Navigate Life Texas: Resources for kids with disabilities and special needs

Navigate Life Texas: Resources for kids with disabilities and special needs

Learning Strategies for Students with Autism (and Others)

08/17/2016 | Published by: Family to Family Network

Receiving a diagnosis is often a hard pill to swallow, especially when it involves a child. When my husband and I first learned that our precious baby boy had Down Syndrome, our worlds came crashing down. However, that diagnosis soon became the least of our worries as he underwent a series of heart surgeries and health issues. On his first birthday, our tiny redhead weighed a whopping 12 pounds. But somehow he had found the strength to roll over and sit up and smile the sweetest smile ever.

Around the age of two, our little boy started to walk – and then RUN! For the next five years, he took off running every time his feet touched the ground. During this time we were concerned about some other behaviors.

When he was six, the school assessed my son and he received a new diagnosis of autism. Then, he was spending much of his instructional time in the general education classroom. I feared another disability label would be a one-way ticket to a self-contained classroom. There would be no hope for inclusion on any level.

Fortunately, this was not the case.

This new label gave him access to other school services through the Autism Supplement. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) prefers to call the supplement, “Strategies for Students with Autism.” The reason? They are just strategies! The strategies must be considered and discussed in the IEP for students with autism. If the committee decides that a strategy is not needed, the IEP paperwork must contain a statement explaining why.

Here are the 11 strategies that must be considered for students with autism when developing the IEP:

  1. Extended Education Programming
  2. Daily Schedules
  3. In-home and Community-based Training
  4. Positive Behavior Support Strategies (PBS)
  5. Futures Planning
  6. Parent/Family Training and Support
  7. Staff-to-Student Ratio
  8. Communication Interventions
  9. Social Skills Supports
  10. Professional Educator/Staff Support
  11. Peer-Reviewed and/or Research Based Teaching Strategies

The strategies that work for one child may be very different for another child on the spectrum. For my son, we found the in-home training resources and positive behavior support strategies were effective in helping him to “stay put” and learn new social skills. 

It is important to note that the law does not say that only students with autism get these services. Remember, supports and services must be based upon a need. If your child doesn’t have autism, you can still ask about these support services if they have a specific need.   

Looking back, I see how important these strategies were to my son’s social and educational development. This summer we will celebrate his 27th birthday. He now attends a program where he volunteers in the community, takes a daily exercise class, continues his education, and has fun with his friends. He also works one morning a week at a shredding business, bowls on a Special Olympics team, and assists in the children’s ministry at church. And he still has the sweetest smile ever!

Read more about Strategies on the Texas Project FIRST website or take a training on the Texas Autism website. You can find additional special education information on this website under Education and Schools.

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