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The Autistic Spectrum

Documents and links to explain the tools used to assess your child, information on how to write an appropriate IEP with appropriate goals and objectives, links to special ed laws, and resource guides and info on your rights and the rights of your child.

AHA/AS/PDD-Long Island based organization providing support and education for families, individuals and professionals affected by Aspergers Syndrome, High Functioning Autism, and Other Pervasive Developmental Disorders.

Autism Help For You.

Different Roads to Learning.

Educators for Social Responsibility.

Learning (Dis) Abilities ~ Autism

MedlinePlus:Autism is a resource driven by parents and professionals who are teaching children with autism.

Social Cognitive Disorders.

Teaching A Process To The Autistic Child.

U. S. Department of Education

“FAPE” for the Autistic Child

























A.   What is Special Education Law at Roberts, Adams & Jewell?


1.    Special Education Law is a very focused legal practice area. As special education attorneys, our aim is to empower parents of children with disabilities to help their children achieve full potential in an educational setting.  Our firm strives to equip parents with self-advocacy skills.  We hold seminars at parent support group and regional center meetings, and provide updated information on statutes and case law that regulate special education on both the state and federal level.


2.  A special education attorney represents children with disabilities at Individualized Education Program meetings (also called "IEP" meetings), Due Process Hearings and if the need arises in court proceedings. A special education attorney represents the child's interests to ensure that he receives all special education and related services (i.e., physical therapy, speech therapy, etc.) available to him under the federal and state laws.


B.    The State of California and Special Education


1.     In the year 2000, Los Angeles Times reported that California is one of the worst states in terms of compliance with special education laws.  One in every ten children in Southern California has a disability that entitles them to receive related services or Designated Instruction Services (DIS).  Related Services and DIS are two names that describe services given to children with disabilities that will help them to benefit from their free appropriate public education.  A school district's failure to

fund all necessary related services to such a child is a violation of both state and federal law. According to the Los Angeles Times there are currently 628,848 students receiving these services in California, approximately 8,291 of these children attend public school in Orange County.


C.  What Laws Govern the Special Education Field?


1.  There are both federal and state laws that govern the field of

special education. These laws are:


      The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA")


      Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act


      The Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA")


      The California Education Code


      Federal and state implementing regulations


D.   What Is The IDEA?


1.   The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA") was enacted in 1991 (an amended version of its predecessor the Education for All Handicapped Children Act or EAHCA) to provide a free, appropriate and individualized public education to eligible children with disabilities, given in the least restrictive environment.  In other words, IDEA is federal law and mandates that special education and related services are to be provided to children with disabilities at no cost to parents.


2.  The IDEA was amended in 1997.  The new IDEA focuses its attention on necessary related services (accommodations) for disabled children to have access to the general education curriculum.  Previously, the law did not specifically address general curriculum involvement of disabled students.  The IDEA now focuses on improving teaching and learning with a specific focus on the Individualized Education Program ("IEP") as the primary means of developing a child's involvement in the

general curriculum.


3.   The IDEA 1997 statutory language states "Over 20 years of research and experience has demonstrated that the education of children with disabilities can be made more effective by..having high expectations for such children and ensuring their access in the general curriculum to the maximum extent possible." 20 U.S.C. 1487 (5)(A).




A.  Civil Rights.  IDEA is a "grant statute" that creates civil rights.


B.  Substantive Protections.  The IDEA requires:


1.  All children with disabilities be given an education.


2.  Education and Related Services must be provided up to the age of 21 (California extends this to age 22).


3.  Education must be free of charge to parents.


4.  Education is not simply academic but includes self-help skills

and vocational skills.


5.  Education must be provided in the "Least Restrictive

Environment" (LRE).


6.  Education must be individualized and appropriate to the

child's needs.


C.   Procedure Protections.  Procedural Protections of the IDEA are:


1.   A child's right to notice of a proposed decision about his

educational program.


2.  Notice to parents of procedural protections and substantive

protections given to them by the IDEA.


3.  Right to an IEP.


4.   Right to an administrative hearing, court hearing and the

right to a record of the hearing.


5. Right for child to remain in his educational setting until

dispute is resolved (Stay-Put Provision).


6.  Right to attorneys' fees if family is prevailing party at an

administrative hearing.






A.  Summary Of IDEA, Section 504, the ADA & CA Education



1.       The IDEA is unique in comparison to Section 504 and the ADA in that the IDEA provides federal funding to states specifically for special education programs and related services.


2.       Section 504 is a non-discrimination statute that makes it illegal for any programs receiving federal funds to discriminate against an individual based upon their disability.  Section 504 requires public entities to provide reasonable accommodations to persons with disabilities as long as the accommodation doesn't fundamentally alter the program.


3.       The ADA is similar to Section 504 except that there is no federal funding requirement.  In other words, even private entities (private schools) not receiving federal funds are subject to the ADA's anti-discrimination provisions and are mandated to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled persons.


4.       The California Education Code given educational rights similar to what the IDEA and Section 504 provide to children with disabilities.  In some cases, the California Education Code grants more rights and privileges to children than federal law.




               A.      General Requirements.  A child must be assessed to determine whether he has a disability that is covered under the IDEA, Section 504 and the ADA or a combination of the three before related services and special education will be provided.


1. IDEA Requirements.  The IDEA covers people with the following disabilities: "mental retardation, hearing impairments (including deafness), speech or language impairments, visual impairments (including blindness), serious emotional disturbance (hereinafter referred to as 'emotional disturbance'), orthopedic impairments, autism, traumatic brain injury, other health impairments, or specific learning disabilities; who, by reason thereof, need special education or related services.  The

term 'child with a disability' for a child aged 3 through 9 may, at the discretion of the State and the local educational agency, include a child experiencing developmental delays."


2. Section 504 Requirements.  Section 504 covers people with the following disabilities: "any person who (i) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities, (ii) has a record of such impairment, or (iii) is regarded as having such an impairment."


3. ADA Requirements.  The ADA covers people with the same disabilities as Section 504, but the ADA applies to public and private entities.


B.Labeling And The IDEA.  Some problems with the IDEA definitional requirements include:


Labels do not always correctly represent the characteristics of the child.

Labeling can stigmatize a child in school.

Labeling can create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Labels do not help teachers in finding an effective way to educate children.

Some District's make offers of placement and services to your child based on his/her label rather than his/her unique needs.





A.  General.  The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA") establishes important rights for and provides support services for children with disabilities including children from ages zero to two years as well.


B. Purpose.  The purpose of a law that provides early intervention services is to enhance the development of infants and toddlers with disabilities and to minimize the potential for delay.  It is also designed to reduce educational costs by minimizing the need for special education and related services after infants and toddlers reach school age.


C. Infant/Toddler.  An infant or toddler with a disability means an individual younger than three years old who needs early intervention services because they are experiencing developmental delays in one or more of the following areas: cognitive development, physical or motor development, social or emotional development, or adaptive development.  If a child is experiencing such a delay a referral may be made orally or in writing by a parent to the regional center or school district.


D.  Process.  Once a referral has been made, the regional center or the school district must complete an evaluation and assessment, hold a meeting to determine eligibility, and develop an Individual Family Service Plan ("IFSP") within forty five days of receipt of the referral.  The IFSP identifies the services appropriate to meet the unique needs of the infant or toddler.  The IFSP must be in writing and will include a number of

items, such as: a statement of the infant's present levels of development, a statement of the family's concerns, priorities and resources, a statement of specific services including how often, how much, method of delivery, and dates for initiation of services.


E.  Responsible Agencies.  In California, early intervention services are provided under public supervision and at no cost to families.  The services must be designed to meet the infant or toddler's individual developmental needs.  They may include such things as: special education, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, psychological services, parent and family training and counseling, among others.  Note that these services may be provided in the home, depending on the infant and family's needs.  If there is a disagreement between the parents and the district as to placement or early intervention services, the parents may file for a due process hearing.  If the IFSP is not being implemented or administered properly, the parents can file a compliance complaint to address the issue.




A. Definition.  Special education is specifically designed instruction, at no cost to the parent, designed to meet the unique needs of a child with disabilities.  Instruction can include classroom instruction, home instruction as well as instruction provided in hospitals and institutions.


B.  Individualized and Appropriate.  One of the major principles of the IDEA is that the education of your child must be individualized and appropriate to your child's needs.  In order for a school to receive federal funding and support under IDEA, the state must have a policy that ensures all children with disabilities receive a Free And Appropriate Education  ("FAPE").  The IDEA requires that the development of an appropriate special education program and related services occur through the development of an individualized education program "IEP"). 




A.  IEP.  The IEP contains a written statement describing the child's present educational performance, short-term objectives and annual goals for development, specific services to be used, dates to begin and duration of those services, criteria, schedules, and procedures for evaluating whether those objectives are being met.


B. How Does It Start?  To begin the IEP process and request special education services for a child, a parent may simply write a letter to a child's teacher, principal, or the special education administrative office.  That letter tells the school that you are concerned about your child's educational process. The letter may also request that the school begin assessments for special education.  The school district must provide the parents with an assessment plan within fifteen days of receipt of the letter.

 Parents then have ten days in which to give consent to any assessments contained in the plan.


C. What If I Want A New IEP?  If a child is already receiving special education services, a parent can request a new IEP be scheduled whenever they feel it is needed.  The parent simply requests in writing that a new IEP be scheduled and the timelines stay in place.  The parent may also request new, additional, or different assessments are done prior to the IEP. An IEP is required to be held at least annually.


D. What Should I Expect At The Meeting?  The IEP is developed at a meeting.  The school district must take steps to ensure that one or both of the parents of the student attend the meeting and have the opportunity to participate.  The school must give advanced notice of the meeting written in the parents native language and the meeting must be at a mutually agreed upon place and time, or by conference call at the parents request.  The statute is clear and holds that the parent of a child with a disability is an equal member of the IEP team.


E. Who Can I Bring To The Meeting?  A parent may bring whomever they wish to the IEP meeting including, but not limited to an attorney, an advocate, a caseworker, or a friend.  The school district must ensure that the following people attend the meeting: at least one parent, at least one regular education teacher if the child is or may be participating in a regular education environment, at least one special education teacher, a district agency representative who has authority to approve all funding for related services, the persons who conducted

assessments of the child or a person qualified to interpret those

assessments, and the child if appropriate.




A. What Is An Appropriate Education?  Unfortunately the term "appropriate" as written in the statute is subjective and difficult to define.  This is because the IEP is to be developed to meet the specific needs of the individual child, supported by such services as are necessary for that child to benefit from the instruction. Noticeably absent in the language of IDEA are substantive definitions related to what levels of instruction are necessary.


B.   Different Standards Of "Appropriate".  Some states require that a child meet their maximum potential.  Other states only open the door and make access meaningful.  California does not require a child to meet maximum potential.  Instead, California follows the federal standard.  That standard has been set forth in Board of Education v. Rowley.   The Rowley standard holds that the state must provide the child with specifically designed instruction and supportive services necessary for that child to obtain some educational benefit from that instruction.  Two

good measures to determine whether a child is receiving an appropriate education under this standard are:


      If the child is mainstreamed in a typically developing classroom, the child should be progressing through grades with a grade average of at least a "C;" or


      The second, and more common method, is if the child is meeting the short-term objectives and annual goals as set forth in their IEP.


      However, in many cases children may meet the two above-referenced criteria and still not be receiving FAPE for a number of reasons such as inappropriate goals and objectives, differential grading, the program does not address the child's specific areas of need among many other reasons.




 "Related Services" (called "Designated Instruction and Services" or "DIS" in California), are defined as any service that is necessary to help a child benefit from her special education program.  In other words, "to benefit from special education" generally means that the service must assist the child in making progress toward accomplishing the goals set out in the IEP.  Examples of Related Services include:


A.      Transportation (to & from school or alternative placement from the child's home).


B.      Speech-Language Pathology.


C.      Discrete Trial ABA/IBI or behavioral therapy.


D.      Psychological services.


E.      Physical and Occupational Therapy.


F.      Recreation (including therapeutic).


G.     Counseling services.




A.  Legal Development.  Another fundamental principle of the IDEA is the requirement that children with disabilities receive their education with non-disabled peers to the maximum extent possible.  While the term "mainstreaming" is not found in the language of either the statute or its regulations, the concept of the least restrictive environment is provided for in the regulations.


B.  IDEA.  Federal law provides in part that each local educational agency must ensure that:".to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled, and special day classes, separate schooling or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in

regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily."


C.  Definitions.


1.       "Mainstreaming" refers to the placement of a student with disabilities into the activities of regular classrooms with typically

developing peers.  There is a strong congressional and judicial

preference for mainstreaming.  Children should be nainstreamed even if to accomplish such would require that special education staff be present, or the use of supplementary aides and services would be necessary.


2.       "Integration" generally refers to mainstreaming a student into a regular class as well as providing access to and participation in other activities within the school environment.  For example, a student may spend part of his day in a special day class and another part of his day in a regular classroom with typically developing peers.  The student should have access to non-academic activities with typically developing peers, such as recess, lunch, and dances.  Integration is often used to describe

the idea of integrating both the special day class and the regular

classroom as appropriately as possible. This term would differ

significantly from the concept of full inclusion.


3.       "Full inclusion" refers to the total integration of a student with disabilities into the regular education program.  This may be

accomplished with the assistance of all necessary support services.  Essentially, the student with a disability is a member of an age appropriate regular classroom full-time, with no assignment to a special day class.  The student may not be in that class all of the time.  He may need to leave in order to receive the appropriate related services developed in his IEP,

such as physical therapy, speech therapy, or occupational therapy.  Remember that LRE is an important concept in the IDEA. It is not the only consideration for each child.  Each child's education must be individualized and appropriate for that child.


4.       The Rachel Holland Test.  In considering whether a placement is appropriate for a child, courts have generally looked at the four-factor analysis found in the Rachel Holland case.  This case establishes the four part Ninth Circuit test, which holds that the court must examine:


a.             Educational benefits available to child in regular classroom supplemented with appropriate aides and services as compared with educational benefits of a special education classroom;


b.             Non-academic benefits to child of interaction with children who are not disabled;


c.             Effect of presence on teacher and other children in classroom in terms of disruptive behavior and/or undue consumption of the teacher's time; and


d.             Cost of mainstreaming in regular classroom.


Note that while the Rachel Holland case mentioned that cost was a factor to be considered in determining appropriate placement, it also held that providing a part-time academic aide and making curriculum modifications would have cost the school no more than special education placement.  Generally the majority of the related services necessary for a child to be placed in a regular classroom setting would cost the district little or no expense.




A.  Mediations


1.   What Is A Mediation?  A mediation is a voluntary, confidential, and informal meeting at which the parties and an experienced, impartial mediator attempt to resolve the dispute in a non-adversarial atmosphere.  The mediator does not provide advocacy or legal advice to either side but facilitates communication between the parties.  The participation of the

neutral mediator increases the possibility that the parties will reach a mutually satisfactory resolution.


2.    What Are The Benefits Of Mediation?  The vast majority of

disputes resolve through mediation.  Mediation is the preferred method of resolving disputes for a number of reasons, including the following:


a.       The Continuing Relationship Between Parties- mediation helps to maintain a cooperative relationship in the future if the dispute is settled by mutual agreement;


b.       Flexibility- mediation allows a great deal of flexibility in reaching a mutually acceptable settlement/written agreement.  When a dispute goes to hearing, the hearing officer makes the final decision that may not satisfy either party;


c.       Immediate Implementation- if an agreement is reached in mediation, the resolution is written into the form of an agreement that same day and can be immediately implemented.  Hearing decision take much longer;


d.       Less Costly- mediation is less costly in terms of money, time and personal stress.


            B.         Due Process Hearings


1.  What Is A Due Process Hearing?  A special education due

process hearing is a formal proceeding where the parties are given the opportunity to present witnesses, documentary evidence, and oral and written argument in support of their respective positions on disputed special education issues.  The due process system is designed to resolve disputes between educational agencies and parents of a child with a disability or a child suspected of having a disability.


2.   How Does A Party Proceed To A Due Process Hearing? 

When a party requests a hearing, the Special Education Hearing Office notifies the other party and sets a hearing date.  At the same time, the Hearing Office automatically assigns a mediator to the case to give the parties an opportunity to resolve the dispute without going to hearing.  If the dispute is not resolved through mediation, or if one of the parties elects not to mediate, the case proceeds to hearing.


3.   What Is The Difference Between A Due Process Hearing And

Mediation?  Compared to mediation, a due process hearing is a more formal, trial-like legal proceeding.  At the hearing, all parties are given a chance to present evidence and argument before an impartial hearing officer.  The hearing officer then issues a written decision, which is the final administrative decision resolving the matter. 




A.   Behavior plans.


B.  Student Discipline, Suspension/Expulsion.


NOTE:    Pre-Expulsion Assessment (Cal. Educ. Code 48915.5)- the pre-expulsion assessment provision of this section provision was removed from the 2003 California Education Code.  Section 48915.5 no longer has a provision that requires a pre-expulsion assessment.  Under the law as it exists now, a district is not required to conduct an assessment prior to removing a student with a disability from his or her current placement.  However, the procedural safeguards under 34 C.F.R. 300.519 through 300.529 still apply.  These provisions require a district to hold an IEP meeting within 10 days of removing a student from his or

her placement.


C.   DTT v. TEECH v. IBI as a related service.


D.  Compliance Complaints/Due Process.


E.   SOL and Timelines.


F.  Stay puts.


G.  Attorneys Fees.


H.  Assessment and Testing.


I.   Medication


XII.       YEAR IN REVIEW-Case and Hearing Office Decisions that effect

autistic children


            A.   Byron Union Sch. Dist., 35 IDELR 49 (SEA CA 2001)


1.    Facts: Hearing Officer rejected the district's contention that an 11-year-old student with autism required placement in special day class in order to receive FAPE.  Hearing Officer agreed with parents claim that student was making progress in regular classroom, and that placement was the LRE.


2.   What This Means: Nonacademic benefits of a regular

education placement must be considered in evaluating the student's LRE (least restrictive environment).  Interaction with peers should be considered as a factor.


            B.         Amanda J. v. Clark County Sch. Dist., 35 IDELR 65 (9th Cir. 2001)


1.  Facts:  The district's failure to give parents copies of

evaluation reports violated the procedural requirements of the IDEA and denied the student FAPE.


2.  What This Means: Procedural errors that prevent parents from

fully participating in the creation of an IEP and result in lost educational  opportunity for the student will be considered a significant IDEA violation  and deprivation of FAPE.


     C. San Francisco Unified Sch. Dist., 35 IDELR 21 (SEA CA 2001)


1.  Facts: Parents removed their son from the district's

placement and unilaterally placed him in a private school.  Parents were only awarded reimbursement for 70% of the private school tuition because the private school lacked a therapy component and the parent  did not give the district proper notice of their intent to place the student in a private school.


2.  What This Means: Even if a school district denies a student

FAPE, parents must demonstrate the appropriateness of a private placement prior to enrolling their child in such a placement.


      D.   Pleasant Valley Sch. Dist., 35 IDELR 76 (SEA CA 2001)


1.  Facts: District's OT services as set forth in IEP were not

designed to meet the autistic student's unique needs and did not provide an educational benefit.  In addition to awarding compensatory OT, the hearing officer ordered the district to reimburse the parents' insurance company for the cost of their privately obtained OT.


2.  What This Means: Parents of students with disabilities cannot

be required to utilize their private medical insurance benefits when the use of those benefits would cause them to incur a financial loss.


