Photo credit- kirkland73
Somewhere this last week, on someone's blog, I read about a person's son having services dropped at school because he was doing well academically. I've been looking all day, and now can't find whose blog it was on. I like to link to the original sources of the ideas I get, but can't find it now.
As I recall, the blogger in question raised the quite legitimate questions of what about preparing their child for "real world" skills. Things like communication, independent transportation, doing laundry, etc.
Indeed, the closer one's child gets to "aging out" of the educational system and the few supports it provides, the more one's mind turns to the question of "What's next?" and "Is he prepared?". Susan Senator, on her blog, has recently been advocating forming a new organization called "Autism Works" to deal with some of the challenges that autistic adults face.
But rather than talk about future projects (which I totally support and feel are worthwhile), I'd like to talk about what the IDEA law says now about services to prepare your child for living in society. My apologies to non-US readers, as this law applies to the US only.
First of all, one of my favorite disability law reference sites, which I reference a lot is Wrightslaw.com. It's a one-stop smorgasborg of just about anything that you would want to know in regards to disability rights law.
As dull and boring reading law is (I always thought practicing law would be fun, except for all that dull, boring reading I'd have to do), there is a lot to be learned that is useful when going into an IEP meeting. The IDEA 2004 regs are finally in effect, and some of the things that this latest iteration says are actually good for us.
One of the things that struck me when I read that post on the other blog last week was the old (but still used) dodge of "If they're doing well academically, they don't need services." That is, of course, patently absurd. This was not true before the IDEA 2004 was released, and is even less true now.
From the Wrightslaw site:
...The requirements about using present levels of functional performance to develop functional goals in the IEPs of all children with disabilities (below) are in IDEA 2004, the federal special education regulations, and the Commentary. ...
Furthermore, the idea of "functional goals" is addressed:
...Functional means nonacademic, as in “routine activities of everyday living.” This clarification should help IEP Teams understand that the purpose of the IEP is to prepare children with disabilities for life after school. this should also help the school understand that teaching children how to "function" in the world is just as important as teaching academic skills.
"It is not necessary to include a definition of "functional" in these regulations because we believe it is a term that is generally understood to refer to skills or activities that are not considered academic or related to a child’s academic achievement. Instead, "functional" is often used in the context of routine activities of everyday living." (Commentary in the Federal Register, page 46661) ...
So this basically says that all children with a disability need functional goals set for them in their IEP. And these goals are to help them prepare for life after school, not just to function in school.
Another useful change in IDEA 2004 is the change in definition of the term "Transition Services". Again from Wrightslaw:
...(34) TRANSITION SERVICES - The term `transition services' means a coordinated set of activities for a child with a disability that--
(A) is designed to be a results-oriented process, that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the child with a disability to facilitate the child's movement from school to post-school activities, including post-secondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation;
(B) is based on the individual child’s needs, taking into account the child's strengths, preferences, and interests..."
(Note: the underlined words are new in IDEA 2004) ...
By law, transition services have to start no later than when the student turns 16 years old. So it appears that the law, like society in general, is starting to move towards consideration of what happens after a person "ages out" of the special education system. At least the law is supporting providing meaningful training of students for life after school.
Even though Buddy Boy is only 7 now, I know the time will come very quickly when we will need to make some major decisions about how he will live. A lot will be determined by how much progress he makes over the next several years, as well as what his preferences are (further schooling vs. joining the workforce, living at home vs. somewhere else, etc.).
Now we just need to get laws passed that actually provide support for autistic adults.