They can also include vocational training and life skill training. While these services should be offered and discussed at IEP meetings prior to a major transition, you may need to ask about them if the subject is not brought up.