      E.  Buckhannon Board & Care Home, Inc. v. West Virginia Dept. of Health and Human Services, 35 IDELR 160 (U.S. 2001)


1. Facts: The U.S. Supreme Court held in Buckhannon that

prevailing party status (for the purpose of recovering attorneys fees in ADA and FHAA cases) was not appropriate when a party failed to secure  judgment on the merits or a court-ordered consent decree, but  nonetheless achieved the desired result because the suit brought about a voluntary change in defendant's conduct.


2. What This Means: The effect of this case on IDEA cases is

unclear because the decision does not specifically mention the IDEA.  But it may affect IDEA cases in the future.  Some Circuits have applied this reasoning to IDEA cases holding that parents cannot seek an award of attorneys fees and costs without an change in the legal relationship of the parties such as an issuance of a Consent Decree.  The 9th Circuit (this includes California) has recently held that a legally enforceable settlement agreement is sufficient.  Please note as indicated below that in Student with a Disability v. Oxnard Union High, 37 IDELR 4 (C.D. Cal. 2002) this reasoning has been extended to include an IDEA case.


    F.  Zasslow v. Menlo Park City Sch. Dist., 2001 WL 1488617

(N.D. Cal. 2001).


1.    Facts:   Parents raised several issues at a due process hearing.  They obtained the desired result on some of the issues, but not on all of the issues.           


2.       What This Means: Under the precedent set in the 9th Circuit, parents do not have to prevail on every issue at due process to considered a prevailing party.  To receive an award of attorneys' fees it is sufficient that "some" relief is obtained.


3.   The 9th Circuit has frequently reiterated what has been called the Significant Issue Test.  This test comes from Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424 (1983).  Ninth Circuit case law generally adopted this approach, which allows parents to recover all of their attorney fees, as prevailing parties, as long as they succeed on any significant issue. Success is not limited to the due process hearing context, but also extends to settlement and mediation.  Therefore, parents' ability to recover attorneys' fees is broad.  


G.   Johnson v. Special Education Hearing Office, 36 IDELR 207

(9th Cir. 2002).


1.  Facts: Parents of a 3-year-old with autism was not allowed to

revise a stay-put order.  The order allowed the district to provide services comparable to those listed in the IFSP, rather than the exact same educational program.


2.  What This Means: Parents may not be entitled to the exact

same vendors and providers under stay put.  If a district provides a comparable program, it may be enough.


   H.   Student with a Disability v. Oxnard Union High, 37 IDELR 4

(C.D. Cal. 2002)


1.  Facts: Court held that the parents' legally enforceable private

settlement was enough for them to be declared the prevailing party for purposes of attorneys fees.  The Court also applied a three-year statute of limitations to the action.


2.  What This Means: If parents reach a settlement with the

district prior to hearing, they can be the prevailing party and may initiate a separate action seeking to recover attorneys fees.  Parents have three years to bring an action in district court for attorneys fees.


3.  Warning: Districts are also aware of these recent decisions

regarding attorney fees and costs.  Unfortunately, some Districts will not severe the issues of attorneys fees in their settlement agreements and may even force parents to barter educational programming against their attorney fees.


   I.   Regan-Adkins v. San Diego Unified Sch. Dist., 37 IDELR 69 (9th Cir. 2002)


1. Facts: 9th Circuit concluded that there is a legal presumption

in favor of educating students with disabilities with their nondisabled peers to the maximum extent possible.


2.  What This Means: IDEA's mainstreaming provision directs

district not to remove a disabled child from a regular classroom unless the nature and severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes cannot be achieved satisfactorily.


    J.   Goleta Union Elementary School v. Ordway, 166 F. Supp. 2d

1287 (C.D. Cal. 2001)


1.  Facts: The district, under supervision of a district

administrator, unilaterally removed a student from his placement under his IEP and placed him in a residential facility.  Parents were permitted to bring a claim against the district administrator for damages under 1983, for violating the student's Civil Rights.


2.  What This Means: A separate action for damages against a

district official is permissible.  Parents may recover damages under 1983 for violating provisions of the IDEA.


K.    Gellerman v. Calaveras Unified Sch. Dist., 37 IDELR 125 (9th Cir. 2002)


1.  Facts: Court held that the district did not have a legal

obligation to provide a classroom aide of the parents' choice as long as the aide selected is qualified.


2. What This Means: As long as the district selects a qualified

classroom aide, they are complying with the law.


   L.   Robb v. Bethel Sch. Dist. #403, 37 IDELR 243 (9th Cir 2002)


1.  Facts: Court held that parents could not bring a 1983 action

for damages until they exhausted their IDEA administrative remedies because they raised issues that could be redressed by the IDEA administrative process.


2.  What This Means: This prevents parents from circumventing

the IDEA exhaustion of remedies requirement by limiting their claim to only money damages.  The exhaustion requirement is excused, however, when allegations that cannot be redressed by the IDEA's administrative

procedure, such as abuse, are involved.


   M.  Porter v. Board of Trustees of Manhattan Beach Unified Sch.

Dist., 37 IDELR 241 (9th Cir. 2002)


1.  Facts: Parents were not required to exhaust the IDEA

administrative process after they obtained a due process decision.


2.  What This Means: When parents prevail at due process under

the IDEA, they are not further required to proceed through the

administrative process before they file a court action.




In conclusion, the IDEA is written to involve parents as equal members of the IEP Team.  Section 504, the ADA and the California Education Code work to fill in the any gaps for students with disabilities. At Roberts, Adams & Jewell, we believe that it is important that parents of children with disabilities be fully informed as to their rights and responsibilities under the law.  Knowledge of the law can itself be the most powerful problem solver for parents.  We understand that parents of children with

disabilities will have to work with their local school district for many years to come.  For this reason we strive to build a powerful relationship between a well-informed parent and an experienced legal representative.  This relationship will secure the appropriate services and protect the rights of the disabled child.



This information was originally published as a booklet for teachers by the Ministry of Education in New Zealand in 2000.

The umbrella term "autistic spectrum disorders" is used to acknowledge that there is a range of disorders that share characteristics and includes both autism and Asperger syndrome. The focus of this resource is on students in the middle rather than at the extreme ends of the spectrum.

Autistic spectrum disorders are a group of pervasive developmental disorders. They are relatively uncommon, can affect one person completely differently from another, and are life-long. Skill development can be very uneven. For example, a person with one of the disorders may be extremely gifted in some academic areas and yet show very poor ability in others. Another may have poor social and self-management skills.

Every student with an autistic spectrum disorder will have a unique range of abilities and needs.

Characteristics of Autistic Spectrum Disorders

Each person on the autistic spectrum will show particular characteristics to varying degrees and in unique combinations. All people with autistic spectrum disorders have what is referred to as the "triad of impairments":

  • Social interaction - difficulty with making friends e.g., they may appear distant to other people.
  • Social communication - difficulty with verbal and non-verbal communication e.g., not really understanding the meaning of gestures, facial expressions or tone of voice; not knowing when it is appropriate to start and stop talking.
  • Imagination - difficulty in the development of play and imagination e.g., having a limited range of imaginative activities, showing repetitive behavior.

Although it is relatively easy to describe the characteristics of autistic spectrum disorders, diagnosis is a complex process because it is only in particular combinations of several of these characteristics that the diagnosis is made. However, the earlier the diagnosis, the better the chances are of that person receiving appropriate help and support.

Autistic spectrum disorders are pervasive. This means they affect the individual at school, at home, in play, fun and relaxation, on the sports field, within their family and, in the community and while pursuing their special interests. Those who spend the most time with the student (especially their families) will understand their abilities and difficulties, obsessions and phobias. They are likely to have developed many coping strategies that, when shared, will help everyone to tune into the student's unique needs.

How Teachers Can Make a Difference

Good teaching can make a difference, and high expectations (as long as they accept the child's difficulties) are as important ... in autism as for any other group. [Author Unknown]

Finding practical and effective approaches to enable a student to achieve their goals depends on identifying particular strengths and weaknesses, interests and aversions. Students with autistic spectrum disorders are actively seeking to make sense of a confusing world. Their problem-solving strategies may appear unusual to other people but not to them - they are simply working through a process.

These children need help to interpret the world. Just as you would not expect someone who was blind to see, you cannot expect someone with autism to have social vision.  [Author Unknown]

For most students, school is a rich social environment, which can be surprising, stimulating, exciting and challenging. It provides opportunities for experimenting, engaging and learning.

For almost all students with an autistic spectrum disorder, however, school is a confusing, demanding and noisy place. It challenges their need for order and predictability. They can try very hard every day to work out the rules and do the same things as other students, but their disability means that they can still get it wrong, get laughed at and feel little sense of belonging or achievement. A normal day at school can leave them feeling anxious, overloaded, distressed and with low self-esteem.

Practical strategies can make a significant difference to the student, through supporting their social and communication skills and adapting and interpreting the school environment to their needs.

The quality of life of someone with autism depends more on the way we can adapt to their differences - rather than modify their efforts. [Author Unknown]

It is important to note that these strategies will not only help students with autistic spectrum disorders in the classroom but all students with social and communication needs.

Support Team

People with autistic spectrum disorders are highly individual and need equally individual packages of support. The first step towards providing support is for those working closely with the student to assemble an individual profile, including unique skills and needs. The family, school support staff and specialized team can then use this profile as the basis for individual education programs. The specialized team may include a specialist teacher or a Resource Teacher: Learning and Behavior, and a special education provider such as Specialist Education Services. No one person will have all the skills and expertise required. Together the team will provide the complementary skills required to meet the student's needs.

Adapting Classroom and Teaching Practices

It is only by understanding the particular challenges faced by students at school that teachers are able to make changes and use strategies that reduce stress and increase success.

Each student with an autistic spectrum disorder is so unique that it is hard to make any generalizations. There is no "one size fits all" approach. However the following are examples of some strategies which have been found to be successful in overcoming the specific difficulties explained in the "triad of impairments". When used in conjunction with an understanding of the individual student, teachers should find these strategies make a significant contribution towards improving the learning environment and outcomes.

Sensory Challenges

Sometimes the channels get confused as when the sounds come through as color, sometimes I know something is coming in somewhere but I can't tell right away what sense it is coming through.  [Author unknown]

Many students with autistic spectrum disorders have a different sensory experience of the world. This may involve any number of senses, and the pattern of sensitivities can change across settings and over time.

Students may be over reactive (hypersensitive) to things sensory or under reactive. They may only be able to use or focus on one sensory channel at a time and/or have difficulty identifying which sense is receiving a message. They may have one or more preferred sense that they rely on to give them information on the world.

Autobiographies from people with autistic spectrum disorders have given us a unique insight into these difficulties.

I have caught myself turning off the car radio while trying to read a road sign or turning off the kitchen appliances so that I could taste something. [Author Unknown]

For some students, ordinary sounds and smells, things they see or taste, or being touched will be extremely aversive - and even physically or emotionally painful.

Scratchy petticoats were like sandpaper scraping away at raw nerve endings. [Temple Grandin]


  • "Stand in the student's shoes" and use the individual profile to identify the sensory challenges that they may be facing, then work with them to minimize the impact.
  • Use the information from parents and from careful observations to review whether there is anything at school or in the classroom, such as particular resources, sounds or textures, which might be creating aversive experiences.
  • Find a place in the classroom that accommodates any sensory sensitivities e.g., away from the window and harsh lighting if the student is sensitive to light, or away from computer fans if the student is sensitive to noise.
Social Challenges

It was years before I realized that other people are guided by their emotions during most social interactions. For me the proper behavior during social interactions had to be learned by intellect. I became more skilled at social interaction as I became
more experienced. Throughout my life I have been helped by understanding teachers and mentors. [Temple Grandin]

Many people with autistic spectrum disorders can only see the world from their own point of view. Consequently they have difficulty in developing empathy or responding appropriately to the emotional state of others around them. They use the same process for storing social messages as they do factual messages and are therefore unable to generalize what they learn and apply this knowledge to other situations.

I have great difficulty with new social situations if I cannot recall a similar situation to use as a guide. After many years I have learned by rote how to act in a number of different situations. [Temple Grandin]


  • It is important to build a relationship with the student, particularly through learning about and sharing the student's interests.

  • Establish regular communication with parents and caregivers. A daily notebook is recommended, particularly when the student is not able to convey messages between home and school. Knowing what is happening in both settings leads to opportunities to communicate with and teach the student.
  • Explain and teach social messages e.g., a range of greetings, which might be appropriate with peers, a teacher, the principal, someone in a shop, at a sports club.
  • Explain the rules of social conduct in a step-by-step manner by explicit teaching of social skills e.g., facial expressions, gestures, personal space, taking turns in conversation and appropriate personal remarks.
  • Ensure the student has the opportunity to balance structured opportunities for socializing and the need for quiet times to avoid "overload".
  • Interest in socializing may be better nurtured by starting with just one other person and building on a shared interest, such as trains or marbles. Sometimes the student may choose to "buddy" with a much older or younger student because they may not provide as many social challenges as someone their own age.
  • Encourage and educate peers to assist the student, either informally or in a more structured setting. This needs to be managed carefully, in partnership with families and others..
Communication Challenges

It was ages before I realized that people speaking might be demanding my attention. [Author Unknown]

Communication is often the major challenge for students with autistic spectrum disorders and those around them. Often it appears the student's only interest in communication is to ensure their needs are met. Acquisition of language skills often follows an unusual sequence and the level of language achieved can vary significantly between students. Some students have limited language. Others may have very sophisticated vocabulary on topics which interest them - but are unable to apply it in other contexts.

Some students can speak well but most of their language may actually be repeating by rote something they have heard from videos, books or other sources. All students with autistic spectrum disorders will have problems using language for social interaction. They process language (particularly oral language) slowly and with difficulty and while they are listening, the words can also trigger a lot of irrelevant information. They tend to have difficulties filtering out the unimportant details which means that by the time they are finally tuned to the same "channel" as the speaker, the moment for responding has passed.

Although the extent of these difficulties will vary, all students with autistic spectrum disorders find verbal information a challenge and have difficulty in following multiple verbal instructions. Teachers can help compensate for this by keeping directions to a minimum, providing clear instructions, and using visual cues.


  • Use the student's name to get their attention and wait for a response. Make sure you are within their range of vision - some students find it difficult to make and maintain eye contact. Give clear instructions - "Sit down at your desk," not "Where are you supposed to go?"
  • A series of cues can help the student on to the same "wavelength" before you ask a question e.g., "Yesterday, in English, we talked about the book about Harry Potter. He is a wizard and he has some words he uses to get things. When he wants a light, he says `lumos'. Tell me some other things that he says." Avoid open-ended questions, such as "What did Harry Potter do?" This example would be useful for a student with strong cognitive skills.
  • Cloze techniques and closed questions are often more successful e.g., say "9 x 9 = ?" rather than asking: "What is 9 times 9?"; ask "What is your next class?" rather than "What should you be doing now?"
  • Most students with autistic spectrum disorders have superior visual abilities - they say they "think in pictures". Checklists of regular routines and sequential instructions are often helpful, as are flow charts and mind maps. Visual supports can be referred to over and over again whereas oral language is transient - once it is said, it is no longer available.
  • Take care with non-verbal communication. The student with an autistic spectrum disorder will not recognize the subtle intonations, body language and facial expressions that lend meaning. Similarly they are unlikely to understand the use of irony, sarcasm, idiom or some forms of humor. Explain what idioms mean e.g., "pull up your socks".
  • Consider offering the student the use of an electronic notetaker or a computer for written language tasks to address difficulties with multi-tasking and motor co-ordination problems. It also meets the needs of many students for the words to look perfect.
  • Some students will be using non-verbal communication systems, such as sign language, picture or symbol communication systems, or other facilitated approach. Whatever system has been agreed, the key to success is consistent implementation across all settings.

Curriculum Adaptation

The aim must be not to fit pupils into the curriculum but to see what aspects ... can be used to meet their needs. [Author Unknown]

Students with autistic spectrum disorders often have restricted interests. Some students have only one obsession eg, trains, and they are very difficult to motivate on other topics.

Some subjects such as social studies are particularly difficult because they require students to use perspective and insight, which are skills they may not possess. In other areas, such as science, they may be capable but find skills such as prediction difficult and become very anxious because they cannot bear to be wrong.

Health education may be challenging for students with autistic spectrum disorders, particularly for more able students going through adolescence. Students are prone to low self-esteem and depression and often their lack of social skills are exacerbated at this time.


  • Decide and focus on the main objective of the lesson because the student may find it difficult to multi-task e.g., find ways to separate thinking and writing.
  • Use the student's interest to teach curriculum content e.g., there is potential "train math" across the mathematics curriculum. When the student has mastered the concepts, widen the activity to enable the student to generalize the concepts.
  • Use the student's topics of interest as a reward or motivator. Give them relevant projects involving their special interest, which they can do when they have completed some other more demanding activity.
  • Modify activities that require students to take on others' perspectives by making them more concrete. Use role-play and re-enactment with explicit teaching about each person's perspective to build understanding.
  • Design programs that maximize students' strengths to ensure plenty of successful experiences. Be aware of the possible need for periods of scheduled relaxation or reduced participation for the student.
  • In physical education, some students find difficulty with motor co-ordination, learning rules, and in working with large groups. With appropriate support, adaptations can be made to graduate the load on the student. This could be done by first explaining the rules, writing them down, and practicing the skills one-to-one. The activities could then be carried out with a small group. It may take these steps before the student feels they are able to integrate into the class. If difficulties persist, consider offering the student a more individual activity.
  • Understand that some students are good at one sport, such as cricket or soccer, but have little interest in any other physical activity.


Reality to an Autistic person is a confusing mass of events, people, places, sounds and sights. There seem to be no clear boundaries, order or meaning to anything. A large part of my life is spent in trying to work out the pattern behind everything. Set routines, times, particular routes and rituals all help to get order into an unbearably chaotic life.  [Therese Joliffe]

A predictable daily environment will result in significant reduction in anxiety and corresponding improvements in behavior. However, there will be inevitable changes of plan and times of transition from one schedule or setting to another. It is crucial to find ways to prepare students for these changes.

Students become very "tuned in" to particular thoughts, ideas and routines and it is difficult for them to shift attention from one activity or setting to the next. Transition between activities, locations and classrooms, between home and school, and between school and other environments needs to be carefully planned and managed to achieve success.

Students with autistic spectrum disorders also usually like logical rules. They may be able to recite all of the class or school rules and become the class "police" by reporting infringements. However, because they lack an understanding of the "why" of the rules, they are often unable to generalize the required behavior appropriately.


  • Add clocks to timetables and give the student warning when it is almost time for a change e.g., "look at the clock, in 10 minutes, it will be time for ..." (adjust the amount of warning given to the student's needs). It is a good idea to include any changes from the routine for tomorrow as well as for today. Provide a visual representation e.g., a relevant book, or of the next activity to help them to shift their attention.
  • Try to minimize interruptions once the student is working. If interrupted, they often have difficulty resuming the activity or beginning again.
  • Use of visual strategies such as schedules will help to explain sequences. For example, the class could assemble a book (including photos) or make a video about a new location emphasizing the people, what will happen there, and which things will be the same, particularly things in which the student is interested.
  • Rehearse the situation or let the student see familiar faces in the new location to help the transition. Visual cues, such as photographs of the new environment and people, are useful as part of the preparation. Make sure the student has opportunities to say "goodbye" to the people and the old location.
  • Transition to adult life should include extensive planning and encompass training in areas such as self-care, self-management, social skills, using public transport, functional skills and living in a community. Post-school transition should include ensuring that students have somewhere to live, appropriate advocacy and advice on income support entitlements.
Avoiding Overload

Overload is the single biggest problem for students in the school setting. Positive learning outcomes will depend on the student having sufficient personal space, time to process instructions, time to recover and feel success from their efforts, and appropriate rewards.


