The school years bring innumerable challenges for a child with autism, but they also hold incredible opportunity for growth. For parents, the challenge is to discover and leverage resources to maximize the child’s avenues of academic learning, social experience and physical fitness. Having a team of professionals is essential throughout this long life stage – getting help from those who know the system can reduce stress on the family and improve outcomes for the child with autism.
There are many treatment approaches available to school-aged children with autism – Applied Behavior Analysis, occupational therapy, a range of supplemental therapies, dietary regimens and more. Similarly, there are many different educational programs that provide stimulating learning environments to children with different needs and abilities. Additionally, some families have reported improvements with a variety of holistic therapies and techniques. The Autism Society follows an Options Policy, which promotes that each family and individual with autism should have the right to learn about and then select the options they feel are most appropriate for the individual with autism. To the maximum extent possible, we believe that the decisions should be made by the individual with autism in collaboration with family, guardians and caregivers.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, reauthorized as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004), a federal educational mandate that guarantees students with disabilities a free, appropriate public education, is the most important tool a student with autism has in securing the appropriate placement, supports and accommodations. An IDEA Individualized Education Plan for a student with disabilities can include “related services” to help him or her learn and thrive in school.
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Parents are the best front-line advocates for their kids. An informed parent, can advocate even better when they know how the system works.
Information about what to expect in an education setting is part of our regularly offered Autism 101 workshops.
Additionally, Wisconsin FACETS frequently offers training workshops at no charge – many are one hour or less, take place in the evening or over the lunch-hour, and are webcast or accessible by telephone.
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction offers this website with more information for parents.
Be sure to check out the Autism Society’s online resource materials, including informational pamphlets for students and guides to school transitions, puberty and more.