This is Adina Rich’s second guest blog for AutismSpot. Adina is a mother of three and is the Chief Education Officer at Rich Educational Consulting. You can read her first guest post HERE. We welcome your comments below. Also, we welcome your comments and thoughts on Facebook and Twitter.
HOW TO ENSUSRE THE NEEDS OF YOUR CHILD BE MET IN THE SCHOOL SETTING
By Adina Rich
“…People say believe half of what you see,
Son, and none of what you hear.
I can't help bein' confused
If it's true please tell me dear?... Cuz I heard it through the grapevine.”
These are the lines of a popular song from the 60’s sung by the late Marvin Gaye, but could just as easily have been written today about programming for kids with ASD. School districts often have difficulty recognizing what an individual child with ASD needs based upon their observations and parent feedback - not on what they’ve “heard” works with kids with ASD. So, what can parents do to insure that your child’s future does not end up as a futile song lyric? To ensure that your child's individual needs - not ASD stereotypes - are the focus of his/her IEP?
First, think objectively about your child’s skill or developmental level.
Does your child have a sensory need or other special need that may inhibit development in a certain setting? Some programs might not be appropriate for all skill levels of learners. It is important to know your options. If you do not know what programs a district offers, just ask. If a program acronym is not clear, just ask. Observe different settings in the district to get a feel for what the different programs look like. Be mindful though that programs and teachers’ strengths can vary, even within the same program component, within the same district. Ask about teachers’ training, comfort level with programming and district provided support as well as their credentials. Find out if teachers are receiving on-going training or even the support of a mentor teacher.
Second, be sure that you have evaluative data to substantiate or help define your position.
Evaluative data actually comes in many forms. It could be either a formal school evaluation or information gleaned from conferencing and regular communication with your child’s teacher, as teachers take informal data all the time. It could also be anecdotal records from a private therapist, in home trainer, or counselor. Doctors’ notes can also be helpful. Don’t be afraid to share copies of these observations with the ARD/IEP team if they could be helpful in substantiating your opinion. Keep them in a notebook to compare what your child’s progress looks like across different settings or to see if there are patterns of behavior noticed by different providers.
Define what you would like to see your child be able to do.
This is key to getting the goals and objectives written into your child’s IEP in a meaningful form. Break goals down into measurable objectives. Don’t define progress in terms of a year’s progress. Each objective should have its own targeted time frame. Look at and determine where each goal should take place and determine time your child will have with neuro-typically developing peers. Be clear with staff about your expectation for levels of support, but also be mindful of the school’s rationale as well. Not all schools set out to be difficult or to deny children staff support or shadows for budgetary reasons, some really feel that the particular child is ready for independence. However, if you have a difference of opinion on this subject, discuss the issue thoroughly and state your reason for the objection clearly and matter-of-factly. Both schools and parents tend to get more defensive when the terminology is offensive (even inadvertently). So choose your words wisely. As goals are written, decide what mastery criteria will be use, including how and when the data will be collected.
Finally, formulate an action plan.
The plan should stipulate who is responsible for what, how often the action will be performed, how the data will be collected, and how and how often progress, or lack thereof, will be reported to the parent. Regular monitoring and follow-up will help ensure your child will be successful, progress will be targeted, and you will be informed. This approach is a great first step to a meaningful partnership between parents and schools.
Adina Rich, M.Ed is the Chief Education Officer at Rich Educational Consulting, LLC a parent resource and diagnostic center in Dallas, Texas. Adina is an Educational Consultant and Parent Advocate with over 20 years experience in education. Throughout her career she has served as a teacher, counselor, parent trainer, and behavior and assessment specialist. Adina is also the proud mom to three beautiful and special children. To contact Adina for more information about serving Autism in school or any other topic, visit her website.