  • Provide an established place where the student can store and sort through their resources; a safe retreat for times when anxiety or overload occurs.
  • Ensure classrooms are well structured e.g., items are stored in the same place and important parts of the room are labeled. Minimize distracting visual displays, such as objects dangling at eye level in front of the board.
  • Give regular planned breaks. These could incorporate "circuit time" - planned physical activity of the student's choice e.g. walking, running within school grounds, with appropriate support. Have a quiet place where students can go to relax - they could work in the library, at the computer, or have special projects relating to their special interests.
  • A quieter place in the classroom could be created using a workstation with a light removable screen. Students may welcome opportunities to work slightly apart from the rest of the class at particularly agitating times.
  • Keep directions to a minimum and messages to the point - it is easy to "over-explain" which may cause overload.

Behavior Challenges

The most difficult behaviors occur when a student is trying to convey that they are not coping with expectations or the situation. It is usually best to deal with behavior alternatives after the incident has passed.

The key is to explore what has triggered the response. It will almost certainly be related to the student not understanding what is being asked of them, feeling that they are not being understood, or going into "overload".

They are often keen to "get it right" but they don't know what "it" is unless it is explained to them. Programs for behavior change will include targeted teaching of social skills (and assistance to generalize) as well as specific behavior alternatives. To be effective, these new behaviors often need to be scripted and rehearsed. Students are unlikely to generalize new behaviors until they can understand the "why" as well as the "what".

Some students may seem defiant, rude or non-compliant. They will often actually be repeating something they have seen or heard and do not understand that it is not appropriate. Students develop behaviors as a defense for aversive situations. It is therefore better to deal with difficult situations at the initial stage, before the development of more challenging secondary behaviors.

Behaviors such as repetitive flapping, pacing, spinning, singing or laughing usually indicate a need for some respite or other help.


  • Observe carefully to identify the triggers of difficult behavior.
  • Keep calm and try to re-direct, rather than confront the behavior. Keep a note in the profile of what works. When students become distressed, they usually need a safe and quiet area to calm down.
  • There may be safety issues - the student might run, hide or hurt themselves or others. Make a contingency plan with parents, professionals and others for these occasions. Ensure that everyone who may come into contact with the student knows what to do at these times.
  • Visual representations may be helpful e.g., "feeling faces" (pictures of different emotions) or colors for the student to recognize their own feelings. During a calm time, script, rehearse and practice alternative behaviors. Teach relaxation techniques and use visual strategies to indicate what they can do if they are "going to red", e.g., to take five deep breaths or move to a quiet area.

The "Invisible Curriculum"

Below are some strategies for non-curricular activities which students often find most difficult:

  • Lunchtime can be a jungle without rules or routines. Students need to have a safe place they can go within the playground and inside the school.
  • Assembly and other large groups of people can be intimidating. Students are often best seated where they can move away if they need to, with supervision and support.
  • Self-management and sequencing is likely to be challenging. Students are often considered lazy but they actually need help - checklists, timetables and visual plans help them work out what to do next.
  • Change creates a lot of anxiety. Give plenty of warning about major changes in routine e.g., relieving teachers.
  • Students often find homework difficult, because they separate school and home into work and relaxation. Consider homework which they can do in natural settings, e.g., practical math objectives, or allow them to do their homework at school.
  • Behaviors and skills often go in cycles - students may even lose the ability to do some things they have previously done. However, when the cycle improves, they can often recover their previous skills and show a noticeable jump in performance. Ask parents how long "challenging" cycles usually last and try to modify expectations of the student.
  • Students with autistic spectrum disorders can become the targets of bullying, largely because they behave differently. It often takes a long time for them to report it, so teachers and parents need to have a plan for students to keep themselves safe, before incidents occur.

Building a Student Profile

Working with a student with an autistic spectrum disorder requires a team approach. It is highly advisable to draw on experiences from parents, families, and other professionals to develop or add to an individual profile. This profile becomes the unique snapshot of the student and is likely to include:

  • Likes/dislikes
  • Skills
  • Communication
  • Social interaction
  • Unusual behavior and triggers
  • Other information, such as
  • pain or ill health
  • medication
  • sleeping patterns
  • tendency to run away, hide or injure themselves or others
  • toileting
  • who is able to calm him/her
  • family concerns
  • who is/has been involved on their team.

Particular Teaching Skills Required

Teachers who find the most success with students with autistic spectrum disorders will:

  • Have well-structured, predictable programs.
  • Have a quiet and calm manner.
  • Be reflective, adaptable, and work in a team.
  • Already be teaching social and co-operative skills.
  • Show understanding and compassion.
  • Have a sense of humor.
  • Not take comments or behavior personally.
  • Be willing to adapt their style of communication.
  • Be able to understand levels of social communication.
  • Have the imagination to understand and share the mind of someone who lacks imagination.
  • Never be satisfied by how much they know.
  • Accept that progress sometimes brings challenges.
  • Be willing to take on a partnership with parents and  families


"Standardized Tests and Students with An Autism Spectrum Disorder"


Contributed by Rachel Loftin ~ Indiana Resource Center for Autism-Reporter


What are standardized tests?


Standardized tests can include a variety of tasks designed to garner knowledge about an individual or group's knowledge, abilities or other traits. These sets of tasks are carefully assessed to ensure that they validly and reliably measure given characteristics. Typically, this process involves administering the test to a sample of individuals who are representative of the population on whom the test will be used. Standardized tests may be administered individually or as a group.


A discussion of group administered standardized tests, such as the I-STEP, is certainly important but will not be addressed here. Students' scores on these tests have less impact on intervention and  programming decisions for individual students. Often, group administered tests serve only as a screening procedure for referring students for special education eligibility assessments or, more obviously, for assessing the achievement of the school as a whole. Group administered assessments are rarely adequate for assessing an individual student's academic performance. Because they were developed with the needs of individuals with autism in mind, standardized assessments used to diagnose autism, such as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) (Lord, Rutter, DiLavore, & Risi, 2000), are also omitted from this discussion.


What are individually administered standardized tests?


Most state and local educational agencies require the use of individually administered standardized tests when making special education eligibility decisions. Selected tests may include intelligence tests (which yield IQ or ability scores), academic tests (which measure achievement), and personality tests (which yield emotional or behavioral information). It is the responsibility of the school psychologist to select which tests will best provide information to address the referral question. Once tests are selected, the school psychologist makes decisions about how to best administer the instrument and interpret the results. Standardized assessment tools have rigid administration guidelines. The obtained scores are only valid if these guidelines are followed.


What does this have to do with autism?


For students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), standardized assessments present a host of difficulties. When testing children with ASD, it may be difficult or impossible to adhere to the administration guidelines and still elicit the student's best performance.


Tests that are highly dependent on language comprehension, for example, may be biased against students with ASD (Watson & Marcus, 1999). Specifically, tests that require lengthy verbal directions and verbal responses are almost always inappropriate. Even on the performance subtests, receptive language skills are required to understand the directions. The communication deficit faced by all students with ASD puts them at a disadvantage on tests dependent on receptive and expressive language use.


Other characteristics of Autism spectrum disorders affect the standardized testing situation. In addition to language skill deficits, a student with ASD may lack other skills required in the testing situation. Students with ASD, regardless of level of functioning, possess deficits in social skills. Standardized tests require some level of social interaction. It may be difficult to perform well on an individually administered assessment without reciprocal social interaction skills. Atypical interests, repetitive behaviors, stereotypic behaviors, disruptive behaviors, and inattention may further complicate the testing situation.


Aren't there any alternatives to standardized tests?


Yes, school psychologists may choose to administer nonverbal intelligence assessments to students with ASD, rather than altering the standardized administration procedures or foregoing the procedure all together. The Test of Nonverbal Intelligence, 3rd edition (TONI-3) is a valid and reliable alternative that does not require the examinee to read, write, speak, or listen. The Leiter International Performance Scale- Revised (Leiter- R; Roid & Miller, 1997) is another option. The Leiter- R, which does not require the student to use or to understand speech, has few timed items and will not penalize students for slow responses. While these instruments do minimize the communication difficulties that may interfere with obtaining the student's true score, they do require social interaction skills, attention to task, and other appropriate test taking behaviors that may be difficult for students with ASD.


At times, it may be possible for the psychologist to forgo the use of standardized tests during the assessment process (i.e., when the school district does not require the use of tests). Observations, interactions with the student, his teachers and parents, and other alternative sources of information may provide valuable information about areas of strength and areas needing improvement that can help guide the intervention and programming process. Even when standardized assessments are used, these additional sources should be included in the assessment.


What modifications can psychologists make to accommodate students with ASD when standardized tests are used?



Allow time to meet the student before entering the testing session. This may help to alleviate some anxiety and will allow you to better assess needed modifications.



Consider the student's sensory needs when conducting an assessment. For example, if he finds printed materials too visually stimulating, cover a portion so fewer problems are visible.



Testing involves a significant disruption in the student's school day. For students on the autism spectrum, such disruptions can be very distressing. Consider meeting with the student in advance of the testing session to introduce yourself and to explain the upcoming schedule change. If the student uses a schedule, work with the teacher to include the testing session on his daily itinerary.



If possible, administer the tests in a familiar environment for  the student. Minimize all distractions. Open window blinds, noisy heating vents, unusual smells, and other environmental distractions may have a significant impact on the student's scores.



When possible, allow extra time for the student to finish items.



Consider the auditory processing delays of students with ASD. Standardized directions are often lengthy and confusing. This can be particularly problematic for children with receptive language difficulties. Make verbal directions as clear and concise as possible. It may be useful to use visual directions or prompts or to allow the student to respond with gestures or signs.



To reduce the number of failures in a testing session, frequently' intersperse new and challenging tasks with easier items. This may require administering items out of the standardized order or inserting non test activities within subtests. It may also be helpful to use positive reinforcers to make the testing situation more motivating for the student.



Koegel, Koegel & Smith (1997) suggest assessing whether the student exhibits certain behavior that may interfere with the testing situation and then using positive reinforcers to reduce the rate of the interfering behavior. For a student who engaged in the obsessive, self-stimulatory verbal behavior of speaking in a "cartoon-like" voice, Koegel, Koegel and Smith allowed the voice only when responding to the test stimuli.


The preceding modifications will likely improve the student's performance. When administration of various intelligence assessments is altered to accommodate for motivation and attention variables, some students who previously scored in the mentally retarded range with standard administration can score in the average or low-average range of cognitive functioning (Koegel, Koegel & Smith, 1997). Employing such strategies will break the standardization of the assessment tool, and you cannot generate standard scores. The psychologist will, however, garner much information about the individual student's strengths and areas for improvement--information that will be crucial in making effective intervention and programming decisions.


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"Who Are We Working for Anyway? Avoiding Personal Agendas at Meetings To Better Support Individuals Across the Autism Spectrum"


Contributed by Kim Davis ~ Indiana Autism Resource Center-Reporter


Gloria Smith goes into the conference room for a meeting about her son. As she enters, she is faced with nine professionals sitting  around the table. Each one knows her child and who she is, but she is not sure who they all are. She has talked with the teacher, but has not contacted anyone else. Her son, Adam, is her first child and has autism. At this meeting, Gloria will be asked to discuss his IEP goals, and his behavior plan. Each professional has 10 or 12 other student meetings on their agendas. Time is important to them, but meetings have been run efficiently in the past. The agenda is set and the meeting begins.


There are multitudes of meetings surrounding a student with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or, for that matter, any disability. Those meetings may include parents, school personnel, therapists, case managers, waiver representatives, other family members, and agency representatives who provide support to the child. Each person attending those meetings may enter the room with a personal agenda in mind.


Each may believe his or her ideas are in the best interest of the child. Participants may have a hard time letting go of those ideas, adapting them, or even listening to others. Meetings can become long and involved, and can create tension among all participants. Tensions stem from each person's reactions to the student based on his or her personal experience and perspective. Personal agendas create needless power struggles and personality clashes that often result in the true needs of the person with autism/ Asperger's being forgotten and excluded from any discussion or planning that takes place. Personal agendas cause participants to forget the main focus of the meeting... the student.


Personal perspective and experience can impact the manner in which people choose to look at and support individuals. Many times that unique perspective is skewed and does not allow one to see the whole person and what is happening to them. Herb Lovett illustrates this concept in his book, Learning to Listen (p. 130):


The lives of people in distress (with disabilities) can take very different directions depending on who is asked for help. A common problem for people providing services is figuring out who to call when they are confused about what to do. For example, if Denise has started' hitting people, any number of things can happen to her depending on who is asked to respond first. A medical practitioner might want to give her a drug, a psychologist might assign a behavior program or a therapy appointment, an occupational therapist might want to assess her styles of sensory integration, her family might want people to punish or placate her the program administrator might want to increase staff time with her, and her service coordinator might want to send her to a residential treatment center out of state. Much of Denise's future will rest on that first telephone call, but how do we know who to call first. Ideally, any one of these key people is comfortable with giving a preliminary opinion and asking for further consultation to help rule out (or in) other contributing causes, but sometimes consultants insist their expertise is the only information needed and will try to 'own' Denise and her situation. Too often professionals work in isolation and rely entirely on a single way of understanding and responding to a behavior. When they proceed to personalize their struggle to 'conquer' a behavior, this narrow focus can lead to the excesses that have killed people in the name of therapy. At this point we recognize controlling and authoritarian ways of working for what they ultimately are. . . inhuman.


To create an atmosphere of collaboration and cooperation, people must have open minds and be responsive to multiple positions. Open minds allow individuals to become a team working to create the best possible situation for the child with ASD.


Stumbling Blocks


There are many areas where schools and parents create tension and confusion during school meetings. Observations from actual meetings between schools and parents illustrate some of the stumbling blocks.


For Schools:



Meetings are short, rushed, and nothing gets discussed for any length of time. There are also times when the focus of the particular meeting is not clear to all involved. Meetings, whether formal or informal, may not happen often enough to help the team, which includes the parents, understand specific issues surrounding the child.



All professionals use jargon (words related to that profession). Special education is full of jargon. Education professionals use this jargon on a daily basis, and assume that parents understand what is being said. Jargon is often like a foreign language to parents and other non-school personnel.


Number of People:

There may be a number of education professionals at the school conference. Most of these professionals know each other and have already discussed the specific student. They may have already formed an "opinion" about the child and family. This sets a didactic versus supportive ('them and us1 tone for the meeting that makes parents uncomfortable and less than trusting about what is being recommended.


Assumption of Understanding:

Even if families have been involved with the special education system for a number of years, it does not mean that they always fully understand what is being discussed at the school meeting. Many times parents are not asked if they understand what is being said or recommended, or given the opportunity to ask questions.


Parent Training:

Because parent education and training is often not a school priority, the  annual conference may involve a steep learning curve for parents about special education services. Parents who have not received training may not understand the jargon or understand what is being recommended for their child. Yet they are still asked to provide "informed parental consent."


Becoming Complacent:

Schools are responsible for coordinating and conducting numerous conferences for students receiving services. Because of time constraints, conferences continue to be conducted in the same manner year after year, and complacency ("the way we have always done it") is often mistaken for efficiency.


For Family Members:



Parents may not realize the time and effort it takes to coordinate a meeting that accommodates the schedules of teachers, therapists, administrators, paraprofessionals, and parents. When parents fail to show up for their conference and do not contact the school in advance, not only is school staff time wasted but also other students have been denied access to their teacher and/ or therapist.



The family bears a responsibility for understanding the program and services being recommended for their child. The school team may assume that if the family does not ask questions, they must understand and be in agreement. Families who are not informed participants in their child's conference may tend to make last minute changes or demands that create frustration and confusion that circumvent the benefits of the proposed program.



It is important for families to take responsibility for making decisions about their child and not pass that responsibility off to the educational staff.


Gaining Knowledge:

Parents may be asked by teachers to investigate certain important aspects of their child's learning program by making phone calls, visiting sites, completing paperwork and using other methods. If there is no timely follow through by the family, the school may be unable to proceed with all aspects of the child's program.


Last Minute Changes:

Not attending a meeting or not voicing a concern as soon as they occur can create inconvenience and lead to unnecessary conflict. Changing one's mind after the teaching staff have been investigating a certain curriculum, instructional technique, behavior plan, transition process or work site can create frustration, confusion, and anger and also create inconsistencies in the child's program.


Becoming Complacent:

Parents as well as teachers can become complacent. Not attending meetings, not asking questions, or letting things go without investigation because it is easier are all forms of parent complacency. Assuming things will get done simply because the school has to provide services is an ineffective way to monitor a child's progress and sends the message that parents are not part of the 'team.'


Advocates with Personal Agendas:

Advocates are useful in many instances by helping parents understand situations, as well as assisting in reaching consensus in meetings. However, advocates who come to meetings with personal agendas and hostile attitudes rather than focusing on the needs of the specific student can create unfortunate situations for everyone involved.


Threaten lawsuit:

Sometimes tensions become so high that parents want to involve an attorney. The threat of a lawsuit creates incredible stress between and among school staff and family. Honest relationships will suffer and ultimately the child loses.  Although legal alternatives are part of the due process guarantees of special education law, it should be used as a last resort.


It can be seen that stumbling blocks are not one sided. Schools and families both can and should work together to help solve problems instead of creating new ones.


Actually, school personnel and families each face other challenges that are quite similar. They all share frustrations when it comes to being able to do what is best for the child. The following table lists challenges that both families and schools face. Note the similarities.




Funding/Money: To pay for

materials, personnel training,


Funding/Money: To pay

for services, insurance and

to maintain family integrity

Standards: Rules that must be

followed are complicated. There are State and

Federal rules and

regulations to consider.

Standards: Family rules or standards may be

complicated by the views or

opinions of extended family


Class size: How to provide

Individualized and intensive


Family Size: How to provide

Individualized and intensive


Differing Priorities: Different

Depending On each students needs. Each has different

priorities/needs that may

conflict with the needs/

priorities of Others.

Differing Priorities of Other Family Members: Different depending on

individual and sometimes may

conflict with the priorities/needs

of others.

Environment: Room size,

materials, Interactions.

Environment: House/room size,

Materials, interactions.

Time: Lack of time to do it all.

Time: Lack of time to care for all.

Training: Time and money is an issue to obtain


Training: Time and money is an

Issue to obtain information.

Politics: Differing beliefs and


Family Culture: Differing beliefs

and values.



Working together to solve problems rather than placing blame requires that everyone realize multiple stressors and challenges faced by all.  Instead of turning meetings into a situation full of barriers and obstacles in which the child is lost, the way to success is to support each other and build on individual strengths. It may be helpful to remember that all people have the best interests of the child in mind regardless of their perspective. Most people would not intentionally do something wrong or bad. Everyone wants what is best, but may have to overcome challenges in their job or family situation to do what is best. They simply may not always have the tools or support to do it.


What Can Schools and Parents Do to Enhance Meetings?


How can meetings become more comfortable and create more meaningful educational goals and situations for each child? Here are suggestions for schools and parents to consider to help meetings become more productive and supportive of the student with an autism spectrum disorder.


