April picI will never forget the encyclopedia, the library aisle and the long, dark table I sat at while I read about autism from a frightening 1950’s perspective.  That was twenty years ago when I learned about my son’s diagnosis in the harshest of ways.  That 1950’s encyclopedia talked about autism being a “refrigerator mom” syndrome and predicted my son would have to be institutionalized.  If there was ever a time of autism un-awareness, it was back in those pre-internet, low-incidence days of autism.  We all know what happened soon after, like a crescendo, autism began to rise, getting louder and louder and it hasn’t peaked. It just keeps getting louder and louder.  In fact, autism is screaming.

In our advocacy practices today, Attorney Jennifer Laviano and I are so aware of autism, we wish our phones would stop ringing with yet another parent of a child who has autism.  It’s the same story over and over again.  In fairness to school districts, autism rates have risen dramatically over the last twenty years.  We recognize the investment districts must make to rise to the challenge of providing appropriate services.  But come on, it’s been twenty years already.  While there are some school districts that have made and maintained the investment in appropriate autism services, unfortunately too many have not.  And that is why our phones ring off the hook for our advocacy services.  We would like the phone calls to stop.  We want school districts to provide appropriate programming for students who have autism.  Autism Awareness?  Yeah, we’re past that.

We would like April to be renamed Appropriate Services for Autism Month.  Girls can dream!
Children with ASD Need Swimming Instruction – Here’s Why!
April is a month filled with headlines about Autism.  We are advocates of BOTH awareness AND acceptance here at YSER.  But more importantly, we are believers in positive, productive solutions to the real threats which face children and adolescents diagnosed with ASD.


A scary statistic by the National Autism Association reveals that 91% of children and adolescents under the age of 14 with autism who died unexpectedly did so because they drowned.  NINETY ONE PERCENT!


It seems pretty obvious to us that, based on these statistics, families should be requesting that swimming instruction, and safety instruction around this issue should be incorporated into the IEPs for students those students who are at risk.  Such services can be written into an IEP under a number of goals:  those that address daily living skills; those that address community safety; even those that address leisure skills.


And when you are asked, as you may well be, how this is an educational issue, your response can simply be this:  the IDEA requires not just academic instruction, but also that IEPs focus on “functional and adaptive skills.”


February 25, 2016
The IDEA requires that a student who has an IEP be re-evaluated by his or her school system at least every three years.  This is commonly referred to as a “triennial evaluation.”  The expectation is that the school team re-assess the student to determine whether they continue to be eligible for special education and related services, and if so, under what category.
I’ve been noticing a troubling trend which seems to be gaining momentum, and that is for the district to propose a “records review” in place of the triennial.  In other words, little or no testing will be done.  Parents are usually sold on this procedure with comments like “we all already know he’s eligible, so why put him through the testing?”
BEWARE of this practice!  There are many reasons to thoroughly re-evaluate a child, including getting a sense of progress.  In addition, but giving the district a pass on testing, should the parents later want to get outside testing, the district will probably claim they want to test first, and you will prolong the process.  If your district says they want to do a records review instead of a full triennial, YSER says it’s time to say no, and request what the federal law requires:  a comprehensive evaluation in all areas of suspected disability.
To learn more about Triennial Evaluations, watch this video in our IDEA BASICS series.

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