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educational system with autism

How to Navigate the Educational System with Autism

February 4, 2024

Navigating the educational system can be daunting for many parents, especially those with children on the autism spectrum. From special accommodations to adapting learning styles, there are plenty of challenges that come along with ensuring your child has the best educational experience possible. This article will explore different ways you can navigate the educational system with autism. We’ll discuss how to prepare for school, create an individualized support plan, and ensure your child has access to the right resources. With these tips in mind, you will be equipped to provide your child with a successful educational experience.

The Different Autism

There are four different autism that are currently diagnosed: Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder–Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), and Rett Syndrome. Each type of autism has its own set of symptoms and severity. The four types of autism can be distinguished from each other by their symptoms and patterns.

Autistic disorder, also known as classic autism or Kanner’s autism, is the most severe form of autism. Symptoms include delays in speech and language development, problems with social interaction and communication, repetitive behaviors, and restricted interests. Children with autistic disorder typically have difficulty with eye contact, body language, and facial expressions. They may also engage in self-injurious behaviors, such as head-banging or biting themselves.

Asperger’s disorder is a milder form of autism that is characterized by social awkwardness and unusual interests or behaviors. Individuals with Asperger’s disorder typically have normal intelligence and language development but may have difficulty understanding nonverbal cues such as body language or facial expressions. They may also have trouble with social skills, such as making eye contact or starting conversations. People with Asperger’s disorder often obsess over one particular interest to the exclusion of others.

PDD-NOS is a diagnosis used for individuals who meet some the criteria for autistic disorder or Asperger’s disorder.

How to Get an Autism Diagnosis

If you think your child may have autism, the first step is to talk to your pediatrician or family doctor. They can refer you to a specialist for further evaluation.

The diagnosis of autism is made by observing behavior and developmental level. There is no medical test, like a blood test, that can diagnose autism. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can sometimes be detected at 18 months or younger. By age 2, a diagnosis by an experienced professional can be very reliable. However, some children with ASD are not diagnosed until much older.

A team of specialists will evaluate the child for autistic symptoms and rule out other potential causes for the symptoms. The evaluation may include:

-A physical exam to check for any health problems that could cause symptoms
-Developmental testing to assess the child’s intellectual functioning and social skills
-Autism-specific behavioral evaluations
-A review of the child’s medical history
-Observation of the child’s behavior

After all this information is gathered, the team will meet to discuss their findings and make a diagnosis. If they think the child has ASD, they will also identify which type and severity of ASD they believe the child has.

Education Rights for Students with Autism

There are many laws in place to ensure that students with autism receive a quality education. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that guarantees children with disabilities the right to a free and appropriate public education. This includes students with autism.

The IDEA requires that schools develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for each student with a disability. The IEP is a document that outlines the student’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as the goals and services that will be provided by the school. It is important to note that the IEP is not a one-size-fits-all document; it should be tailored to each individual student’s needs.

Besides the IDEA, there are several other federal laws that protect the rights of students with disabilities, including those with autism. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in programs and activities receiving federal financial help. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including education.

Finally, it is important to know that you may appeal to any decisions made about your child’s education. If you disagree with something in your child’s IEP or feel that their rights are not being respected, you can file a complaint with your state’s department of education or file a due process complaint.

Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)

IEPs are Individualized Education Programs that are developed for students with disabilities. These programs meet the unique needs of each student, and they must be reviewed and updated annually.

The IEP team includes the student’s parents or guardians, teachers, school administrators, and other professionals who are familiar with the student’s needs. The team works together to develop a plan that will help the student succeed in school.

IEPs must be followed by all schools that receive public funds. This means that private schools and homeschools are not required to follow an IEP. However, many private schools and homeschooling families choose to work with an IEP team to create a customized education plan for their child.

If you have a child with autism, it is important to learn about IEPs and how they can benefit your child. You can talk to your child’s teachers, school administrators, or other professionals about IEPs. You can also find more information online or in books about special education.

Tips for Navigating the Educational System with Autism

The educational system can be a daunting place for parents of children with autism. Here are some tips to help you navigate the system and advocate for your child:

1. Know your rights. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees your child the right to a free and education. Familiarize yourself with the law and know what your child is entitled to.

2. Find the right school for your child. Not all schools are created equal for serving children with autism. Do your research and visit schools to find the one that is the best fit for your child’s needs.

3. Build a support team. Create a team of people who will be there to support you and your child, including teachers, therapists, and other parents of children with autism. This team can provide invaluable guidance and moral support.

4. Be an advocate for your child. It is important that you be your child’s biggest advocate, both at home and at school. Speak up when you see something that isn’t working or when you have concerns about your child’s education.

5. Take time for yourself. Parenting a child with autism can be challenging and exhausting. Take time out for yourself so that you can recharge and continue being the best advocate for your child possible.


Navigating the educational system with autism can be a laborious process, but it doesn’t have to be. With the right support, understanding, and resources, you can help create an environment that is conducive for your child’s success. It is important to stay informed on current resources and legal guidelines related to special education programs so that you are aware of all potential options available to your family. Finding support from other families going through similar experiences may also provide additional insight into navigating this process successfully.

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