Suggestions for Schools:


Come to meetings with open minds, instead of with preconceived ideas about the child or others who are attending the meetings. There are always multiple perspectives in any situation whether it is in the classroom, therapy, at home, or in the community. Openness allows everyone to truly hear each other, and to learn about limitations and possibilities in each environment.


Establishing a relationship between school and home is a crucial step. This requires a joint effort between the teacher and the pBients. It cannot be one sided. If a positive relationship can be established at the beginning of the school year and includes consistent open minded listening and communication, meetings have a better chance of being productive.


Listening to each other is primary. Realize that everyone has something to say from his or her perspective. At the same time, remember that each person's perspective is based on his or her experience and relationship with the student and is valid.


Acknowledge issues that the child faces and set priorities for the learning experience.  Work together to see the vision for that particular student. Remember that each year's work should be focused on the ultimate dream or vision for that child.


Discuss priorities and see what needs to be  addressed in school as well as at home. Be clear on what behaviors or skills need to be considered so everyone is thinking along the same lines and not spinning their wheels.


The teacher should make an effort to contact parents and meet at the beginning of the year as one way to create a joint effort. This informal meeting allows all players to get to know one another and set a positive tone for the beginning of the school year. Reaching out to each other is a wonderful first step.


Ensure that parents are included in scheduling meetings and in the planning process by offering to call parents about dates and times prior to letters going out from the school. This can help them understand the schools specific system for arranging meetings.


Create a 'safe' environment for families at meetings. Realize the meeting room is filled with professionals who know each other and only one or two family members. Professionals all know the family but often the family does not know all of the professionals. That situation can be quite intimidating.Be sure the family knows ahead of time who will be there and provide introductions at the beginning of the meeting.


Be sure parents understand what is being discussed throughout the meeting. Professionals often use jargon during  Meetings and forget families may not use the same language. Be sure parents understand by asking what they have heard. Restate any information that appears confusing to them.


Provide parent training both formally and informally beginning in early childhood through the transition years. There is so much for parents to learn about the special education system and the adult service agency system. One meeting a year is not enough to truly grasp a situation. Remember that reading material is not always the best option for sharing information. Phone calls, informal meetings, home visits, or formal group instruction or monthly meetings may ultimately prove fruitful.


If teaching strategies or behavior support plans are not working or achieving desired outcomes, they need to be refined. Even if things have "always been done this way", it may be best to revisit common practices and make adaptations.


Finally, remember that the dreams that families have for their child may be different from those of the school staff. It is important for the school staff to hear family wishes, and then try not to push their views and values onto the family. Professionals can try to learn to value what the family dreams and help them meet those dreams or augment them to support the child in the best possible manner.


Suggestions for Families:


Families should share all necessary information about their child including information about medications, diagnosis, and illnesses. If your child is on medications be sure to tell school staff so they can be alert for side effects or changes in behavior.


Share the dreams for the future life of your son or daughter with the team. Opening up, and being totally honest is difficult for anyone. It is often more difficult when sharing with a group of professionals. Yet, sharing dreams and hopes, as well as fears, allows the team to understand family perspectives better. It creates a unique relationship that may increase the desire for'

working together toward those dreams. Other team members may be parents and also have dreams for their children; therefore they can empathize and understand the parent perspective better.


When families do not understand what is being discussed, ask questions during the meeting. Calling, e-mailing or writing to teachers at school can also dissolve any confusion or miscommunication that may take place. Realize that during the school day it is often challenging for teachers to make or take phone calls. It may be necessary to set up a phone date in order for discussion not to be rushed.


Try to understand that your child's school may not always have the best PLAN, but try to start on common ground then adapt the plan as needed. Know that sometimes the best PLAN may fail. After all, if the job of teaching students with autism or other disabilities was easy, anyone could do it and no meetings would be necessary. Often teachers need to try several strategies before finding one that works. It is frustrating for them, just as much as it is frustrating for the student and family. Allow them to try different techniques with the students and realize there may be some trials before there will be success. We all learn through our mistakes.


Avoid threats or lawsuits if possible. As stated, due process is a legitimate option and available for a reason. However, a lawsuit mayor may not help. While it is important to advocate for your child, there may be better options than a lawsuit. Exploring mediation, parent advocacy, or informal meetings can be alternatives. Establishing a relationship with the teacher at the very beginning of the year and maintaining consistent contact can allow a more open and consistent dialogue between home and school.


Finally. it would be wonderful for both the family and school staff to make and to receive calls or messages with a positive content. So often the only time contact is made, other than to set a meeting date, is when some crisis has occurred. Sharing positive information can help in maintaining more trust and honest relationships between home and school.


The ultimate goal of collaborative meetings should not be "How will you make this work or happen: but instead it should be how can WE make this work together!!! When parents and school personnel work together as a team, with respect and consideration for each other, severe disagreements are greatly minimized and ultimately, the child is the winner!


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 




Addressing Student Problem Behavior

Autism Research Institute's Form E-2 Check List and Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS)

Autism Treatment of Evaluation Checklist (ATEC)

Functional Behavioral Assessments: What, Why, When, Where, and Who? at Wrightslaw Website.

Guidance on Functional Behavioral Assessments for Students with Disabilities

Resources and Research on Assessment


Assessment/Diagnostic Tools

Comprehensive assessment and evaluation set the foundation for the overall quality and appropriateness of final recommendations in an individualized family services plan (IFSP), an individualized program plan (IPP), and an individualized education program (IEP) that may include transition services as appropriate.

The success of an individualized early intervention and education program begins with accurate assessment. A thorough developmental assessment not only identifies the child's strengths and needs from which realistic teaching objectives are designed, but also establishes a baseline against which measures of progress can be made. More important, preintervention assessment data, when interpreted by experienced professionals and educators and shared with parents, shape parents' expectations about the course and outcome of treatment.

The stress of receiving a confirmed diagnosis of autism and possibly mental retardation complicates the task of communicating developmental information. Nevertheless, accurate assessment data, presented to parents in an objective, sensitive, and caring manner, is indispensable preparation for contemplating an early intervention or educational program. It is the assessment team's responsibility to gather, present, and openly discuss relevant information needed by parents of a child diagnosed with ASD. Professionals are responsible for sharing the information with parents to reach a mutual and realistic expectation of instructional outcomes as well as an understanding of alternative approaches.

Assessment and intervention are ongoing processes; they require the information gained to be ontinuously fed back into the system to influence the intervention plan and, ultimately, the outcome.

Collaborative Aspects of Comprehensive Assessment

Parents are encouraged to actively participate in the assessment process to assure that any assessment is reflective of the child's functioning within the family setting or from the parent's perspective. Agencies collaborate in the assessment process to reduce duplication, cost, and stress on the child and family. Participating agencies are encouraged to jointly plan the assessment process, which determines program eligibility and service needs. Results of the assessment are integrated into the IFSP, IPP, and/or IEP. The need for ongoing reassessment is determined by the collaborative team's review of progress (or suspected lack of progress) in achieving individual program objectives and curriculum goals.

Assessment Domains

Assessment domains may differ as a result of an individual's age, developmental level, diagnosis, and areas of need. The domains may include, but are not limited to, the following:

-Cognition/developmental levels
-Social/emotional skills
-Sensory regulation
-Motor skills
-Communication skills
-Play/leisure-time activities
-Preacademic/academic skills
-Prevocational/vocational skills
-Self-help, independent-living skills
-Community-based skills
-Methods of Assessment

Methods of assessment are individualized based on age, developmental level,diagnosis, and areas of need and may include:

-Standardized assessment tools
-Developmental assessment approaches
-A developmental history
-A medical history
-A family interview
-A review of records
-Natural and structured observations in multiple settings
-Functional analysis of behavior
-Documentation of symptomology
-Family assessment

Diagnostic and Assessment Instruments Appropriate for Use with Children With Autistic Spectrum Disorders

The following instruments are used by educators, clinicians, and researchers to assess children suspected of, or previously diagnosed with, a pervasive developmental disorder. These instruments are used to measure specific dimensions of a child's development,environment, or family. The instruments listed provide measures of development in different domains of functioning. Rate of change in those domains is sometimes used as a baseline or as a follow-up measure of developmental progress or response to educational programming. The following list of assessment instruments represents a sample of instruments most familiar to professionals working with children with autism.

Diagnostic Assessment

Autism Diagnostic Interview - Revised

The Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) is a semi-structured, investigator-based interview for caregivers of children and adults for whom autism or pervasive developmental disorders is a possible diagnosis.

A standard diagnostic interview is conducted at home or in a clinic. The ADI-R is considered by some professionals in the field as a measure of high diagnostic accuracy. It takes several hours to administer and score. The ADI-R is recognized as one of the better standardized instruments currently
available for establishing a diagnosis of autism. It is a semi-structured interview administered to subjects' caregivers which determines whether or not an individual meets the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (3rd ed., revised) criteria for autism. The assessment begins with a home visit by a therapist who interviews the child's parents. A home visit provides a chance to meet the child and to get a sense of the parents' priorities. This interview may be scheduled as part of the in-clinic assessment.

Prelinguistic Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule

The Prelinguistic Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (PL-ADOS) is a semi-structured observation scale for diagnosing children who are not yet using phrase speech and who are suspected of having autism. The scale is administered to the child with the help of a parent. This instrument provides an opportunity to observe specific aspects of the child's social behavior, such as joint attention, imitation, and sharing of affect with the examiner and parent. PL-ADOS scores are reported to discriminate between children with autism and children with nonautistic developmental disabilities. The resulting
diagnostic algorithm is theoretically linked to diagnostic constructs associated with International Classification of Diseases (10th revision) and DSM-IV criteria for autism.

Childhood Autism Rating Scale

The Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) was developed by the Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH) program staff in North Carolina to formalize observations of the child's behavior throughout the day. This 15-item behavior-rating scale
helps to identify children with autism and to distinguish them from developmentally disabled children who are not autistic. Brief, convenient, and suitable for use with any child older than two years of age, the CARS makes it much easier for clinicians and educators to recognize and classify autistic children. Developed over a 15-year period, with more than 1,500 cases, CARS includes items drawn from five prominent systems for diagnosing autism. Each item covers a particular characteristic, ability, or behavior.

After observing the child and examining relevant information from parent reports and other records, the examiner rates the child on each item. Using a seven-point scale, he or she indicates the degree to which the child's behavior deviates from that of a normal child of the same age. A total score is computed by summing the individual ratings on each of the 15 items. Children who score above a given point are categorized as autistic. In addition, scores falling within the autistic range can be divided into two categories: mild-to-moderate and severe. Professionals who have had only minimal exposure to autism can easily be trained to use CARS.

Autism Behavior Checklist

The Autism Behavior Checklist (ABC) is a general measure of autism. It is not as reliable as the CARS or ADI-R. Correlations between the ABC and CARS ranged from 0.16 to 0.73 in a study by Eaves and Milner (1993). The CARS correctly identified 98 percent of the autistic subjects; it identified 69 percent of the possibly autistic as autistic. The ABC correctly identified 88 percent of the autistic subjects, while it identified 48 percent of the possibly autistic as autistic.

Checklist for Autism in Toddlers

The Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (CHAT) is a screening instrument designed to detect core autistic features to enable treatment as early as eighteen months. The most effective treatment currently available for autism is early educational intervention, beginning as soon as possible after a child's diagnosis. Unfortunately, intervention rarely begins before the age of three years because few autistic children are diagnosed before they reach preschool age. CHAT offers physicians a means of diagnosing autism in infancy so that educational programs can be started months or even years before most symptoms become obvious. CHAT should not be used as a diagnostic instrument, but it can alert the primary health professional to the need for an expert referral.

Real Life Rating Scale

The Real Life Rating Scale (RLRS) is a scale used to assess the effects of treatment on 47 behaviors in the motor, social, affective, language, and sensory domains among autistic persons. The RLRS is appli- cable in natural settings by nonprofessional raters, is rapidly scored by hand, and can be repeated frequently without affecting inter-observer agreement.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder Screening Test

The Pervasive Developmental Disorder Screening Test (PDDST) is designed to be administered in settings where concerns about possible autistic spectrum disorders arise. Different "stages" of the PDDST correspond to representative populations in (a) primary care clinics; (b) developmental clinics; and (c) autism clinics. The PDDST is designed as a screening test and is a parent report measure. As such, it does not constitute a full clinical description of early signs of autism but does reflect those early signs that have been found to be reportable by parents and correlated with later clinical diagnosis.

Stage One

Primary care screening is designed for use in primary care pediatric settings where the vast majority of parents express initial complaints about symptoms that prove to be significant in diagnoses of ASD.

Stage Two

Developmental disorders clinic screening is designed for use in developmental clinics where children are often first assessed for possible developmental disorders.

Stage Three

ASD screening is designed for use in specialty clinics for children suspected of ASD.

Autism Screening Instrument for Educational Planning (2nd ed.)

The Autism Screening Instrument for Educational Planning (2nd ed.) (ASIEP-2) is a major revision of one of the most popular individual assessment instruments available for evaluating and planning for subjects with autistic behavior characteristics. Standardized and researched in diagnostic centers throughout the world, ASIEP-2 uses five components to provide data on five unique aspects of behavior with individuals from eighteen months through adulthood. The components of the ASIEP examine behavior in five areas: Sensory, Relating, Body Concept, Language, and Social Self-Help. The ASIEP-2 samples vocal behavior, assesses interactions and communication, and determines learning rate. In combination, ASIEP-2 subtests provide a profile of abilities in spontaneous verbal behavior, social interaction, educational level, and learning characteristics.

Diagnostic Checklist for Behavior-Disturbed Children (Form E-2)

The Form E-2 Diagnostic Checklist (Rimland, 1971), developed at the Institute for Child Behavior Research, was proposed as an assessment instrument that differentiates between cases of "classical" autism and a broader range of children with "autistic-like" features. Questions on Form E-2 reference behaviors in children between birth and age six years. This questionnaire is completed by the child's parents. Form E-2 is not designed to determine whether or not a child is autistic for the purposes of being admitted to an educational or rehabilitative program.

Gilliam Autism Rating Scale

Designed for use by teachers, parents, and professionals, the Gilliam Autism Rating Scale (GARS) (Gilliam & Janes, 1995) helps to identify and diagnose autism in individuals ages three through twenty-two years and to estimate the severity of the problem. Items on the GARS are based on the definitions
of autism adopted by the DSM-IV. The items are grouped into four subtests: stereotyped behaviors, communication, social interaction, and developmental disturbances. The GARS has three core subtests that describe specific and measurable behaviors.

An optional subtest (Developmental Disturbances) allows parents to contribute data about their child's development during the first three years of life. Behaviors are assessed using objective, frequency-based ratings. The entire scale can be completed in five to ten minutes by persons who have knowledge of the child's behavior or the greatest opportunity to observe him or her. Standard scores and percentiles are provided.

Developmental Assessment

Psychoeducational Profile-Revised (PEP-R) offers a developmental approach to the assessment of children with autism or related developmental disorders. It is an inventory of behaviors and skills designed to identify uneven and idiosyncratic learning patterns. The test is most appropriately used with children functioning at or below the preschool range and within the chronological age range of six months to seven years. The PEP-R provides information on developmental functioning in imitation, perception, fine motor, gross motor, eye-hand integration, cognitive performance, and cognitive verbal areas. The PEP-R also identifies degrees of behavioral abnormality in relating and affect (cooperation and human interest), play and interest in materials, sensory responses, and language.

The PEP-R kit consists of a set of toys and learning materials that are presented to a child within structured play activities. The examiner observes, evaluates, and records the child's responses during the test. There are 131 developmental and 43 behavioral items on the PEP-R. The total time required to administer and score these items varies From 45 minutes to 1.5 hours. Because it is not a test of speed, variations in total testing time depend on the child's levels of functioning and any behavior management problems that arise during the testing situation. At the end of the session, the child's scores are distributed among seven developmental and four behavioral areas. The resulting profiles depict a child's relative strengths and weaknesses in different areas of development and behavior.

The Developmental Scale tells where a child is functioning relative to peers. The items on the Behavioral Scale have the separate, but related, assessment function of identifying responses and behaviors consistent with a diagnosis of autism. The PEP-R provides a third and unique score called emerging. A response scored "emerging" is one that indicates some knowledge of what is required to complete a task, but not the full understanding or skill necessary to do so successfully.

The Adolescent and Adult Psychoeducational Profile (AAPEP) extends the PEP-R to meet the needs of adolescents and adults.

Southern California Ordinal Scales of Development

The Southern California Ordinal Scales of Development (SCOSD), which is available from Western Psychological Services, was developed by the California Department of Education, Diagnostic Center in Southern California (1985). The developmental scales of cognition, communication, social affective behavior, practical abilities, gross motor, and fine motor abilities are based on two fundamental principles. First, they draw extensively on the developmental theories of Jean Piaget. Each scale is
divided according to the levels and stages that Piaget describes in his writings on human development. Second, the SCOSD incorporates assessment techniques that aim to minimize the constraints of traditional, standardized ability testing.

When possible, the examiner is encouraged to observe the child in his or her natural environment, using materials that are readily available and familiar. In interpreting the results of assessment, the examiner arrives at a total picture of the child's abilities in terms of the particular developmental scale.

The SCOSD is criterion-referenced rather than norm-referenced. Assessment procedures are flexible, rather than fixed, and the scoring system takes into account the quality as well as the quantity of responses.

Developmental Play Assessment Instrument

The Developmental Play Assessment Instrument is an instrument used to assess the play development of children with disabilities relative to the play of nondisabled children. The developmental quality of toy play is evaluated according to the level of pretend play and the frequency and variety of play activities within the level identified.

Brigance Inventory of Early Development is criterion-referenced rather than norm-referenced. While useful for assessment purposes, its value is in identifying instructional objectives, serving as a guide for measuring those objectives, and providing an ongoing tracking system. The Brigance Inventory
is intended for informal assessment of several aspects of child development and is for children functioning at developmental levels from birth to seven years of age. Major areas assessed include general knowledge and comprehension, speech and language, preacademics, self-help, and psychomotor skills. Within these major areas, there are 98 subtests of sequenced developmental skills.

The Brigance Inventory permits different administrations to be used, such as observation, direct testing of the child, or reports from caretakers, child-care workers, or teachers. To elicit the child's maximum performance, clinicians are encouraged to allow children to respond in any possible fashion, such as pointing, eye localizations, or verbalizing. Clinicians are encouraged to adapt materials to best meet the needs of the child to get a response.

Reliability and validity measures of the Brigance Inventory are limited, as is true of most criterion-referenced instruments. There is no reported reliability or validity data in the manual. The value of the Brigance Inventory lies in its ability to identify a child' s pattern of strengths and weaknesses in several areas. The items are representative of a curriculum appropriate for an early childhood program and thus are easily linked to instructional planning and intervention. Another benefit of relating items to teaching and planning is that repeated assessments with the Brigance Inventory can pinpoint areas
of gains and losses. The obvious caution here is to avoid teaching to the test since the items are so very specific.

Adaptive Assessment

Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales (VABS) comes in three forms varying in degree of detail and proposed setting. There is the Survey Form, the Expanded Form, and the Classroom Edition. The VABS is administered by interviewing the child's parents, teachers, or care providers. The scales range in age from birth to nineteen years. Raw scores from communication, daily living skills, socialization, motor skills, and maladaptive behaviors are converted to standard scores with a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 15. The Adaptive Behavior composite score includes the domains noted above and reflects overall adaptive ability.

