I had a question from JH today asking about an “educational diagnosis” of autism. Here’s what she asked.
“What do you do when your child has been diagnosed with autism from every medical doctor he has ever seen, including a developmental pediatrician and a neurologist, and the school says he isn’t ‘diagnosed educationally’? In other words, he doesn’t meet the education definition of autism.”
Autism is a neurological disorder that includes impairments in communication, socialization and behavior. The diagnostic criteria for Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and other disorders on the autism spectrum are listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM IV).
Autism can affect every aspect of a child’s life – communicating with others, establishing and maintaining relationships, learning, and in the ability to express emotion.
If the school is balking at providing services, ask the see the “educational definition” of autism. How does it differ from the diagnostic criteria set out in the DSM IV?
JH didn’t say what state she lives in, how old her child is, or how long she had been trying to get help from the school.
If you have a child who has been diagnosed with autism, you have no time to waste. According to the National Academy of Sciences, “the diagnosis of autism can be made reliably in two-year-olds by professionals experienced in the diagnostic assessment of young children” with autistic disorders. Early diagnosis is crucial because education is the primary form of treatment, and the earlier it starts, the better.”
Further, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) does not require the school to “label” a child before finding him eligible for special education and related services. To be eligible, the child has to have a disability and “by reason thereof needs special education and related services.” If a child has been diagnosed with autism, that child needs special education and related services. We built a topics page of FAQs, resources, cases, organizations, and other information about Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD), and other Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). These resources will help.
Write a polite, business-like letter to the school that describes the problem and your proposed solution. Ask what the school plans to do for your child. If you do not get a satisfactory response, you need to consult with an attorney who has expertise in special education issues. For attorneys in any state, check the Yellow Pages for Kids site at http://www.yellowpagesforkids.com.