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Autistic students often face “school of hard knocks”

If your child has received a diagnosis of autism, you have probably learned a lot about the condition and where your child ranks on the spectrum. Once your child reaches school age, you will need to become your child’s advocate to get the right services in place.

The Economist recently devoted a cover to issues of autism. An associated opinion piece described ways to avoid squandering the potential of autistic individuals.

Autistic students face more challenges in school that can impact whether they are able to find jobs and live independently. The Interactive Autism Network found autistic children were bullied at much higher rates than non-autistic siblings. This is one reason that explains higher dropout rates – only about half of autistic children graduate from high school.

Programs that focus solely on educating children on the autism spectrum are rare in the United States. Usually a mainstream school will offer additional help from therapists and teachers through an individualized education plan. Weaving in and out of a mainstream classroom can often ensure that your child gets needed help.

What happens when services are not offered?

America’s Individuals with Disabilities Education Act guarantees services including vocational training, but this is not always available. A New York lawsuit claims that the New York City Department of Education did not offer entitled assistance to thousands of autistic individuals. When it comes to vocational training the figures are stark. When given help to find a job, 87 percent of autistic young adults found work. Only six percent were able to land a job when unassisted.

You know your child best and you need to fight to get the right help. Learn as much as you can about the IEP process. Take the time from the first IEP to make sure that a roadmap exists to guide teachers and other service providers. You can also ask for changes when something does not work.


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