Questions have been raised about the scales'standardization and the accuracy of standard scores across the age range. One problem is lack of uniformity of scores across various ages. Depending upon the child's age, means and standard deviations differ. Thus, comparing the same child's performance on reassessment is compromised, as is the accuracy of any composite score. Differences among domain scores may be more apparent than real because of variable scores. There is considerable overlap among the various domains with both communication and daily living domains containing questions about the child's language ability.

Communication Assessment

Sequenced Inventory of Communication Development-Rev. ed. (SICD- R) tests a variety of early communication skills, giving a broad perspective of the semantic, syntactic, and pragmatic aspects of a child's receptive and expressive language. It combines parental report items with behavioral items that incorporate materials and methods to keep children's attention. The test provides for assignment of communication ages and for determining initial goals in communication programming.

The Nonspeech Test for Receptive/Expressive Language is designed to provide a systematic way for observing, recording, and summarizing the variety of means in which an individual may communicate. This tool determines a person's skills as a communicator, whether speech or nonverbal means are used for communication. It allows for easy development of IEP objectives from the test response forms.

The Assessing Semantic Skills Through Everyday Themes (ASSET) is a test of receptive and expressive semantics for preschool and early elementary children. It is built around six common themes, which represent aspects of everyday life that are familiar and important to preschool and early elementary children. Test items emphasize vocabulary that is meaningful and relevant to the experiences of young children. There are five receptive and five expressive subtests, which are designed to elicit responses by questions or directions from the examiner, that refer to the illustrations in the picture stimuli book. Nonverbal performances on receptive vocabulary tasks can be compared to verbal responses on the expressive subtests. This evaluation instrument provides standardized analyses of receptive, expressive, and overall vocabulary abilities.

The Expressive One-Word Picture Vocabulary Test (Rev. ed.) measures the child's ability to verbally label objects and people. The child must identify, by word, a single object or a group of objects on the basis of a single concept. This is a standardized test that provides age equivalents, standard scores, scaled scores, percentile ranks, and stanines.

The Receptive One-Word Picture Vocabulary Test (Rev. ed.) obtains an estimate of a child's one-word hearing vocabulary based on what the child has learned from home and school. It provides information about the child's ability to understand language. This is a standardized test that provides age equivalents, standard scores, scaled scores, percentile ranks, and stanines.

The Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals - Preschool (CELF-P) is a tool for identifying, diagnosing, and performing follow-up evaluations of language de6cits in preschool children. It assesses receptive and expressive language ability, including semantics, morphology, syntax, and auditory memory. It is standardized for ages three years and zero months through six years and eleven months.

The ECOScales Manual provides a model for evaluating the interactive and communication skills of preconversational children and their caregivers. The model is designed for both program planning and progress monitoring as well as for determining the child's performance. The ECOScales assessment approach assumes the adult is an active participant in the child learning to communicate. The ECOScales is an interactive approach which charts development from early play to conversations. Five levels of interactive development and delays are considered. The ECOScales Manual identifies disorders, not in terms of linguistic performance alone, but in terms of interaction skills and their role in fostering communication.

The Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (Rev. ed.) (PPVT-R) measures an individual's receptive vocabulary for standard American English. It measures one facet of general intelligence: vocabulary. It takes a relatively short period of time to administer and may be used as an initial screening device.

The Reynell Developmental Language Scales is a language test for children from one to seven years. The Reynell measures comprehension (receptive language) and expressive language and is widely used with language-delayed children. This test will be given to all subjects at intake, at 12 months into treatment, at 24 months into treatment, and at follow-up to provide an index of the rate of growth in language functioning.

The Preschool Language Scale (3rd ed.) (PLS-III) has two standardized subscales, Auditory Comprehension and Expressive Communication, which allows evaluation of a child's relative ability in receptive and expressive language. When comparing scores, one can determine whether deficiencies are primarily receptive or expressive in nature or whether they reflect a delay or disorder in communication. Precursors of receptive skills (with a focus on attention abilities) and precursors to expressive skills (with a focus on social communication and vocal development) are also assessed. Supplemental measures include the Articulation Screener, the Language Sample Checklist, and the Family Information and Suggestions Form.

Bayley Scales of Infant Development (2nd ed.) (BSID-II) allows diagnostic assessment at an earlier age. The BSID-II was designed to identify children who have a cognitive or motor delay and suggests needed forms of intervention. The BSID-II has been renormed on a stratified random sample of 1,700 children (850 boys and 850 girls) ages one month to forty-two months, grouped at one-month to three-month intervals, closely paralleling the 1988 U.S. Census statistics on the variables of age, sex, region, race and ethnicity, and parental education. The Behavior Rating Scale (formerly the Infant Behavior Record) was revised in both structure and content. The Mental Scale yields a normalized standard score called the Mental Development Index, evaluating a variety of abilities, including sensory-perceptual acuities, discriminations, and response acquisition of object constancy memory, learning, and problem solving, vocalization, beginning verbal communication, mental mapping, complex language and mathematical concept formation. The Motor Scale assesses degree of body control, large-muscle coordination, fine motor manipulatory skills, postural imitation, and motor quality.

The Behavior Rating Scale provides information to supplement the Mental and Motor scales. The 30-item scale rates the child's relevant test-taking behaviors and measures attention, arousal, orientation, engagement, and emotional regulation.

The Mullen Scales of Early Learning (MSEL) assesses early cognitive ability and motor development. This new standardized version of the MSEL combines the old Infant Mullen and the Preschool Mullen into one instrument that allows comprehensive assessment of language, motor, and perceptual abilities for children of all ability levels. Test ages range from birth to five years, eight months. This revised and updated version includes five additional scales, including Gross Motor, Visual Reception, Fine Motor, Expressive Language, and Receptive Language. Test scores provide an objective foundation for intervention planning and serve as baseline data for a continuum of appropriate teaching methods and interactions. The MSEL evaluates visual and language abilities at both receptive and expressive levels and provides a framework in which to examine infant development and interactional patterns. This test identifies uneven learning patterns and children who need support (visual and auditory) for weaknesses in reception and memory and indicates when input should be reduced because of sensory overload. The scale helps facilitate appropriate parent/child interactions, and assists in identifying the instructional approach, which links the ISP to the IFSP.

The publisher reports that it takes 15 minutes to assess a one-year-oldusing all five scales; 25-35 minutes to assess a three-year-old; and 40-60 minutes to assess a five-year-old. Mullen ASSIST computer software is available for scoring and report writing.

Early Coping Inventory is an observation instrument to assess the coping behaviors that are used by infants and toddlers in everyday living. Analysis of a child's scores provides information about level of coping effectiveness, style, and strengths and weaknesses. The inventory has 48 items divided into three categories: sensorimotor organization, reactive behavior, and self-initiated behavior. It is designed to be used for children between ages four to thirty-six months, or for older children who function within this developmental range.

Standardized Tests of Intelligence

Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (Rev. ed.) (WPPSI-R) is a frequently used intelligence test for children from three to seven years of age. It represents the gold standard for assessment for a multitude of situations. In addition, use of the WPPSI-R during preschool years dovetails smoothly with use of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (Rev. ed.) as children enter school and require reassessment.

The WPPSI-R contains the 11 original WPPSI subtests and an additional performance subtest, Object Assembly, which consists of colorful, appealing puzzles. Animal Pegs (formerly Animal House) and Sentences are now optional subtests. A design-recognition task was added to the Geometric Design subtest so that it now has two parts: Visual Recognition/Discrimination for younger children and Drawing of Geometric Figures for older children. The WPPSI-R provides norms for 17 age groups divided by three-month intervals from three years through seven years, three months. The norms are based on a standardization sample of 1,700 children stratified by age, race, sex, geographic region, parents' education, and parents' occupation. Subtest scaled scores are expressed as standard scores with a mean of 10 and standard deviation of 3.

Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (3rd ed.) while retaining the basic structure and content of the revised edition, has updated normative data, improved items and design, and an added optional subtest. The WISC-III includes numerous additional statistical tables and relevant validity information. The WISC-III continues Wechsler's concept of intelligence as a global but multifaceted entity that can be inferred from a child's performance on a series of tasks. It is valuable for psychoeducational assessment, diagnosis, placement, and planning. WISC-III can be used to diagnose exceptionality among school-aged children and has a strong place in clinical and neuropsychological assessment and in research. Like the WPPSI-R, the WISC-III is widely used and generally regarded as the best standardized measure of intelligence.

The Differential Ability Scales (DAS) measures overall cognitive ability and specific abilities in children and adolescents. It is better suited for intellectually higher-functioning children with autism. The DAS assesses multidimensional abilities in children ages two years and six months to seventeen years and eleven months. It is administered individually and takes 45 to 65 minutes for the full cognitive battery. The achievement test takes 15 to 25 minutes to administer.

The seventeen cognitive and three achievement subtests yield an overall cognitive ability score and achievement scores. The three achievement subtests are Basic Number Skills, Spelling, and Word Reading. The DAS allows the examiner to explore differences among the various cognitive abilities as well as differences between cognitive abilities and academic achievement. Colorful, manipulative materials enhance the testing for preschoolers. The Preschool Level measures reasoning as well as verbal, perceptual, and memory abilities and is suitable for ages two years and six months to six years. The school-age level contains a variety of tasks suitable for children ages seven years to 17 years and 11 months.

The Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale (4th ed.) (SBIS-IV) has a new format and scoring system, mostly new items, and a new national standardization. The SBIS-IV is for individuals ages two years to adult. It provides scores in four areas: Verbal Reasoning, Abstract and Visual Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Short-Term Memory; and a Composite Score that is equivalent to the Wechsler Scales Full Scale IQ. Standard scores with means of 100 and standard deviations of 16 are available for each of the four areas. The areas are composed of one or more subtests; the exact subtests administered depend on the individual's age and his or her performance. The subtests have a mean of 50 and standard deviation of 8.

Tests of Nonverbal Intelligence

Columbia Mental Maturity Scale (3rd ed.) (CMMS-III) is useful in evaluating children who have sensory or motor defects or who have difficulty speaking and, to some extent, reading. The test does not depend on reading skills. It provides age deviation scores (standard scores) for chronological ages between three years and six months and nine years and eleven months. The age deviation scores range from 50 to 150, with a mean of 100 and standard deviation of 16. A second score, the Maturity Index, indicates the standardization age group most similar to that of the child in terms of test performance.

The task is to have the child select the one drawing that is different from the others on each card. However, autistic children may have difficulty understanding the concept of pointing to the "one that does not belong." This untimed test usually takes 15 to 20 minutes to administer and is simple to score. The child is required to make perceptual discriminations involving color, shape, size, use, number, missing parts, and symbolic material. Tasks include simple perceptual classifications and abstract manipulation of symbolic concepts. The CMMS-III appears to measure general reasoning ability, although there is some evidence that it may be more of a test of the ability to form and use concepts than a test of general intelligence.

The scale provides a means for evaluating intelligence through the use of non- verbal stimuli. It can be useful as an aid in evaluating children with disabilities and may be less culturally loaded than some other intelligence tests. However, the scores obtained on the CMMS-III are not interchangeable with those on the SBIS-IV, WISC-R or WPPSI-R.

The Merrill-Palmer Scale of Mental Tests (MPSMT) is for children from one year and six months to six years. The MPSMT is widely used as a nonverbal test instrument for assessing visual-spatial skills and can be used for young autistic children at the beginning of intervention, at 12 months, and at 24 months into the intervention. Visual-spatial skills are an area of strength for many children with autism. The MPSMT enables a more detailed assessment of visual-perceptual functioning than is provided by the BSID-II or WPPSI-R.

The Leiter International Performance Scale (LIPS)intelligence independent of language ability for children age three years and older. Administration time is 30 to 45 minutes. Because directions are communicated by pantomime, the LIPS is widely used with non-English-speaking subjects, illiterate or disadvantaged individuals, and those with speech, hearing, or other medical disabilities. The LIPS provides activities which foster attention and allow observation of a student's approach to problem solving and his or her emotional reactions. The subject matches blocks with corresponding characteristic strips positioned in the sturdy wooden frame. Level of difficulty increases at each age level. The LIPS yields a Mental Age and IQ data. The LIPS scale has four tests at each year level. The scale has a number of limitations, including uneven item difficulty levels, outdated pictures, a small number of tests at each year level, and use of the ratio IQ. The most serious difficulties are the outdated norms, inadequate standardization, and lack of information about the reliability of the scale for various age levels. Because the norms underestimate the child' s intelligence, Leiter recommended that five points be added to the IQ obtained on the scale.

While the LIPS has a number of limitations, it does merit consideration as an aid in clinical diagnosis (rather than as a measure of general intelligence), especially in testing language-handicapped children who cannot be evaluated by the SBIS-IV, WISC-III, or WPPSI-R. However, although the test may be less culturally loaded than some other intelligence tests, there is no evidence that it is a culture fair measure of intelligence.

The Test of Nonverbal Intelligence (2nd ed.) (TONI-II) is a language-free measure of cognitive ability. It measures abstract figural problem solving in children age five years and older. Administration time is 10 to 15 minutes. The TONI-II contains 55 problem-solving tasks that progressively increase in complexity and difficulty. Each item presents a set of figures where one or more of the items is missing. The child with autism must be able to examine the differences among the figures, identify problem solving rules that define the relationship, and select a correct response.

The TONI-II is a languag measure of intelligence, aptitude, and reasoning. Because the subject does not have to read, write, speak, or listen during test administration, it is ideal for assessing (a) individuals
with speech, language, or hearing impairments; (b) those who have suffered brain injury or have other academic handicaps; and (c) those who do not speak English. Two equivalent forms make the TONI-II ideal for situations where both pre- and postmeasures are desirable.

The TONI-II yields quotient scores and percentile ranks. It was normed on more than 2,500 subjects. Reliability and validity data are provided for normal, mentally retarded, learning disabled, deaf, and gifted subjects.

Academic Screening

The Wide Range Achievement Test 3 (WRAT3) measures reading, spelling, and arithmetic in persons from five to seventy-four years old. Two equivalent forms make pre- and post testing possible. The test takes 10 to 15 minutes to administer. The WRAT3 provides a good method for measuring basic academic skills in children who perform below their peers.

Behavior Assessment

The Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist (ACBC) is for children four to eighteen years old and is completed by an adult informant. It has two major scales - externalizing and internalizing behaviors - each of which has four subscales. It has been used as a follow-up measure. The child's primary caregiver (in most cases, the client's mother) serves as the informant. There is a separate version of this test developed for teachers, the Teacher Report Form.

The Analysis of Sensory Behavior Inventory (Rev. ed.) (ASBI-R) is designed to collect information about an individual's behaviors as they are related to sensory stimuli. Six sensory modalities are assessed: vestibular, tactile, proprioceptive, auditory, visual, and gustatory-olfactory. Ratings can be made about both sensory-avoidance and sensory-seeking behaviors within each modality. Information obtained from this tool may be helpful in completing a functional analysis of behavior and in designing effective intervention strategies, including accommodations and reinforcers for the individual.

Sensory processing differences are frequently seen in persons with severe disabilities and problem behaviors. Analyzing these differences may assist in understanding puzzling behaviors which have proven difficult to change. Interventions which accommodate to individual differences frequently result in improved adaptive functioning.

The Personality Inventory for Children (PIC) is a true-false questionnaire for children ages three to sixteen years which consists of thirteen clinical and three validity scales. The PIC is administered to parents. The scales measure areas of emotional disturbance in children, such as anxiety, withdrawal, depression, and reality distortion. This inventory can be completed by the child's primary caregiver.

Family Assessment

These measures focus primarily on aspects of the family. These instruments are used to determine pre- and posttest changes and are not specifically used to tailor the course of individual programming for a family or child.

The Behavioral Vignettes Test (BVT) is a multiple-choice test (20 items) used to evaluate a parent's, school therapist's, or special education teacher's functional knowledge of behavioral principles. The BVT can be used as a pre and posttest measure of change in persons undergoing training in teaching self-help, social, and play skills.

The Parenting Satisfaction Scale (PSS) facilitates clinical assessment of parent-child relationships. The PSS assists in identifying a troubled parent-child relationship and can be useful in assessing a parent's response to the effect of intervention and, if suggested, conducting family therapy. The PSS is a 45-item standardized assessment of parents' attitudes toward parenting. Scores derived from this scale allow a clinician or researcher to define, compare, and communicate levels of parenting satisfaction in three domains: (a) Satisfaction with the spouse's or ex-spouse's parenting performance in the parenting role; (b). The parent's satisfaction with the relationship with her or his own child; and (c) Satisfaction with the parent's own performance in the parenting role. To improve family communication and increase empathy toward family members, teachers may have a parent's spouse or children complete the scale as he or she believes the parent would respond. Information derived from family members can then be compared with the parent's own responses to identify areas of concordant or discordant perceptions and determine areas in which clinical intervention could improve relationships. The PSS can be completed for siblings of the child with autism. The PSS can be administered in 20 minutes.

The Parenting Stress Index (3rd ed.) (PSI-III) identifies stressful areas in parent-child interactions. It is administered individually and takes 20 to 30 minutes to complete. There is a short form that takes 10 minutes. This screening and diagnostic instrument assumes that the total stress a parent experiences is a function of child characteristics, parent characteristics, and situations that are directly related to the role of being a parent. Child characteristics are measured in six subscales: distractibility, hyperactivity, adaptability, reinforces parent, demandingness, mood, and acceptability.

The parent personality and situational variables component consists of seven subscales: competence, isolation, attachment, health, role restriction, depression, and spouse. The PSI is particularly helpful in assessing early identification of dysfunctional parent-child systems, prevention programs aimed at reducing stress, intervention and treatment planning in high stress areas, family functioning and parenting skills, and assessment of child-abuse risk.

The PSI Short Form is a derivative of the full-length test and consists of a 36- item, self-scoring questionnaire profile. It yields a Total Stress score from three scales: parental distress, parent-child dysfunctional interaction, and difficult child.

The Parental Stress Scale (PSS) is a newly developed general measure of stress. Analyses of responses completed by 1,276 parents suggested that the PSS is reliable, both internally and over time. Initial evaluation of the PSS showed a stable consistency for assessing stress across parents of differing parental characteristics. The validity of PSS scores was supported by predicted correlations with measures of relevant emotions and role satisfaction and significant discrimination between 129 mothers of children in treatment for emotional-behavioral problems and developmental disabilities compared with mothers of children not receiving treatment. Factor analysis suggested a four-factor structure underlying responses to the PSS.

The Questionnaire on Resources and Stress (QRS) consists of 55 items on 11 scales: parental affliction, pessimism about child development, overprotection/dependency, anxiety about the future of the child, social isolation, burden for members of the family, financial problems, lack of family integration, intellectual incapacitation, physical incapacitation, and need for the care of the child. The QRS contains 285 items in 15 rational nonoverlapping scales. It was administered to parents of 43 individuals with disabilities four-sixteen years old evaluated in an outpatient psychiatry clinic. The QRS is used in research to assess ecological causes of stress and general levels of stress in families.

The Family Adaptability and Cohesion Evaluation Scale (FACES III and FACES IV) provides measures of perceived cohesion and adaptability of families. This instrument is relatively well researched. It has been used to assess, for example, the differences between "the ideal and the real representation of family," as perceived by parents and adolescent children. FACES has been used to assess marital satisfaction. Combined with the Clinical Rating Scale, a related family assessment instrument, these two assessment tools can be used for making a diagnosis of family functioning and for assessing changes over the course of treatment.

