Advocating for an Autistic Child at School
As parents we oftentimes need to advocate for our children to ensure that their needs are being met properly and that they are growing / advancing in their learning. When you have an autistic child, not only are you working with the schools but you are also working with an IEP team. It can become more complex to advocate for your child and at times can cause stress on those working relationships. However, no one knows your child the way you do and it’s important that you feel empowered to share your unique perspective with the people making education choices that will affect your child’s future. Learn more about different techniques you can use to positively work with the Houston school system as an advocate for your autistic child.
Placing Your Child in School
Start your advocacy by investigating the school your child is assigned to and ask questions such as:
- Are there one-on-one aides available?
- What are their goals for mainstreaming?
- What about other options available to your child, such as Extended School Year Services
Your role when placing your child in school is to suggest changes if necessary or work with the administrators to find a school that is a better fit.
Preparing for the IEP Team Meeting
The individualized education program is there to help you be effective in your job as an advocate for your autistic child. An important part of this process is the IEP team meetings.
Before going to the meeting:
- Write to the district and ask for evaluations plus any other pertinent documents regarding your child’s learning abilities.
- Learn more about the IEP team members and their backgrounds. Become familiar with how they could help your child progress.
- Ask for a copy of the plan prior to the meeting to review if they don’t offer one. Make notes on things you would like to discuss.
- List the problems you have with the plan in writing. Send a copy to the district a few days before the meeting and bring extra copies of your list with you for the team members.
Tips for a Successful IEP Team Meeting
You don’t want the IEP meeting to be a power struggle. You can take steps to avoid that the “me versus them” scenario such as:
- Bring a basket of baked goods or treats for everyone to enjoy. Little gestures like this will set a friendly tone for the meeting and help get things off on the right foot.
- The team will mirror your attitude about the program, so the more even-keeled and professional you are, the better the meeting will go.
- Be an active listener. Make eye contact with the member who is speaking and give them your full attention. Try not to fidget or interrupt.
- If you need time to review any documents they give you during the meeting, ask to reschedule. You cannot be a fully participating member of the team without time to digest all the information and data.
Make sure the team understands that you have a different perspective when it comes to your child. If they disagree with a proposal you make, ask them to clearly tell you why and write down their response. If you disagree with a decision, be polite but firm when explaining your concerns.
When it comes time to sign the consent form, if there are still unsolved issues, write something to that effect on the form prior to signing it.
“I object to certain parts of the IEP plan based on the reasons discussed in the meeting.”
This creates a written record that says you disagree with decisions made by the team and identifies you as your child’s advocate. Recognize that your role as a parent is just as important as theirs as educators. You are equal partners in this process, so give them respect you want to receive and demand it in return.