How to Navigate the Public School System for Your Autistic Child’s Education

One of the things we learned early on the road traveled with our twins with autism is that the public school system provides education services to children beginning at age three if they are behind.  We weren’t prepared for the storm of activity that circles the tipping point of the Third Birthday, launching their voyage of receiving an education with autism.

The boys had already received a diagnosis of PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not Otherwise Specificed) when they were two.  This led to many assessments, floor time, ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy, speech, occupational and physical therapy, and social work services through the Regional Center. 

We were barely on stable ground when we were told that everything we had done, and were doing, would change when the children turn three. Here is a list of the appointments we had around their third birthday prior to starting their education.

1.Annual physical.  Routine ‘it’s your birthday’ check-up.

 2.Regional Center Psychologist. PDD-NOS opens all doors when you are two, but you have to determine if your child has an autism diagnosis by age three, or doors will close.

3.Social Worker.  Their case load changes for 3 year old’s, so you will meet with a new Social Worker to set goals. If they receive any services at this point, expect the providers to change as well.

4.The school.  Your child will have meetings with the special education teacher, speech and occupational therapist and physical education teacher, and you will schedule your first IEP (Individualized Education Program), the road map of education for children with autism.

 All of this had to be scheduled between all of the therapy they were currently receiving, and, being just two, they were still in need of a nap every day.  And, of course having twins, this was all times TWO!  Did I mention finding time to figure out how to celebrate that birthday?  Oh ya, fit that in too.

So, back to school.  The child will need to have the above mentioned meetings so their new team, at their new preschool, will be able to prepare goals for their IEP. You will receive a stack of forms to fill out prior to the meeting asking you to compare your child to a typical child- whatever that is, thus providing your own input.

Having been whipped around so much in recent months caring for two toddlers with autism our first IEP meetings were a surge of information batted at us. We just sat there and tried to take it all in.  The comforting news was they were planning out a whole year. 

No more bouncing around, introducing new people, constantly changing schedules.  School is a great set-up. They would now have a place to go, without us, with people we could trust, who had a plan and were ready to execute it. Happy birthday!

In our next post, we’ll share more behind the scenes about how we navigated the school district for our autistic children’s education.  We hope you find some helpful ideas for your own child with autism’s  education journey.  We’re happy to answer your questions.  Just enter them in the comments section below.





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