The Family Assessment Interview (FAI) is a simple protocol for collecting information from families in preparation for selecting and designing an intervention plan. Items in this brief instrument are designed to enable a "good contextual fit" for the intervention strategy. Interview data based on family members' ideas and reactions to the function of problem behaviors, support strategies, and issues for implementation are actively solicited throughout the assessment and support plan development process. The family assessment interview focuses on information about the ways in which the family structures its daily patterns and routines. It helps identify the family's successful strategies for addressing problem behaviors. Sources of stress for the family are identified and discussed.

The Child Improvement Locus of Control Scale (CILC) assesses belief about a child's ability to improve. The instrument is based on two research studies to develop and validate the CILC scales. In the first study, 145 parents (average age 37.8 years) of autistic children completed a questionnaire tapping beliefs about their children's improvement. In Study 2, 175 parents of physically ill children were given the CILC items. The following relationships were observed: (a) parental beliefs in child influence increased with child age; (b) belief in external factors (chance and divine Influence) was greater among African American parents; and (c) belief in parent influence decreased with illness severity.

The Family Environmental Scale (FES) is an inventory which assesses behavior patterns within the family on subscales, such as control, active-recreational orientation, intellectual cultural orientation, and cohesion. Norms are available on large national samples of distressed families as well as smaller samples of families with autistic children. The FES can be given to parents at the beginning and middle of the child's intervention program. It assesses family dynamics at key points during the intervention process. The questionnaire can be completed by both of the child's parents if both participate in the child's care.

Other Assessment Options

Standardized videotape assessment

A critical component of progress assessment is objective behavioral measurement documented by an ongoing videotaped database - a luxury afforded by school laboratory programs. Each child is videotaped daily for five minutes according to a systematic sampling procedure arranged to track
children across different activities, times of day, and days of the week. The unique feature of the video database is that there are no contrived observational conditions; children are videotaped at preset times wherever they happen to be, doing whatever they happen to be doing. Video-tapes are scored by a highly trained intervention team to obtain objective, reliable measures of language, social, and engagement variables.

Videotaped formal and informal language samples are obtained; they are then evaluated by the speech pathologist to determine age appropriateness of communication in the area of social development.

Complete medical examination

A comprehensive neurological and physical examination with laboratory tests that include blood and urine screening, thyroid and liver function, and complete blood count (CBC) is recommended to rule out medical conditions that might interfere with a child's ability to learn. Tests used to detect debilitating medical conditions associated with ASD are electroencephalogram (EEG), electrocardiogram (EKG), imaging techniques, and chromosome studies where indicated.

Audiometric assessment

Impairments in auditory processing and hearing acuity should be ruled out before formal intervention procedures begin. Depending on the child's level of communication and awareness, audiological testing should be used to verify that hearing, especially in the speech range, is within normal limits. If the child's active participation in audiological testing is not possible, auditory evoked response (AER) studies can be performed. Research has shown that in a subgroup of children with autism, AER studies detect significant deviations in auditory processing. In addition, the audiologist will interview the child's parents for information related to hearing ability.


Behavioral Disorders: Focus on Change
Students who are referred to as having "conduct disorders" and students who are referred to as having "emotional disabilities," "behavioral disorders," "serious emotional disturbances," or "emotional and behavioral disorders" have two common elements that are instructionally relevant: (1) they demonstrate behavior that is noticeably different from that expected in school or the community and (2) they are in need of remediation.
In each instance, the student is exhibiting some form of behavior that is judged to be different from that which is expected in the classroom. The best way to approach a student with a "conduct disorder" and a student with a "behavioral disorder" is to operationally define exactly what it is that each student does that is discrepant with the expected standard. Once it has been expressed in terms of behaviors that can be directly observed, the task of remediation becomes clearer. A student's verbally abusive behavior can be addressed, whereas it is difficult to directly identify or remediate a student's "conduct disorder," since that term may refer to a variety of behaviors of widely different magnitudes. The most effective and efficient approach is to pinpoint the specific behavioral problem and apply data-based instruction to remediate it.

Two questions need to be addressed in developing any behavior change procedure regardless of the student's current behavioral difficulty: "What do I want the student to do instead?" and "What is the most effective and efficient means to help the student reach his or her goals?" Regardless of whether the student is withdrawn or aggressive, the objective is to exhibit a response instead of the current behavior. We may want the student to play with peers on the playground instead of playing alone. We may want the student to play appropriately with peers on the playground instead of hitting peers during games. For both behavior patterns, we have identified what we want them to do instead of the current problem behavior.
Using effective teaching strategies will promote student academic and social behavioral success. Teachers should avoid focusing on students' inappropriate behavior and, instead, focus on desirable replacement behaviors. Focusing behavior management systems on positive, prosocial replacement responses will provide students with the opportunity to practice and be reinforced for appropriate behaviors. Above all else, have fun with students! Humor in the classroom lets students view school and learning as fun. Humor can also be used to avoid escalating behaviors by removing the negative focus from the problem.

If we expect students to learn appropriate social skills we must structure the learning environment so that these skills can be addressed and practiced. We need to increase the opportunity for students to interact within the school environment so that prosocial skills can be learned. If all a student does is perform as a passive participant in the classroom, then little growth in social skill acquisition can be expected. Just as students improve in reading when they are given the opportunity to read, they get better at interacting when given the opportunity to initiate or respond to others' interactions.

It is necessary to target specific prosocial behaviors for appropriate instruction and assessment to occur. Prosocial behavior includes such things as
  • Taking turns, working with partner, following directions.
  • Working in group or with others.
  • Displaying appropriate behavior toward peers and adults.
  • Increasing positive relationships.
  • Demonstrating positive verbal and nonverbal relationships.
  • Showing interest and caring.
  • Settling conflicts without fighting.
  • Displaying appropriate affect.

Social skills deficits or problems can be viewed as errors in learning; therefore, the appropriate skills need to be taught directly and actively. It is important to base all social skill instructional decisions on individual student needs. In developing a social skill curriculum it is important to follow a systematic behavior change plan.

During assessment of a student's present level of functioning, two factors should be addressed. First, the teacher must determine whether the social skill problem is due to a skill deficit or a performance deficit. The teacher can test the student by directly asking what he or she would do or can have the student role play responses in several social situations (e.g., "A peer on the bus calls you a name. What should you do?").
* If the student can give the correct response but does not display the behavior outside the testing situation, the social skill problem is probably due to a performance deficit.
* If the student cannot produce the socially correct response, the social skill problem may be due to a skill deficit.
More direct instruction may be required to overcome the skill deficits, while a performance deficit may simply require increasing positive contingencies to increase the rate of displaying the appropriate social response. During assessment, it is important to identify critical skill areas in which the student is having problems.
Once assessment is complete, the student should be provided with direct social skill instruction. At this point, the teacher has the option of using a prepared social skill curriculum or developing one independently. It is important to remember that since no single published curriculum will meet the needs of all students, it should be supplemented with teacher-developed or teacher-modified lessons.
Social skill lessons are best implemented in groups of 3 to 5 students and optimally should include socially competent peers to serve as models. The first social skill group lesson should
focus on three things:
(1) an explanation of why the group is meeting,
(2) a definition of what social skills are, and
(3) an explanation of what is expected of each student during
the group. It may also be helpful to implement behavior management procedures for the group (i.e., contingencies for for compliance and non- compliance).
It is important to prompt the students to use newly learned skills throughout the day and across settings to promote maintenance and generalization. It is also important to reinforce the students when they use new skills.

Often overlooked is the need to increase student independence in learning. Students with BD may be particularly uninvolved in their learning due to problems with self-concept, lack of a feeling of belonging to the school, and repeated failures in school. Instructional strategies involving self-control, self-reinforcement, self-monitoring, self-management, problem solving, cognitive behavior modification, and metacognitive skills focus primarily on teaching students the skills necessary for taking responsibility and showing initiative in making decisions regarding their own instruction. These strategies, typically used in combination or in a "package format" that incorporates extrinsic reinforcement, have shown promise for enhancing student learning and independence.

Essential in a curriculum for students with behavioral problems are skills that can directly improve the ultimate functioning of the student and the quality of his or her life. The concept of functional skills is not limited to the areas of self-help or community mobility, but also include skills such as those required to seek and access assistance, be life-long independent learners, respond to changes in the environment, succeed in employment, be adequately functioning adults and parents, and achieve satisfying and productive lives. The concepts of the functional curriculum approach, the criterion of ultimate functioning, and participation to the highest degree possible in life must be extended to students with BD, many of whom will otherwise fail to fulfill their potential. 

Not sure of the difference between a Section 504 Plan and an IEP? Basically a Section 504 is a list of modifications to be done in the classroom. It DOES NOT include any services such as resource or any other special education services. An IEP includes services AND modifications.

Please click on underlined text to take you to the website described under each heading.


Forms for IEP, Behavioral Plans, Evaluation/Eligibility, Hearing/Vision Screening, Preschool forms, Re-Evaluation, Prior Written Notice, Speech/Language Evaluation, Transition and much more!

Individual Education Plan (IEP)

This is a link to an IEP Guide list where you will find unbelievable help and links. My friend Sharon is the owner (I'm one of the co-moderators). Sharon has found an astounding amount of information for parents of special needs children. If you need help in dealing with your school (IEP's, IEE's, etc.) this is the list to join! The list is not just for general chat. There is a message board for that.

Addressing Problem Behaviors in Schools:Use of Functional Assessments and Behavior Intervention Plans.

Addressing Student Problem Behavior-An IEP team's introduction to Functional Behaviorial Assessment and Behavior Intervention Plans.

Checklist for an effective IEP.

Educational Assessment Tests.

Educational Implications:Ideas for Classroom Management

ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education (ERIC EC).

IEP 4 U ~ Objectives by subject, curriculum, ability, etc.

Making IEP Goals Measurable.

Parental Rights to an Individual Education Evaluation.

Parent's Guide to Understanding Developmental Assessment.

Preparing for your child's IEP.

Sample IEP Goals.

Sample Individual Education Plans

Sample Individualized Education Program(IEP)and Guidance Document December 2002

The following is an exceptionally well-researched and documented example of a parent letter to an IEP (or ARD) Committee. Please note disclaimer at site :the information contained in this article should not take the place of a consultation with an attorney who specializes in educational disability law, especially in the event that parents fail to reach agreement with the IEP (or ARD) Committee.

You'll find hundreds of articles, cases, newsletters, and other information about special education law and advocacy in the Wrightslaw Advocacy and Law Libraries.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the law that guarantees all children with disabilities access to a free and appropriate public education.

Complete text of the IDEA '97 Final Regulations

Great site contains links to on-line resources including the new regulations for the 1997 Amendments to the law, training materials, interpretive memos from the U.S. Department of Education, State Improvement Grant (SIG) information, and more.

Order a free copy of the IDEA Regs from this Government site.

Related Services

Special Education Guide For Parents - Related Services

Section 504

A chart comparing provisions of IDEA, 504, and the ADA

Council of Educators for Students with Disabilities'

PACER Center - Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights - Meeting the Needs of All Students

Section 504 and IDEA: Basic Similarities and Differences.

Special Education

A comprehensive list of links dealing with all areas of disability and special education law. Special education in New Jersey: Process, Procedure, Resources

A consumer advocacy network in the state of Washington which provides information, referral, and training related to assistive technology(AT) devices. Services include lists of resources that offer consultation, advocacy, and legal representation for these and other AT issues.

An Austin, Texas based non profit organization that represents the disabled community, including special education. The emphasis is to devote resources to the most significant problems identified by the disability community.

Assists teachers, school administrators and related service providers to appropriately implement recent changes to the United States' primary special education law, IDEA '97.

Autism/PDD Resources Network ~ Information and laws about disabilities and education helpful to parents of disabled children. Includes a question and answer guide involving special education.

Center for law and policy concerning disability rights that has information about the Americans with Disability Act as well as other laws protecting the rights of the disabled, including the educationally disabled.

CLE (Center for Law and Education) works to vindicate the rights of students with disabilities, emphasizing low-income children and youth. It participates in litigation, federal and state legislative advocacy, and technical assistance to attorneys and parents.

Consortium for Appropriate Dispute Resolution ~ This organization provides technical assistance to both school districts and parents, and serves as an information clearinghouse on dispute resolution in special education.

DRA is a national and international organization dedicated to protecting and advancing the civil rights of people with disabilities. Run by and for people with disabilities, DRA pursues its mission through research, education, and legal advocacy.

Educational resource for parents, advocates, attorneys and school personnel on the educational rights of children with disabilities to a free appropriate public education.

Fact sheets and information concerning IDEA.

Federal Resource Center for Special Education ~ Special education technical assistance project funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and is part of the Regional Resource and Federal Centers Network.

Teaching Students with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Effects.

Special Education Parent Orientation Guide:Related Services for IEP

Provo City, Utah School District - Excellent site. Main url is; url provided here will lead you to directly to several valuable special education forms. Note: forms are in PDF format; you will need Adobe Acrobat to read them.

SNAP (Special Needs Advocate for Parents)provides information, education, advocacy, and referrals to families with special needs children of all ages and disabilities. Directory of attorneys and speakers bureau is also available.

SPAN (Statewide Parent Advocacy Network, Inc.)is a non-profit educational and advocacy center for parents of children from birth to 21 years of age. This N.J. organization assists families of infants, toddlers, children and youth with and without disabilities.

Special Education and Disability Links ~ Loaded with information on Assistive Technology, Disability Organizations, Educational Associations, Autism, OCD, and more.

State Departments of Education.

State Directors of Special Education.

The Special Education Network is a website dedicated to providing information and resources on the Education of Children with Special Needs for parents, teachers, and Special Ed administrators.

The Special Education Team ~ Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction presentation containing information concerning advocacy, special education resources and links, Title I entitlements, and school improvement.


National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY) - (FAQs) Lots of great information, including discussion of options after high school. This is referred to as transition planning. Transition planning can begin at age 14 or earlier.

Saskatchewan Education - Special Education Unit Teaching Students with Autism - A Guide for Educators


University of Nebraska-Lincoln "101 Things You Can Do the First Three Weeks of Class" - Information includes:Helping Students Make Transitions, Directing Students Attention, Challenging Students, Providing Support, and Encouraging Active Learning



ESY is special education and related services beyond the normal school year that are provided to a child with a disability - for instance, in the summer or during school vacations.


A child must be given ESY services if the IEP Team determines that the services are necessary to provide the child with a free appropriate public education. Appropriate services are individualized to meet the needs of the student, take account of the child's potential as well as his or her deficits and learning needs, and are reasonably calculated to yield meaningful education or early intervention benefit.

Here are examples of children with disabilities for whom ESY is especially important:

Children who lose skills or behaviors relevant to the child's IEP goals and objectives while school is out, and have difficulty catching up. (This is usually called "regression" and "recoupment.")

Children who have not yet fully learned and generalized an important skill or behavior, and who therefore need help learning and practicing that skill in the formal educational setting.

Children whose disability makes them vulnerable to interruptions in the educational program, and who are therefore at risk of withdrawing from the learning process.

Children who have a degenerative condition and who need ESY to prevent or delay loss of skills or behaviors.


No! When considering the need for ESY services, the IEP Team must pay particular attention to students with disabilities that are thought of as severe (that is, students with autism/pervasive developmental disorder, serious emotional disturbance, moderate or severe levels of mental retardation, degenerative impairments and severe multiple disabilities) and IEP goals that are associated with self-sufficiency and independence from caretakers. IEP Teams may not limit their consideration of need for ESY services to students with particular types of disabilities or particular IEP goals.


School districts cannot limit the kind of ESY services students with disabilities can get (for example, a district cannot say we provide special education, but no therapies); the amount of services (for example, a district cannot say that we only offer 2 periods/week of physical therapy); or the duration of those services (for example, a district cannot say we only offer 6 weeks of ESY in the summer). ESY eligibility and program decisions, like all other decisions about special education and related services for students with disabilities, must be made on an individualized basis by the IEP Team (which includes the parents), and the Team's decisions must be listed on the children's IEPs.


At the annual IEP meeting for every child with a disability, the IEP Team must raise and discuss whether the child needs ESY services. The IEP meeting to consider ESY for children with severe emotional disturbances, autism, moderate and severe levels of retardation or multiple disabilities must occur no later than February 28 of each school year. The Notice of Recommended Educational Placement, which contains the IEP Team's ESY determination for these children, must be issued by March 31 of the school year. The February-March deadlines do not apply for other children with disabilities, but a parent can request an IEP meeting to determine ESY eligibility at any time, and must get a written decision regarding ESY which can be appealed on an expedited basis.


A child does not have to experience a year of lost skills or other damage to prove that he or she qualifies for ESY. Similarly, a parent does not need to prove that a child has lost skills in the past. Districts must consider "predictive" data that these problems will occur if the child's education program is interrupted. Some examples of this kind of predictive data are the opinions of doctors, educators, parents or others based on their observations of the child or their experience with other children with similar problems. School districts should also consider the child's year-to-year progress in past IEPs.

It is important to plan ahead because data, reports, recommendations, and other information can be crucial to the decision. Test results and "hard data" on regression and recoupment are helpful, but are not required. Types of information that can also be helpful include evidence that the child has not progressed on important goals in consecutive IEPs; reports, observations and opinions from educators, therapists or others having contact with the student before and after interruptions in education; reports by parents of their experiences in the home; medical or other agency reports

showing progressive difficulties which get worse during breaks in educational services; and results of tests, curriculum-based assessments, ecological life skills assessments and other equivalent measures.


Yes. The IEP should describe the goals and benchmarks for the ESY program; all ESY services and their frequency; where the services will be provided and at what times; and the dates they will start and stop. If the child needs related services (such as physical therapy or transportation), these must also be listed.


If the school district does not agree to provide ESY, or wants to provide fewer or different services from those desired by the parent, the parent may try to resolve the disagreement through mediation, or request a pre-hearing conference and/or an impartial hearing. If the child had ESY last summer, he must be offered the same program this summer, unless the parent agrees that the program should be changed or a Hearing Officer decides that a change should be made.


ESY is not limited to basic and self-help skills. It can include academic or vocational programs. Some examples of ESY programs which have been provided to children are: tutoring, keyboarding, camp socialization programs, and summer school.

Funding for this brochure was provided, in part, by Pennsylvania Protection & Advocacy, Inc., pursuant to the Developmentally Disabled Assistance and Bill of Rights Act, P.L. 101-496, and the P&A for Mentally Ill Individuals Act, P.L. 99-319.

