Automatic Services for Children with Autism – What are the Hard & Fast Rules?

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My son has autism and the district says they are reducing services and changing him from an IEP to a 504 for Aspergers. I believe they are trying to move him off a plan entirely.  He has difficulty with organization and is headed to middle school with a rotating schedule that drops a period each day.

Where can I find the resources I need to prove he still needs services? What are the hard and fast rules on autism disorders?

I’m afraid there are no “hard and fast rules” about your son’s situation. You need to know

  • about your child’s disability and his unique needs (re: now and transition to middle school),
  • the impact of the disability on his ability to learn,
  • research based educational methods, and
  • how to present your son’s problems and needs to school personnel so they want to help.

Begin with the following resources.


It sounds like your son is currently on an IEP.

If the school has determined that your son needs an IEP, they have also determined that he has a disability that affects a major life activity and is severe enough to require specialized instruction. This decision would have been made based upon evaluations.

Before the school can determine that your child is not eligible for special education, they are required to do a comprehensive evaluation and assess all areas of suspected disability. 20 U.S.C. Section 1414(c)(5) (Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd edition, p. 96 and 242)

This is not a decision one or two people can make. You and the school need objective testing of your child’s academic skills to know if he is ready to exit special education. Make sure you understand what the evaluations say and what the evaluator’s recommendations mean.

If you have not already read this, you will want to learn about  Tests and Measurements at

In the article Can the School Terminate My Child’s Eligibility?, Sue Whitney provides sound advice about what to do when the school wants to determine your child “ineligible.” Here’s what Sue recommends.

Get an Independent Psycho-Educational Evaluation

“The school’s evaluation may not be comprehensive enough to provide information about ‘all areas of suspected disabilities.’ … I recommend that you have an evaluator from the private sector do a complete psycho-educational evaluation on your son. This will give you an independent picture of your child’s abilities and needs.

If you do not have all your child’s test results from the beginning, write a letter to the school and ask for a complete copy of his records. If he has been evaluated privately, get copies of these evaluations too. Ask that any meeting be postponed until you have this information. To be an informed participant in the decision-making process, you must have all the test results and you must understand what the test results mean.

The comprehensive psycho-educational evaluation should clearly describe your child’s present levels of academic achievement, functional performance, and related developmental needs, the educational program he needs, what will happen to him if the school decides that he is not eligible and refuses to provide him with this program.

Note: If you disagree with a school district’s evaluation, you can ask for an independent educational evaluation at the school district’s expense. Although this is one of your rights, schools often put limits on these evaluations and who can perform them.

I suggest that you find an evaluator who has expertise in your child’s disability (in this case, autism) and pay for the evaluation yourself. (Yes, I know it’s expensive, but a good evaluation will pay for itself many times over.)”

More on Eligibility is here:

IEP or Section 504

Learn about the Key DIfferences in IDEA and Section 504.

More information/resources are here.

Visit our  Autism, ASD, PDD & Asperger Syndrome page at

  1. If a child has been diagnosed with autism by a children’s hospital and has been attending a preschool for children with autism for the past two years, have their diagnosis taken away by the public school once they begin kindergarten?

  2. I would also bring an attorney to any meeting if I was in fundamental disagreement with the school district

  3. A parent casually introduces herself to her child’s case manager on the first day of school. The case manager dismisses the mom saying “parental input is limited, I am not going to follow some of the IEP nor will he use the AT listed on his IEP.” The mom politely called a PPT meeting, collaborated with the school district staff who were thrilled to have her child as a student. Educated them on Aspergers,they listened, asked sincere questions. The case manager did not say much at the PPT except, “I don’t know anything about Aspergers.” The mom learned to educate each of his teachers about his learning profile and collaborate. She cannot depend on the case manager to control the information about her son.

    The mom took action immediately. She also submitted the Parent Input and Concerns letter to the staff before the meeting. The case manager did a lot of backtracking. Once the case manager knew the mom understood her son’s rights, the case manager changed her tune. Wrightslaw is right–parents must know and understand the law. Do not depend on school district staff. The mom was polite enough not to throw the case manager under the bus at the PPT meeting. Still, a strong message was sent in the form of a knowledgable parent. His teachers, psychologist, etc, are excited to work with him. The case manager is going to learn a lot this year.

  4. I thought it was illegal for the district to tell you in advance that they were dropping or changing services. Services are supposed to be determined together based on testing to determine deficits resulting in goals with the appropriate services to meet those goals.

  5. we are going through the same thing. dropped to a 504 from an iep because she’s “smart”. my 8yr old was diagnosed with autism by two drs, one at regional office and one a developmental ped. I brought up needing data to prove the drop and was basically ignored. plus we’re fighting because since the 504 started my daughter hasn’t received 50% of her OT. I told them I didn’t want the 504 because we would lose accountability for these things. then I was told by the OT that other things took precedence and they will not be made up. when I requested records, all I got was, “why?”

    • If they did not do evaluations in order to drop your child, file due process. If they are not following the 504 file due process.

      • I am a speech pathologist who has worked almost exclusively with children with ASD for 15 years. The need for an advocate is always there as these kids go through middle and high school. I would never allow a child with autism/aspergers to be dropped because they will lose the ability to have someone speak up for them. Believe me, regular ed teachers do not usually understand autism and they need to make sure a specialist is on board to ensure needs are met. Young people with autism almost always require some problem solving or social skills coaching, even with high IQs (Aspergers). Most of this population will have anxiety with many of the situations presented after elementary school too. Needs for an IEP include “social” not just academic. You do not just outgrow autism.

  6. Great article. I get asked this all the time by mothers of children
    and young adults with Asperger’s. Thank you.

  7. My son has Autism. We signed yesterday for re-eval. testing. they are not going to do another IQ because 1 was done 2010. they are doing achievement, ot, speech, and adaptive behavior and social history to all be done by the school. 3 yr rule. They gave me a form that is not a ADE SPED form for my Dr. to sign that states. My patient-has no medical condition that i am aware of that causes these behaviors. avoidance of eyecontact, withdrawal from peers, intense sensory behaviors different from his peers, perseverative discussions of topics of interest, poor motor coord, intense absorption in specific topics, unable to read facial expressons, idiosyncratic use of words etc. Autism is a medical condition and these behaviors right? if he signs this, it could undiagnose my child right? is this legal? thanks

  8. Dropping from an IEP to a 504 accommodation plan should be reflective of success and a need for less supports at school, BUT only if the data backs it up.

    Moving to a 504 isn’t just reducing services it is dismissal from special education, which gives up an awful lot of protections for your child. The school absolutely needs to evaluate when considering dismissal, as it is saying your child is no longer eligible. As usual you should have input in what constitutes that evaluation. Make sure you get an appropriate evaluation from the school in addition to any outside eval.

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