Advocacy for a Child with Autism

Children with autism have unlimited possibilities. There are specific skills and knowledge that can help you effectively advocate for your child

Advocacy for Children with Autism

The degree of success usually depends upon a combination of early intervention and appropriate educational supports. No parent or provider should ever view a challenge as a hopeless situation. There are hurdles to overcome in communication and collaboration with those you trust to educate your child; however, it’s worth the effort.

When it comes to working with the school district on behalf of your child, you are usually the best advocate because you care the most. An IEP (Individualized Education Program) is a more powerful document than most parents realize. A well-written IEP can drive your child’s educational program and provide the documentation needed should a situation arise where your child is not making the anticipated progress.

Children whose autism treatment therapists work in collaboration with teachers consistently show the most progress. Information in the IEP must be detailed and properly describe the needs, strategies, supports and services necessary for success. A well-rounded program that targets the child’s needs, evidence-based interventions, and components of differentiated instruction can offer amazing outcomes.

There are specific skills and knowledge that can help you effectively advocate for your child:

Be well informed about your child’s needs.
Learn as much as you possibly can about your autism and autism treatments.
Find out what the best practices are and how your child’s needs can best be met in the school setting.

Be prepared.
Learn about the rights and services available to your child. School districts receive parent education dollars through IDEA and usually offer ongoing trainings for parents. There are also trainings and conferences offered by specific autism agencies. Attend as many as possible to learn about your school system, federal and state laws, and autism treatments . Local parent support groups can offer feedback from parents who have done many of the things you may need to do.

Remain focused on the child.
IEP meetings can become heated debates. More progress is made when collaboration takes place, not contention. Remember the goal for everyone should be to help your child.

Communicate clearly.
The ability to communicate effectively is one of the most important skills of a successful advocate. Too often communication from the school is given in vague educational jargon, using acronyms and terms not within a parent’s knowledge base. On the other hand, parents’ communication tends to be highly emotional and focused on past mistakes rather than the present situation. With effective communication, a bridge can be built to close the gap between home and school.

Be proactive, not reactive.
Make a list of objectives and the items you want to cover before the meeting. It may be necessary to take strategic breaks during the meeting to let everybody cool down and/or to regroup. Also, it may beneficial to terminate a meeting that’s continuing in a negative direction in order to protect the record and procedural rights.

Ask questions.
If you don’t understand terms being used, ask for clarification. Be sure you understand the process, procedures, planning and interventions being. Getting questions answered can also reduce frustration.
Remain positive and supportive. You want to feel good about dropping your child off at school each day. The IEP committee should be a team that works together to help build a strong educational program for your child. You can be assertive without being aggressive. Working collaboratively with the school will help to build an open, trusting relationship. Remember that anger, hostility, aggression and frustration won’t help anyone, especially not your child and his or her education.

Know your rights.
Knowing the alternative actions you have available in advance of the meeting will help you stay focused. Stay strong and remain confident in your ability to passionately and persuasively represent your child.

Inclusion
One of the most advocated positions for children with autism is that of inclusion in a regular, typical classroom. There are many benefits of having kids with autism in a highly verbal, social environment. Inclusion is more of an attitude than a program. It offers a sense of belonging and being part of a community or classroom. It’s where children with disabilities are grouped with typically developing peers to facilitate positive social interactions, acceptance of differences, and freedom of choice.

Inclusion is a right, not a favor or a trial period. It gives permission for kids to be themselves and not have to earn the right to make friends. Inclusion also incorporates the whole family, and gives family members the experience of being included in the community. It encourages adaptation and flexibility.

Through inclusion, students with disabilities have been found to spend more time on task and exhibit greater academic achievement, social skills and communication skills. They also participate in more school and community activities and develop relationships with peers. Typical students learn to value differences. Special educators and general education teachers develop new skills that benefit all students.

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