Prepared by: Education Law Center (Rev. 6/01)
(215) 238-6970 (Philadelphia)
(412) 391-5225 (Pittsburgh)

Source url:


The following is a checklist of transition activities to consider when preparing Individual Transition Plans (ITP) with the IEP team. The student skills and interests will determine which items are relevant. Use the checklist as a guide for developing transition activities and should be included in the IEP.
Four to Five Years Before Leaving the School District
1. Identify personal learning styles and the necessary accommodations to be a successful learner and worker.
2. Identify career interests and skills, complete interest and career inventories and identify additional education or training requirement
3. Explore options for post-secondary education and admission criteria.
4. Identify interests and options for future living arrangements, including supports.
5. Learn to communicate effectively your interests, preferences, and needs.
6. Be able to explain your disability and the accommodations you need.
7. Learn and practice informed decision making skills.
8. Investigate assistive technology tools that can increase community involvement and employment opportunities.
9. Broaden your experiences with community activities and expand your friendships.
10. Pursue and use local transportation options outside of family,
11. Investigate money management and identify necessary skills.
12. Acquire identification card and the ability to communicate personal information.
13. Identify and begin learning skills necessary for independent living.
14. Learn and practice personal health care.
Two to Three Years Before Leaving the School District
1. Identify community support services and programs ( Vocational Rehabilitation, County Services, Center for Independent Living, etc.)
2. Invite adult services providers, peers and others To the ITP/IEP meeting.
3. Match career interest and skills with vocational course work and community work experiences..
4. Gather more information on post secondary programs and the support services offered; and make arrangements for accommodations to take college entrance exams. Identify health care providers and become informed about sexuality and family planning issues,
5. Determine the need for financial support ( Supplemental Security Income, state financial supplemental programs, medicare.)
6. Learn and practice appropriate interpersonal communication, and social skills for different settings, ( employment, school, recreation, etc).
7. Explore legal status with regards to decision making prior to age of majority.
8. Begin a resume and update it as needed
9. Practice independent living skills, e.g., budgeting, shopping, cooking, and housekeeping.
10. Identify needed personal assistant services, and if appropriate, learn to direct and manage these services.
One Year Before Leaving the School District
1. Apply for financial support (Supplemental Security Income, Independent Living Services, Vocational Rehabilitation, and Personal Assistant Services)
2. Identify the post secondary school you plan to attend and arrange for accommodations.
3. Practice effective communication by developing interview skills, asking for help, and identifying necessary accommodations as post secondary and work environments,
4. Specify desired job and obtain paid employment with supports as needed.
5. Take responsibility for arriving on time to work, appointments, and social activities.
6. Register to vote and for selective service ( if male).
What will the students do after leaving high school?
Consider college or adult education
1. Community College
2. Adult education
3. Trade or technical school
Consider a Job
1. Competitive employment
2. Supported employment
3. Volunteer placement
4. Community based adult day programs
Finding employment and training service
1. Vocational training
2. Placement programs
Accommodations and technology
1. Bus
2. Drive
3. Walk
Where will they live?
1. There own apartment
2. With a roommate
3. Residential care facility
4. Live independently
5. College dormitory
6. Family residence
Making ends meet
1. Wages and benefits
2. Supplemental security Income (SSI)
3. Plan for Achieving Self Support (PASS)
4. Food Stamps
5. Income/trust
6. Funding for assistive devices and technology
Medical services
1. Health insurance
2. Dental needs
3. Health plan
4. Medical
5. Medical needs
Living on his/her own
1. Domestic activities
2. Consumer skills
3. Personal attendant
4. Money management
5. Voter registration
6. Draft registration
What about legal help?
1. Guardianship
2. Conservatorship
3. Wills
Friends, relationships and social life
1. Friends
2. Sex education
3. Children
4. Family support
5. Marriage
6. Religion
7. Co-workers
8. Family planning
9. Spirituality
Leisure time
1. Hobbies
2. Health and fitness activities
3. Clubs
4. Community Center programs
Making his/her own choices ~ self-advocacy
1. Making decisions
2. Setting goals
3. Know how to get help
4. Knowing what you need to learn
5. Knowing how to find other resources
6. Problem solving
7. Standing up for ones self

U.S. school policy against bullying





July 25, 2000



Dear Colleague:


On behalf of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) in the U.S. Department of Education, we are writing to you about a vital issue that affects students in school harassment based on disability.  Our purpose in writing is to develop greater awareness of this issue, to remind interested persons of the legal and educational responsibilities that institutions have to prevent and appropriately respond to disability harassment, and to suggest measures that school officials should take to address this very serious problem.   This letter is not an exhaustive legal analysis.  Rather, it is intended to provide a useful overview of the existing legal and educational principles related to this important issue.


Why Disability Harassment Is Such an Important Issue


Through a variety of sources, both OCR and OSERS have become aware of concerns about disability harassment in elementary and secondary schools and colleges and universities.   In a series of conference calls with OSERS staff, for example, parents, disabled persons, and advocates for students with disabilities raised disability harassment as an issue that was very important to them.  OCR's complaint workload has reflected a steady pace of allegations regarding this issue, while the number of court cases involving allegations of disability harassment has risen.  OCR and OSERS recently conducted a joint focus group where we heard about the often devastating effects on students of disability harassment that ranged from abusive jokes, crude name-calling, threats, and bullying, to sexual and physical assault by teachers and other students.  


We take these concerns very seriously.  Disability harassment can have a profound impact on students, raise safety concerns, and erode efforts to ensure that students with disabilities have equal access to the myriad benefits that an education offers.  Indeed, harassment can seriously interfere with the ability of students with disabilities to receive the education critical to their advancement.  We are committed to doing all that we can to help prevent and respond to disability harassment and lessen the harm of any harassing conduct that has occurred.  We seek your support in a joint effort to address this critical issue and to promote such efforts among educators who deal with students daily.


What Laws Apply to Disability Harassment 


Schools, colleges, universities, and other educational institutions have a responsibility to ensure equal educational opportunities for all students, including students with disabilities.  This responsibility is based on Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Title II), which are enforced by OCR.  Section 504 covers all schools, school districts, and colleges and universities receiving federal funds.[1]  Title II covers all state and local entities, including school districts and public institutions of higher education, whether or not they receive federal funds.[2]  Disability harassment is a form of discrimination prohibited by Section 504 and Title II.[3]  Both Section 504 and Title II provide parents and students with grievance procedures and due process remedies at the local level.  Individuals and organizations also may file complaints with OCR.


States and school districts also have a responsibility under Section 504, Title II, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA),[4] which is enforced by OSERS, to ensure that a free appropriate public education (FAPE) is made available to eligible  students with disabilities.  Disability harassment may result in a denial of FAPE under these statutes.  Parents may initiate administrative due process procedures under IDEA, Section 504, or Title II to address a denial of FAPE, including a denial that results from disability harassment.  Individuals and organizations also may file complaints with OCR, alleging a denial of FAPE that results from disability harassment.  In addition, an individual or organization may file a complaint alleging a violation of IDEA under separate procedures with the state educational agency.[5]  State compliance with IDEA, including compliance with FAPE requirements, is monitored by OSERS Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP).


Harassing conduct also may violate state and local civil rights, child abuse, and criminal laws.  Some of these laws may impose obligations on educational institutions to contact or coordinate with state or local agencies or police with respect to disability harassment in some cases; failure to follow appropriate procedures under these laws could result in action against an educational institution.  Many states and educational institutions also have addressed disability harassment in their general anti-harassment policies.[6]


Disability Harassment May Deny a Student an Equal Opportunity to Education under Section 504 or Title II


Disability harassment under Section 504 and Title II is intimidation or abusive behavior toward a student based on disability that creates a hostile environment by interfering with or denying a students participation in or receipt of benefits, services, or opportunities in the institutions program.  Harassing conduct may take many forms, including verbal acts and name-calling, as well as nonverbal behavior, such as graphic and written statements, or conduct that is physically threatening, harmful, or humiliating. 


When harassing conduct is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive that it creates a hostile environment, it can violate a student's rights under the Section 504 and Title II regulations.  A hostile environment may exist even if there are no tangible effects on the student where the harassment is serious enough to adversely affect the student's ability to participate in or benefit from the educational program.  Examples of harassment that could create a hostile environment follow.


           Several students continually remark out loud to other students during class that a student with dyslexia is "retarded" or "deaf and dumb" and does not belong in the class; as a result, the harassed student has difficulty doing work in class and her grades decline.


          A student repeatedly places classroom furniture or other objects in the path of classmates who use wheelchairs, impeding the classmates' ability to enter the classroom. 


           A teacher subjects a student to inappropriate physical restraint because of conduct related to his disability, with the result that the student tries to avoid school through increased absences.[7]


          A school administrator repeatedly denies a student with a disability access to lunch, field trips, assemblies, and extracurricular activities as punishment for taking time off from school for required services related to the student's disability.


           A professor repeatedly belittles and criticizes a student with a disability for using accommodations in class, with the result that the student is so discouraged that she has great difficulty performing in class and learning.


           Students continually taunt or belittle a student with mental retardation by mocking and intimidating him so he does not participate in class. 



When disability harassment limits or denies a student's ability to participate in or benefit from an educational institution's programs or activities, the institution must respond effectively.  Where the institution learns that disability harassment may have occurred, the institution must investigate the incident(s) promptly and respond appropriately. 


Disability Harassment Also May Deny a Free Appropriate Public Education


Disability harassment that adversely affects an elementary or secondary students education may also be a denial of FAPE under the IDEA, as well as Section 504 and Title II.  The IDEA was enacted to ensure that recipients of IDEA funds make available to students with disabilities the appropriate special education and related services that enable them to access and benefit from public education.  The specific services to be provided a student with a disability are set forth in the students individualized education program (IEP), which is developed by a team that includes the students parents, teachers and, where appropriate, the student.  Harassment of a student based on disability may decrease the students ability to benefit from his or her education and amount to a denial of FAPE. 


How to Prevent and Respond to Disability Harassment


Schools, school districts, colleges, and universities have a legal responsibility to prevent and respond to disability harassment.  As a fundamental step, educational institutions must develop and disseminate an official policy statement prohibiting discrimination based on disability and must establish grievance procedures that can be used to address disability harassment.[8]  A clear policy serves a preventive purpose by notifying students and staff that disability harassment is unacceptable, violates federal law, and will result in disciplinary action.  The responsibility to respond to disability harassment, when it does occur, includes taking prompt and effective action to end the harassment and prevent it from recurring and, where appropriate, remedying the effects on the student who was harassed.


The following measures are ways to both prevent and eliminate harassment:


           Creating a campus environment that is aware of disability concerns and sensitive to disability harassment; weaving these issues into the curriculum or programs outside the classroom.


           Encouraging parents, students, employees, and community members to discuss disability harassment and to report it when they become aware of it.


           Widely publicizing anti-harassment statements and procedures for handling discrimination complaints, because this information makes students and employees aware of what constitutes harassment, that such conduct is prohibited, that the institution will not tolerate such behavior, and that effective action, including disciplinary action, where appropriate,  will be taken.


           Providing appropriate, up-to-date, and timely training for staff and students to recognize and handle potential harassment.


           Counseling both person(s) who have been harmed by harassment and person(s) who have been responsible for the harassment of others.


           Implementing monitoring programs to follow up on resolved issues of disability harassment.


           Regularly assessing and, as appropriate, modifying existing disability harassment policies and procedures for addressing the issue, to ensure effectiveness.


Technical Assistance Is Available


U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley has emphasized the importance of ensuring that schools are safe and free of harassment.  Students can not learn in an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, or ridicule.  For students with disabilities, harassment can inflict severe harm.  Teachers and administrators must take emphatic action to ensure that these students are able to learn in an atmosphere free from harassment. 


Disability harassment is preventable and can not be tolerated.  Schools, colleges, and universities should address the issue of disability harassment not just when but before incidents occur.  As noted above, awareness can be an important element in preventing harassment in the first place. 


The Department of Education is committed to working with schools, parents, disability advocacy organizations, and other interested parties to ensure that no student is ever subjected to such conduct, and that where such conduct occurs, prompt and effective action is taken.  For more information, you may contact OCR or OSEP through 1-800-USA-LEARN or 1-800-437-0833 for TTY services.  You also may directly contact one of the OCR enforcement offices listed on the enclosure or OSEP, by calling (202) 205-5507 or (202) 205-5465 for TTY services.


Thank you for your attention to this serious matter. 


Enclosure - list of OCR enforcement offices

[1] Section 504 provides: "No otherwise qualified individual with a disability . . . shall, solely by reason of  her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.  29 U.S.C. 794(a).  See 34 CFR Part 104 (Section 504 implementing regulations).


[2] Title II provides that no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.  42 U.S.C. 12132.  See 28 CFR Part 35 (Title II implementing regulations).


[3] The Department of Educations Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has issued policy guidance on discriminatory harassment based on race (see 59 Fed. Reg. 11448 (Mar. 10, 1994),) and sex (see 62 Fed Reg. 12034 (Mar. 13, 1997), ).  These policies make clear that school personnel who understand their legal obligations to address harassment are in the best position to recognize and prevent harassment, and to lessen the harm to students if, despite their best efforts, harassment occurs.  In addition, OCR recently collaborated with the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) to produce a guide to raise awareness of, and provide examples of effective practices for dealing with, hate crimes and harassment in schools, including harassment based on disability.  See Protecting Students from Harassment and Hate Crime, A Guide for Schools, U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, and the National Association of Attorneys General (Jan. 1999) (OCR/NAAG Harassment Guide), Appendix A: Sample School Policies.   The OCR/NAAG Harassment Guide may be accessed on the internet at  These documents are a good resource for understanding the general principle of discriminatory harassment.  The policy guidance on sexual harassment will be clarified to explain how OCR's longstanding regulatory requirements continue to apply in this area in light of recent Supreme Court decisions addressing the sexual harassment of students.


[4] 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq.


[5] 34 C.F.R. 300.660 et seq.


[6] For more information regarding the requirements of state and local laws, consult the OCR/NAAG Harassment Guide, cited in footnote 3 above.


[7] Appropriate classroom discipline is permissible, generally, if it is of a type that is applied to all students or is consistent with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504, including the students Individualized Education Program or Section 504 plan.


[8]  Section 504 (at 34 CFR 104.7) and Title II (at 28 CFR 35.107(a)) require that institutions have  published internal policies and grievance procedures to address issues of discrimination on the basis of disability, which includes disability harassment.  While there need not be separate grievance procedures designed specifically for disability harassment, the grievance procedures that are available must be effective in resolving problems of this nature.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *



Why Methodology Belongs in your Child's IEP

Compiled by Frank Stepnowski,revised 7/30/05.

This article outlines the regulations which permit parents to discuss methodology at an IEP meeting. This is a continuing work in progress, which started in December 2000 and appeared in its first form in the AutismNews newsletter in January 2000.  I have over the months incorporated a number of findings from my own research, as well as leads suggested by contributors to the Council of Parent Advocates and Attorney  (COPAA).  I thought there was a need to compile all the different authorities regarding methodology into a single framework, with appropriate references to legal authority. Although originally directed to Illinois law, this article can apply in any State covered by IDEA.

Please remember that the Law is constantly changing and may not apply in particular instances.  Do not rely on the content of this article as legal advice.


The 2004 Amendments to IDEA

In 2004, Congress amended 20 U.S.C. sec. 1414 as follows:
(1) DEFINITIONS.--In this title: (A) INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PROGRAM.-- (i) IN GENERAL.--The term `individualized education program' or `IEP' means a written statement for each child with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised in accordance with this section and that includes-- 
(I) a statement of the child's present levels of academic achievement and functional performance, including-- 
(aa) how the child's disability affects the child's involvement and progress in the general education curriculum; 
(bb) for preschool children, as appropriate, how the disability affects the child's participation in appropriate activities; and 
(cc) for children with disabilities who take alternate assessments aligned to alternate achievement standards, a description of benchmarks or short-term objectives; 
(II) a statement of measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals, designed to-- 
(aa) meet the child's needs that result from the child's disability to enable the child to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum; and 
(bb) meet each of the child's other educational needs that result from the child's disability; 
(III) a description of how the child's progress toward meeting the annual goals described in subclause (II) will be measured and when periodic reports on the progress the child is making toward meeting the annual goals (such as through the use of quarterly or other periodic reports, concurrent with the issuance of report cards) will be provided;

(IV) a statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services, based on peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable, to be provided to the child, or on behalf of the child, and a statement of the program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided for the child-- 

(aa) to advance appropriately toward attaining the annual goals;
(bb) to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum in accordance with subclause (I) and to participate in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities; and 
(cc) to be educated and participate with other children with disabilities and nondisabled children in the activities described in this subparagraph;
(V) an explanation of the extent, if any, to which the child will not participate with nondisabled children in the regular class and in the activities described in subclause (IV)(cc); 
(VI)(aa) a statement of any individual appropriate accommodations that are necessary to measure the academic achievement and functional performance of the child on State and districtwide assessments consistent with section 612(a)(16)(A); and
(bb) if the IEP Team determines that the child shall take an alternate assessment on a particular State or districtwide assessment of student achievement, a statement of why-- (AA) the child cannot participate in the regular assessment; and (BB) the particular alternate assessment selected is appropriate for the child;
(VII) the projected date for the beginning of the services and modifications described in subclause (IV), and the anticipated frequency, location, and duration of those services and modifications ...

So the key provision of the changes is this:

(IV) a statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services, based on peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable, to be provided to the child, or on behalf of the child, and a statement of the program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided for the child--
The special education must be based on peer-reviewed research, not something eclectic that someone in the SpEd department heard about.  That is good news.  However, the clause is modified by "to the extent practicable."

Back on July 3, 1863, General Robert E. Lee sent orders to General Ewell on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg to attack the Union position on Culp's Hill "if practicable." Ewell did not know what that meant, and did not attack.  The Union army was able to entrench itself on the hill and thus started the second day of the battle with a strong position.  The choice of words had a big impact on the outcome of the battle and the war.  The lesson is that if left "practicable" is left to the discretion of the School Districts, it just won't happen; they will see that anything different from what they had been doing will not be practicable.  The courts will have to decide whether a modification is practicable.  If current trends are followed, courts may use a "reasonable" standard.  In the Seventh Circuit, courts let school districts do anything as long as they act "reasonably."  A better interpretation would be "if not impossible," since "they are not allowed to make decisions based on  'cost prohibitive."

The methodology language of 1997 IDEA arose from the regulations, as described in the article below.  The regulation is currently being revised to comply with the statutory changes.  The proposed version would be 34 CFR 300.38:

300.38 Special education.
(a) General. (1) Special education means specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability,
(3) Specially designed instruction means adapting, as appropriate to the needs of an eligible child under this part, the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction—
(i) To address the unique needs of the child that result from the child’s disability; and
(ii) To ensure access of the child to the general curriculum, so that he or she can meet the educational standards within the jurisdiction of the public agency that apply to all children.
copyright 2005 by Frank Stepnowski
See 2004 discussion below.

No Child Left Behind Act- December 2003 status
On December 9, 2003, the Department of Education issued a new regulation which changed the application of the Act to children whith profound disabilities.  SpEd lawyers are hotly debating whether this law guts the Act for children with disabilities or whether the use of the "best" in the regulation is a bonus.
August 29, 2003, Update:
Susan Etscheidt has written an article entitled:  "An Analysis of Legal Hearings and Cases Related to Individualized Education Programs for Children with Autism."  Research & Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 2003, vol. 28, No. 2, p 51-69, copyright TASH 2003. 
The author reviewed 68 cases of administrative and judicial decisions related to appropriate programs for children with autism.  She identified three primary factors:
  • IEP goals must be matched to evaluation data,
  • IEP members must be qualified to develop programs, and
  • the methodology selected must be able to assis the students in acheiving IEP goals.
Address all correspondence and requests for prints to Susan Etschadt at the Univ of N. Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA, 50614


In 1997, Congress amended the IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which is the law implementing the constitutional guarantee of equal educational rights of children with disabilities.  In 1999, the Federal Department of Education issued its regulations which supply the details to implement the law.  The Illinois State Board of Education issued its regulations for Illinois schools in August 2000.  A State's rules cannot restrict a right protected by Federal law.

 One of the most important clarifications in recent Federal law deals with methodology.  As background, twenty years ago the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion interpreting the prior law, in which it stated that as long as the school district had a reasonable methodology leading to a student's progress, the parents could not require the school to adopt a different method.  Schools often interpreted this decision to say that the parents could not discuss methodology at an IEP meeting, even when the schools had no methodology.

