Meeting the Unique Needs of Your Child With Autism Who is Gifted
Determining the IQ level of a child with autism can be difficult. Diagnosis can be complicated as giftedness can be “masked” by the child`s autism. Seventy-five percent of people with autism score at 70 or below on intelligence tests and are therefore determined to be intellectually disabled.
The other 25 percent presumably have average to superior intelligence (Hartwell-Walker, 2018). Children with signs of autism who are also gifted may present with a unique set of educational needs for the local school district. The following information is presented to you as parents as a guide for meeting your child`s educational needs.
1. Confirm your child`s IQ
School districts vary based on the qualifications needed for entrance into their school`s gifted education program. It will be important for you to understand these qualifications as a parent. Most school districts use a combination of the child`s evaluated IQ score and their Academic Achievement in areas such as Math or Reading. Many students who have autism may present well with their academic ability on achievement testing. Yet, they may stumble when it is time to meet with the School Psychologist.
This may be extremely true if they have not previously met or interacted with the school psychologist. Some students with autism don`t do well when meeting an unfamiliar individual. However, given the opportunity to interact with the School Psychologist several times before the IQ testing begins, could assist with ensuring that your child with autism is comfortable with the School Psychologist and the testing environment they will be involved in. Parents who take the time to ensure this accommodation occurs may be providing their child with autism maximum opportunity for success.
2. Adjust the IEP to confirm proper placement and services
The vast majority of parents who have a child with autism are generally extremely familiar with the IEP process at their local school district. These parents have worked hard at ensuring the disability related services are being provided to their child. Now, the district is confronted with a child with a “disability” in combination with an “exceptionality.”
It is critical for your child`s success that you quickly become familiar with the programming and services available to gifted education students in your school district. The more you know, the better you`ll be able to advocate for your own child.
3. Work with gifted education teachers
You may get extremely fortunate and discover your Gifted Education teacher has worked with students with autism in the past. However, you may also encounter a gifted education teacher who has not worked with children with autism previously.
Meeting with him/her to explain your child`s educational and social needs should assist him/her with the necessary information to develop an appropriate educational program for him/her. Maintaining active engagement with the gifted education teacher and working cooperatively with him/her should assist with your child`s success level at school.
4. Placement in the gifted education program
Now that your child has qualified for placement in the gifted education program, it will be time for him/her to be placed for part of their school day with other students who are also gifted. Research has been clear in determining that gifted education students benefit when placed with other gifted education students for part of their school day.
Placement in a new classroom may cause some level of anxiety in your child with autism. He/She may also experience heightened anxiety when having to interact with a new group of students. All of this will need to be considered when transitioning your child with autism into this new classroom environment.
5. In-servicing gifted education students
Some of the gifted education students at your child`s school may be unfamiliar with the concept of autism and what it means. Working with your child`s special education teacher as well as his/her gifted education teacher and asking them to develop some in-servicing activities for the other gifted education students surrounding the theme of autism can prove helpful. Such activities may give these students a better understanding and appreciation for dealing with individuals with autism.
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6. Time to get involved
Children who are gifted often get opportunities to attend events that are not offered to non-gifted children. It will be important for you to be involved in the gifted education program your child is involved in. You could chaperone a gifted education field trip, offer to present on a topic to the gifted education class, or work with other parents to host an event. Involved parents are informed parents. The more informed you become as a parent, the higher the likeliness of your child becoming successful at school.
7. Meeting the parents
As a parent of a gifted child it will be critical for you to meet the parents of the other gifted students. These parents could provide a wealth of information to you about how to positively advocate for your own gifted child. They also tend to be knowledgeable about camps, activities, and events are available to children who are gifted. It will also afford you an opportunity to explain your child`s autism to these parents. The better level of understanding these parents have of your child`s autism may lead to an increased level of social interaction and involvement with your child with autism.
8. Explaining giftedness
your child with autism may be confused by the new changes occurring in his/her daily schedule. He/She may be wondering why he/she is attending gifted education classes, meeting a gifted education teacher, or having to interact with a new group of students. As a parent, you may need to take the time to explain what being “gifted” really means.
As a parent you don`t want to tell your child being gifted means they are “smarter” than everyone else. It may need to be explained that he/she tends to process information quickly and thus needs more specialized education to take advantage of the skill.
9. Ensuring Accommodations
Your child with autism is now dual diagnosed. He/She is not only an individual with autism, but also an individual who is gifted. Your child requires special accommodations throughout the school day to allow him/her to experience success both academically and socially. Having these accommodations in place will assist your child with navigating his/her school day better.
Your child may be bothered by noise and need a quieter work environment at school. He/She may need to wear a pair of noise reducing headphones. If your child struggles with presenting in public then accommodations can be developed to assist. Knowing what accommodations are available for your child may also help you with determining which accommodations work best for him/her.
As a gifted education student, your child will need “enrichment” during his/her school day. He/She may find the pacing of instruction in a general education class to be “too slow.” The child may want to accelerate his/her level of learning because he/she can demonstrate “mastery” of the topic being presented to general education students.
He/She may need to complete “alternative” assignments to satisfy his/her Giftedness and continue to expand his/her knowledge of a subject. Being actively involved in your child`s education can ensure your child is being offered sufficient enrichment activities.
Hartwell-Walker, Marie (2018). Autistic and Gifted: Supporting the Twice – Exceptional Child
This article was featured in Issue 98 – Fresh ASD Guidance For A New Year