Eligibility: MEDICAL V. EDUCATIONAL DIAGNOSIS OF AUTISM

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Lisa:  Confused – My 10 yr old son was diagnosed w/autism Apr 2014. The school (in VA) has ONLY provided a 504 so far. I pushed this yr & they are testing him more to see if he is eligible for an IEP. The district psychologist has said just because he has a medical diagnosis of autism does not mean he will qualify for an educational diagnosis of autism. I told her that was B.S. How can this insanity be??? We meet Dec 9th to go over the results of all the testing. Can someone PLEASE clarify this for me or point me to law or guidelines for Virginia?

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7 Comments on "Eligibility: MEDICAL V. EDUCATIONAL DIAGNOSIS OF AUTISM"

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If you feel your child needs an IEP, by all means keep advocating for that. AT THE SAME TIME, get as strong a 504 plan as you possibly can. Brainstorm all the services, accommodations and modifications you can think of that would make a difference for your child, so he can benefit properly from going to school every day! First, write down the supports you are imagining, in your own words. Then, look at sample IEPs and 504 plans online to see the language that is commonly used for each of those ideas. Compare notes with other parents knowledgeable about autism.

Lisa –

Special education eligibility is not as simple as medical vs. education diagnosis. Instead, eligibility is a three-prong decision.

First – the IEP Team must decide if your child has one or more disabilities. This is not the same as being diagnosed by a medical professional. A medical diagnosis means that a clinician determined that your child meets the clinical definition for the condition. For special education eligibility, the Team must determine if your child meets the regulatory definition of one or more disability categories.

Second the IEP must determine if, as a result of the disability, your child unable to progress effectively in the general education curriculum. This includes academic and nonacademic areas.

Third – the IEP team must determine if your child needs specially-designed instruction to make effective progress. Specially-designed instruction means adapting the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction. Specially-designed instruction is often simply called modification.

Sometimes a student will meet the first two prongs, but not the third. Instead of modifications, these students may need only accommodations. Such students would not be eligible for special education, but would be eligible for support under Section 504 (i.e. a 504 plan).

I encourage you to connect with your local parent center (www.peatc.org), who can provide you with state specific guidance and resources.

JG – I’m having the exact same problem, my son has a speech IEP and a medical dx of Autism. I have requested a re-eval but they refuse to re-evaluate him or do any testing. Even though I’ve asked for a Prior Notice denying our re-eval request they still have not provided anything other than a child study meeting. During the meeting they, (not us) decided they would just watch him because he is passing, (barely). It’s been 4 months does that justify filing a complain with either VA DOE or OCR?

Juanita –

You can file a state complaint. Before you do, though, I suggest you consider the potentially negative impact the complaint may have on your relationship with your child’s IEP Team.

If I was in your place, I would try to work it out with the school just a little longer. I would ask for another meeting with the Team (in writing). I would state specifically in the letter that the meeting is to discuss the need to reevaluate my child, and include a brief description of why I think the reevaluation is needed and what areas I think need to be reevaluated.

I would also consider asking that someone higher up the special ed “food chain” in my district attend (like an administrator or special education director).

Before the meeting, I would read what my state stays about reevaluations and possibly print that info out to bring with me and share. (VDOE has info in this guide, starting on page 17: http://www.doe.virginia.gov/special_ed/parents/parents_guide.pdf).

Whatever the outcome of the meeting, I would make sure that I know what the next step is before I leave. If the Team agrees to evaluate, I would ask how soon I can expect the consent form (and ask to sign it before leaving). If they continue to refuse, I would ask when I can expect the prior written notice.

If they do refuse to reevaluate after the meeting, refuse the meeting, or ignore my request for a meeting altogether, then I would strongly consider filing a state

Juanita, my hunch is, a state special ed complaint might be the best route, given they have not sent you a PWN document. I hope others chime in here. If not, I suggest you try posting a new thread with your question. (Note, your situation is rather different from Lisa’s, in that your child has already been determined eligible for an IEP — which opens additional support doors for you.)

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