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Autism and Special Education: What are the Benefits?

May 27, 2024

If you have a child on the autism spectrum, you are likely very familiar with autism and special education. Before I had my own sons with autism, I received my bachelor’s in Special Education from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.

When I became a special needs mother, I had an advantage over the majority of other new special needs parents. I knew about autism. I taught children with autism. Most importantly, I knew about special education and my rights as a special needs parent.

Sadly, even though I was at an advantage, I still found myself lost in the system at times. There is so much to know in order to get your child the best education possible, and I’m here to help you. 

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Rights and entitlements

Even though your child has autism, they are still entitled to a “free and appropriate public education” in the “least restrictive environment.” In other words, your child deserves an education that meets their needs with their non-disabled peers as much as possible.

So please do not feel like your child can’t benefit from school because they can — even with a diagnosis of autism.

Evaluation and IEP process

Sometimes, depending on the school district, the parent of the special needs child may need to be the “go-getter” and initiate a comprehensive evaluation of your child’s needs. This can’t be done without your approval.

Even if your child has a medical diagnosis of autism, the school district still needs to do an evaluation of your child. The results of the evaluation will help the special education team and you to write your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP).

Parental involvement in IEP

The parent has just as much to do with the IEP as the special education team from your child’s school. In fact, the IEP is not supposed to be written until the IEP meeting with the parent/s.

The IEP might be very confusing and hard to understand. I would suggest getting with your local advocacy group and having them educate you on the different areas of an IEP.


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Your child is entitled to receive related services. Related services are those services your child needs to benefit appropriately from special education, such as occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, and counseling.

Autism and special education

It would take a huge stack of papers for me to tell you all that you need to know about understanding special education. Just always remember that your child is entitled to what they deserve.

Be a proactive parent and make sure you get educated on your school’s special education program. Take the time to educate yourself on the special education law. It will truly only benefit you and your child.

This article was featured in Issue 47 – Motherhood – An Unconditional Love

FAQs

Q: Can a child with autism receive special education?

A: Yes, a child with autism can receive special education tailored to their specific needs. Schools provide various services and supports to help autistic children succeed academically and socially.

Q: How do you teach a child with autism?

A: To teach a child with autism, use clear, consistent communication and visual supports to aid understanding. Adapt lessons to their interests and sensory needs and provide a structured, predictable environment to reduce anxiety. Regularly collaborate with special education professionals to tailor strategies to the child’s individual strengths and challenges.

Q: Can an autistic child be in a regular classroom?

A: Yes, an autistic child can be in a regular classroom. With appropriate support and accommodations, many autistic children thrive in inclusive settings alongside their peers.

References:

McDonald, C.A., Donnelly, J.P., Feldman-Alguire, A.L. et al. Special Education Service Use by Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 49, 2437–2446 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-019-03997-z 

Jaclyn M. Dynia, Katherine M. Walton, Matthew E. Brock, Gabrielle Tiede, Early childhood special education teachers’ use of evidence-based practices with children with autism spectrum disorder, Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, Volume 77, 2020, 101606, ISSN 1750-9467, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rasd.2020.101606 

Low, H. M., Lee, L. W., & Che Ahmad, A. (2020). Knowledge and Attitudes of Special Education Teachers Towards the Inclusion of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. International Journal of Disability, Development and Education, 67(5), 497–514. https://doi.org/10.1080/1034912X.2019.1626005 

Hidden Curriculum in a Special Education Context: The Case of Individuals with Autism Sulaimani, Mona F.; Gut, Dianne M.; Journal of Educational Research and Practice, v9 n1 p30-39 2019; https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1278191 

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