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Wednesday 22 Nov 2017

Where To Go From Here – A question from a parent

I have a 6 year-old boy with autism. He has been included in general education this year. He has a great sight word vocabulary although he does not understand most of them. He can label about 600 words. He has severe language delays. His expressive language is mostly “I want_” and single words. He needs prompting all the time. He has 2 hours of aba after school.

There is a restricted class being created in the school district. I am hesitating to put him there since the progress was very slow in restricted environment due to his distractibility, lack of attention, motivation (for two years he was in special schools). He has had a 1:1 aide this year which helped in learning to follow directions and he has opened up socially.

My question is where to go from here? The school does not recommend full inclusion. Also how to develop spontaneous language and help increase the level of understanding. Thank you, Albana

When it comes to special education placements, the decision can be a difficult one. The law (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act – IDEA) states that “to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled, and that special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.” The term used in the law to describe this is Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). What this means for you and your son is that the IEP team (which includes you) needs to decide the best fit for your son based on his educational needs.

Just because your son’s school district is opening up a restricted classroom, doesn’t mean this is the best fit for him. Many times schools don’t “recommend” inclusive placements because those placements typically take more resources (i.e. staff and funding) to be done correctly and effectively. Legally, however, schools can not deny a child the placement which is going to be most beneficial to them educationally and socially.

It sounds at though your son has done well in the general education classroom with the support of an instructional aide. Due to his language delays (i.e. limited expressive and receptive communication) he would probably benefit from some pull-out services (i.e. speech, academic, social, etc.) in addition to any accommodations in the classroom and modifications to classwork to meet his needs. Overall, even though your son has delays, unless there are significant concerns and his educational needs are unable to be met in the regular education classroom there really doesn’t seem to be much justification in changing placements at this time.

Here are some key points to keep in mind when discussing this with your son’s IEP team:

(1) In order to make changes in placement, the team will need to complete a re-evaluation to justify the change.

(2) The placement decision must be based on the educational needs of your son. The IEP should specifically state the services (including number of minutes, location and goals) your son is going to be receiving and these decisions should be based on assessment data.

(3) You have the right, as a parent, to call a meeting at any time to discuss your son’s progress and placement and to request changes to your son’s program if you do not feel he is making the progress he could and should be making.

(4) You have the right, as a parent, to request frequent communication regarding data to ensure your son’s progress. If progress is slower that you anticipate, that indicates there may be a problem that needs to be addressed. If you only get progress updates once every three months, changes to rectify problems are unlikely to happen in a timely manner.

(5) The instructional aide should never be in charge of your son’s participation in the classroom. It is the job of the special education and general education teachers to plan, modify and accommodate the instructional activities in the classroom. It is the instructional aide’s job to facilitate your son’s participation in those activities based on the directives from teachers. It is very important to ensure this is happening, because your son’s education and progress can be significantly impacted if this is not happening.

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