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Educating the high-functioning autistic

Is your child a high-functioning autistic? The term "high-functioning" means different things to different people, but when it comes to your child's education, it may translate to one particular problem — getting services for them.

Despite all of the educational efforts aimed at the schools about the different ways that autism can affect individuals, many school districts persist in clinging to outdated perceptions of what "autism" looks like. For high-functioning autistic children, this often means one of two things:

  1. The school wants to put the child into a special "autistic" classroom that is designed for children with severe verbal and behavioral difficulties.
  2. The school decides that your child has somehow "outgrown" their autism and wants to force him or her off an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and into regular classrooms with no accommodations.

Parents should never allow either of these two options without a fight.

Here are some of the accommodations that are typical for high-functioning autistic students:

  • The ability to take notes or do assignments on a computer or tablet
  • The use of noise-canceling headphones
  • The ability to retreat to a quiet area when necessary to calm down
  • Instructions that are given in writing or visually, instead of orally
  • Clearly organized routines
  • Time to adjust to changes in routines before they begin
  • Help with communication strategies
  • Assistance learning social routines and appropriate social behaviors

The fact that your child has made progress with verbalization or with behavior modification does not mean that he or she has outgrown the need for services. In fact, it may be necessary to enhance the services that your child already receives in order to accommodate his or her changing needs.

Autistic classrooms often serve the needs of the school system, not the child. Similarly, stripping an autistic child who has overcome some of the difficulties of their disorders or accommodations is also for the educators' convenience. If you are having trouble holding onto your child's Individualized Education Program as he or she develops, there is help available.

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