In 1997, Congress wrote directly into the statute that the implementation of IDEA was impeded by low expectations and an insufficient focus on applying replicable research on  proven methods of teaching and learning for children with disabilities.  20 U.S.C. sec. 1400 (c) (4).  President Bush also made the same sentiments when he signed the No Child Left Behind Act in January 2002:  " . . . We need to know whether the methodologies the teachers are using are working! . . ."

The 1999 Regulations: Special Education includes methodology!

The 1997 reauthorization of IDEA and the 1999 regulations eliminated the schools' misinterpretation by specifically including methodology as part of the instruction individualized for the student.  The 1997 act defines "Special Education" as "Specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with disabilities."  20 U.S.C. sec. 1401 (25). The 1999 regulations further defined instruction as follows:
“Sec. 300.26  Special education.
    (a) General. (1) As used in this part, the term special education means specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability, including--
    (i) Instruction conducted in the classroom, in the home, in hospitals and institutions, and in other settings;
    (3) Specially-designed instruction means adapting, as appropriate to the needs of an eligible child under this part, the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction--
    (i) To address the unique needs of the child that result from the child's disability; and
    (ii) To ensure access of the child to the general curriculum, so that he or she can meet the educational standards within the jurisdiction of the public agency that apply to all children.”
 This section is one of the most important clarifications of the law.  It means parents can discuss the content, methodology and delivery of the education, and not leave the details to the school to work out 6 months into a 9-month school year.  Methodology may be more important to children with autism and language disorders than any other facet of their program.  (Note, however, the definition of “Specially designed instruction” was conspicuously omitted from the August 2000 Illinois regulations.  Beware of school districts which cling to the old evasions and will not discuss methodology at the IEP meeting on the basis that the Illinois regulations are silent on the issue.  Under the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, State regulations cannot take away a Federal right.  Insist the IEP team discuss methodology and state their reasons in writing.)

 To enable the definition of methodology, the 1999 Federal regulations specify:

“Sec. 300.347  Content of IEP.
    (a) General. The IEP for each child with a disability must include--...
    (3) A statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services to be provided to the child, or on behalf of the child, and a statement of the program, modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided for the child--
    (i) To advance appropriately toward attaining the annual goals;
    (ii) To be involved and progress in the general curriculum in accordance with paragraph (a)(1) of this section and to participate in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities; and
    (iii) To be educated and participate with other children with disabilities and nondisabled children in the activities described in this section.”
In short: the IEP must include a statement of the special education to be provided (300.347(a)(3)), and special education is defined to include "content, methodology or delivery of instruction." (300.26(a)(3)).

The regulations also speak in the future.  The IEP must specify the methodology "to be" provided, not that a methodology must be developed.  The regulations make clear that the methodology must be good enough so that the child can advance toward attaining the annual goals and to progress in the general curriculum.

The Federal Explanation- The Department of Education comes right out and says it!

 Appendix A to the regulations also reiterates that the IEP must address how the child will be involved in and progress in the general school curriculum and what special education and other services and supports must be described in the IEP.
 The Federal regulation 300.347 (content of an IEP) is echoed in the Illinois regulation, 23 Ill. Admin. Code 226.230(a)(7).

Methodology is also described in the commentary Department of Education filed with the Federal Regulations:

 With regard to the definition of "specially designed instruction," some changes should be made. The committee reports to Pub. L. 105-17 make clear that specific day-to-day adjustments in instructional methods and approaches are not normally the sort of change that would require action by an IEP team. Requiring an IEP to include such a level of detail would be overly-prescriptive, impose considerable unnecessary administrative burden, and quite possibly be seen as encouraging disputes and litigation about rather small and unimportant changes in instruction. There is, however, a reasonable distinction to be drawn between a mode of instruction, such as cued speech, which would be the basis for the goals, objectives, and other elements of an individual student's IEP and should be reflected in that student's IEP, and a day-to-day teaching approach, i.e., a lesson plan, which would not be intended to be included in a student's IEP.

    Case law recognizes that instructional methodology can be an important consideration in the context of what constitutes an appropriate education for a child with a disability. At the same time, these courts have indicated that they will not substitute a parentally-preferred methodology for sound educational programs developed by school personnel in accordance with the procedural requirements of the IDEA to meet the educational needs of an individual child with a disability.

    In light of the legislative history and case law, it is clear that in developing an individualized education there are circumstances in which the particular teaching methodology that will be used is an integral part of what is "individualized" about a student's education and, in those circumstances will need to be discussed at the IEP meeting and incorporated into the student's IEP. For example, for a child with a learning disability who has not learned to read using traditional instructional methods, an appropriate education may require some other instructional strategy.

    Other students' IEPs may not need to address the instructional method to be used because specificity about methodology is not necessary to enable those students to receive an appropriate education. There is nothing in the definition of "specially designed instruction'' that would require instructional methodology to be addressed in the IEPs of students who do not need a particular instructional methodology in order to receive educational benefit. In all cases, whether methodology would be addressed in an IEP would be an IEP team decision.

    Other changes to the definition of "specially designed instruction'' are not needed. The distinction between accommodations that change the general curriculum and those that do not, as one commenter requests, would be difficult to make because of the individualized nature of these determinations. Regardless of the reasons for the accommodation or modification, it must be provided if necessary to address the special educational needs of an individual student.

 Federal Register: March 12, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 48), page 12552.

How Best to Educate a Child

The 1997 IDEA and the 1999 regulations do more than say that an IEP is setting the annual goals.  The IEP team, which includes the parents, must determine the how, how the child will meet those goals.  The schools cannot say "leave it to the schools to figure it out has the school year elapses."  The IEP must specify the modifications, supports and services, and the "Special Education," which includes methodology.  Also, regulation 300.121(e) states that each State shall ensure that a free, appropriate public education is available to any individual child with a disability who needs special education and related services even the child is advancing from grade to grade.

The How is emphasized in the Q & A portion of the regulations:

   Measurable annual goals, including benchmarks or short-term objectives, are critical to the strategic planning process used to develop and implement the IEP for each child with a disability. Once the IEP team has developed measurable annual goals for a child, the team (1) can develop strategies that will be most effective in realizing those goals and (2) must develop either measurable, intermediate steps (short-term objectives) or major milestones (benchmarks) that will enable parents, students, and educators to monitor progress during the year, and, if appropriate, to revise the IEP consistent with the student's instructional needs.  (34 CFR 300.756, Appendix A, Q1, p.100.)
Once the team develops the goals, the team develops strategies that will be most effective.  Remember;
  • the IEP team includes the parents
  • the strategies for achieving goals are developed by the team
  • "will be" : the strategies are developed for the coming year, not to worked out as the year unfolds
  • the strategies must be the "most effective"
While the goals cannot be set to "maximize potential," the strategies for reaching those goals must be the most effective.  By letting the IEP team develop the strategies, the regulations imply that the methodology is to be developed at the IEP team meeting.  This development must include a discussion of methodology; otherwise, how can the IEP team decide what is most effective?  Compare also the language of  Q&A 26, appended to the Department of Education regulations:
26. How should a public agency determine which regular education teacher and special education teacher will be members of the IEP team for a particular child with a disability?
    The regular education teacher who serves as a member of a child's IEP team should be a teacher who is, or may be, responsible for [[Page 112]]  implementing a portion of the IEP, so that the teacher can participate in discussions about how best to teach the child.
Again, the discussion is "how best to teach the child," and the discussion is what to do in the future.
This theme follows the U.S. Supreme Court's discussion in Rowley:
"The primary responsibility for formulating the education to be accorded a handicapped child, and for choosing the educational method most suitable to the child's needs, was left by the Act to state and local educational agencies in cooperation with the parents." Board of Education v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176, 207-208 (1982).
Again we see: cooperation with the parents, a requirement for actually making a choice of methodologies, and choosing the "most suitable" method. This theme was repeated by the Supreme Court:
The primary vehicle for implementing these congressional goals is the individualized educational program (IEP) which the EHA mandates  for each disabled child. Prepared at meetings between a representative of the local school district, the child's teacher, the parents or guardians,  and whenever appropriate, the disabled child, the IEP sets out the child's present educational performance, establishes annual and short-term objectives for improvements in that performance, and describes the specially designed instruction and services that will enable the child to meet those objectives.
Honig v. Doe, 484 U.S. 305, 311 (1988).

The T.H. court's interpretation

 The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois discussed methodology in the case of T.H. v. the Palatine School District.  (N.D. Ill.) The court was without the benefit of the 1999 regulations, so the court actually read the U.S. Supreme Court precedent.  The court held that the school's argument that it had the right to choose methodology was not valid since the school district had no methodology.  The U.S. Supreme Court decision of Rowley could only apply if the school had chosen and implemented a methodology calculated to enable the student to make appropriate progress.  The ABA-Lovaas methodology had proven successful while the school failed to articulate or implement any method.  T.H. v. Palatine. (via Wrightslaw).

In Bd of Ed of Paxton-Buckley-Loda Unit School District no. 10, 184 F.Supp.2d 790, 800-01 (C.D. Ill. 2002), the court found the District violated procedural safeguards when it simply chose not to consider a methodology which  would allow a regular preschool program in determining placement. Paxton (html).

In another case, the Illinois State Bd of Ed reports the hearing officer ordered ABA/DTT, but I have not read the whole text yet. footnote.

In Zachary Deal vs. Hamilton County Dept. of Educ., the Tennessee Hearing officer found that the school district's approach, which used some TEACCH but no ABA, was an inadequate methodology, and ordered the district to use the parent's choice of ABA.  The district committed a procedural violation by refusing to even consider a workable methodology.  A ruling that a district has committed a procedural violation is important under Rowley because it is harder to reverse than a finding that a school district has chosen a wrong methodology; courts generally give schools deference over choices of methodology.
ZDeal.html   (Printable copies of the Deal decision are available from Wrightslaw and Gary Mayerson.)  On December 16, 2004, the U.S. District Court for the 6th Circuit resoundedly affirmed the Deal case.

In another Gary Mayerson case, Bucks County Department of Mental Health v. De Mora, (E.D. Pa. 2002), the court found that school district had failed to offer an appropriate program.  Since the school failed to provide enough trained therapists, and few therapists could be found in the community, the court ordered that the parent should be paid for the time she spent educating the child in the ABA program.  For more details see and Gary Mayerson.

This case was affirmed by the Third Circuit  in 2004:
"...we hold that under the particular circumstances of this case, where a trained service provider was not available and the parent stepped into learn and perform the duties of a trained service provider, reimbursing the parent for her time spent in providing therapy is "appropriate" relief.
Bucks County Department of Mental Health/Mental Retardation, Appellant v.
                  Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Public Welfare; Barbara Demora
                  No: 02-3919; 379 F.3d 61;2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 17231; August 18, 2004
                     DeMora case via Lexisone
In School Board of Henrico County, Va.  v. Z.P., the court held,
Nor does the required deference to the opinions of the professional educators somehow relieve the hearing officer or the district court of the obligation to determine as a factual matter whether a given IEP is appropriate. That is, the fact-finder is not required to conclude that an IEP is appropriate simply because a teacher or other professional testifies that the IEP is appropriate. ...
Neither a state administrative hearing officer nor a reviewing court may reject an otherwise appropriate IEP because of dissatisfaction with the educational methodology proposed in the IEP. If an IEP is "reasonably calculated to enable the child to receive educational benefits,"
Rowley, 458 U.S. at 207, the hearing officer cannot reject it because the officer believes that a different methodology would be better for the child. See id. at 208 ("[O]nce a court determines that the requirements of the Act have been met, questions of methodology are for resolution by the States.")

The School's Position

School Districts by and large assert the position that they should or can not specify the methodology in an IEP.  There is no legal basis for this assertion.  Schools often cite Rowley, but in that case, the school district did in fact specify a methodology; the dispute in Rowley was a disagreement over the choice of methodologies.  As observed in T.H., Rowley only comes into play only when the school has implemented a methodology.  Moreover, the program has to be one which is reasonably calculated to let the child progress in the regular curriculum.

A court in the District of Columbia has written:

Therefore, the plaintiffs are correct in contending that the holding in Rowley is limited to cases where it is found that a child has not been denied FAPE. In cases where it is determined in administrative and/or judicial proceedings that child has been unlawfully denied FAPE, “the basic floor of opportunity” discussed in Rowley, see id at 200, must give way to the remedial necessity at hand and the provision of FAPE that is constructed to correct the results of a school system’s past violations and confer the educational benefits contemplated by proper implementation of the Act in the first instance.

The plaintiffs here are not asking that Alex be provided with a level of education or educational services designed to place him on footing commensurate with non-disabled children. Rather, we have a school system that, for more than four years, has denied Alex even the “basic floor of opportunity” discussed in Rowley, and a request that Alex be provided education to adequately compensate for this denial. Alex is a severely autistic child who has been repeatedly mis-diagnosed and mishandled by DCPS.

Liberata Diatta v. DC, slip op at 14.

The School District position also contradicts common sense.  The regulations specify that the IEP should include related services and supplementary aids and services to be provided to the child, or on behalf of the child, and a statement of the program, modifications or supports.  It boggles the mind that the District could take the position that it should specify the supports and modifications which may be dependent on the methodology but not specify the methodology itself.

To show the lengths a school will go, on September 8, 2002, a school attorney was telling parents the text of the repealed regulations.  She quoted and cited note four of the repealed regulations that it was not anticipated that an IEP will include methodology.  She never mentioned the content of the new regulations.  This was three and a half years after the old regulations were replaced.  (She was also from the firm that fought the TH case through three appeals.)  If your school quotes "note four," just say it has been repealed, and cite the new regulations.

Schools also resist paying for ABA because the home-based program does not qualify as a State Board of Education approved school for which the State Board will reimburse the local school districts. footnote.

The Necessity of Parental Consent

The District position also conflicts with the precept of parental consent.  The law is clear that parents must consent to a placement decision.
  • First, parents must have a say in the placement. (34 CFR 300.501(c)  and Q&A 37.)
  • Second, Parents must consent to the provision of special education and related services.  (34 CFR 300.505(a)(1)(ii).)
  • Third, parents must be given prior written notice of the meeting which sets the placement. (34 CFR 300.503.)
  • Fourth, there is no provision in the law which can override a parental refusal of a placement; the school cannot take the parents to due process if they refuse consent to a placement.  (34 CFR 300.505.)
If the IEP does not specify the methodology of the placement, how can the parents consent to the placement; they would have no informed consent.  Consent means that the parent has been fully informed of all relevant information. (34 CFR 300.500(b)(1).)  How can the parents decide among alternatives on what may be the most important aspect of the education?  Are the parents to consent to a placement under the vague assurances that the District will find some way of educating the child, ignoring all the reports submitted at the IEP meeting?

One factor in the Peters v. Rome City School District (NY Oct. 2002) was the lack of informed consent.  The Parents had consented to the use of a time-out room to address behaviours -- for three minutes.  The parents were not informed that the room was a padded closet with torn padding and the smell of urine, and the boy was sometimes there for an hour at a time.  The jury hit the School District for $75,000 pain and suffering.
Similarly, the Sixth Circuit in Deal  found that parents needed meaningful participation:

The district court erred in assuming that merely because the Deals were present and spoke at the various IEP meetings, they were afforded adequate opportunity to participate. Participation must be more than a mere form; it must be meaningfulW.G., 960 F.2d at 1485; see also Knox County Sch., 315 F.3d at
694-95 (stating that school officials must be willing to listen to the parents and must have open minds).
Despite the protestations of the Deals, the School System never even treated a one-on-one ABA program as a viable option. Where there was no way that anything the Deals said, or any data the Deals produced, could have changed the School System’s determination of appropriate services, their participation was no more than after the fact involvement. See Spielberg, 853 F.2d at 259.

More support for methodology--OSEP.

The above excerpts from the law are complete. The material which follows here is  additional documentation which either supports methodology or resolves conflicts in the legislative history.

OSEP on July 25, 2000, wrote:

"Once an IEP is developed for the child, the IEP must be implemented as written and the child's placement must be based upon the IEP. 34 C.F.R sec. 300.552(b).  Whether a specific instructional methodology is addressed in an IEP is the IEP team's decision.  The IEP team includes the Parent and it reaches its decision by consensus.  However, school districts must ensure through the IEP process that each individual child with a disability receives a program that is designed to address his or her unique needs.  34 C.F.R. secs. 300.26(a) and 300.300(a)(3)(ii)."
July 25, 2000.
The Department of Education has recently stated that the methodology could be stated in an individualized family service plan under Part C (34 CFR 303.344(d)) concerning early intervention programs for infants and toddlers with disabilities.
    Whether a specific methodology should be addressed in an IFSP is an IFSP team decision, and depends on the needs of the individual child. For many children, the IFS may not need to address a specific approach, because the general description of the service, e.g., "physical therapy," suffices to address the child's need.

    In some cases, under the current regulations, in order to meet the child's unique needs the IFS team may consider a particular methodology or instructional approach to be integral to the design of an "individualized" program of services for the child. In such cases it would be appropriate for the IFS team to list that specific methodology on the IFS.

    After an IFS has been completed and the parents consent to the provision of the identified services, the State is required to provide all services identified on the child's IFS and to ensure that those services are implemented according to the IFS. Thus, if the IFS includes a specific methodology or approach, the State would need to ensure that services are provided as stated in the child's IFS.

cite as Fed Erg vol. 67, No. 137, p. 46966.  (The regulation specifically refers to "method" rather than "methodology.")

and on the same date stated:

    "Parents are members of the IEP team and through the IEP process, a parent can also discuss with school officials different approaches that would appropriately meet their child's unique needs."
     Special education under the IDEA is "specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability..." 20 U.S.C. 1402(25); 34 FR 300.26(a)(1) (emphasis added). In addition, under 34 FR 300.300(a)(3)(ii), "the services and placement needed by each child with a disability to receive a free appropriate public education must be based on the child's unique needs, and not on the child's disability." Thus, decisions regarding the provision of services that are appropriate for an individual child must be based on the child's unique needs and not on the disability category in which the child is classified. Fed Reg vol. 67, No. 137, p. 46966.

Regulation 300.501 : methodology in IEPs

You should note one other place in the regulations which mentions methodology, and that concerns meetings.  The language of the statute is a little more problematic, but still consistent with the commentary above.  Although sometimes used by the school districts for support of their position, the regulation actually lends support for including methodology in the IEP.  The regulation reads:

"Sec. 300.501  Opportunity to examine records; parent participation in meetings.

    (a) General. The parents of a child with a disability must be afforded, in accordance with the procedures of Sec. 300.562-300.569, an opportunity to--
    (1) Inspect and review all education records with respect to--
(i) The identification, evaluation, and educational placement of the child and
(ii) The provision of APE to the child; and
    (2) Participate in meetings with respect to --
    (i) The identification, evaluation, and educational placement of the child; and
    (ii) The provision of FAPE to the child.
    (b) Parent participation in meetings.
    (1) Each public agency shall provide notice consistent with Sec. 300.345(a)(1) and (b)(1) to ensure that parents of children with disabilities have the opportunity to participate in meetings described in paragraph (a)(2) of this section.
    (2) A meeting does not include informal or unscheduled conversations involving public agency personnel and conversations on issues such as teaching methodology, lesson plans, or coordination of service provision if those issues are not addressed in the child's IEP. A meeting also does not include preparatory activities that public agency personnel engage in to develop a proposal or response to a parent proposal that will be discussed at a later meeting.
    (c) Parent involvement in placement decisions.
    (1) Each public agency shall ensure that the parents of each child with a disability are members of any group that makes decisions on the educational placement of their child."
Although the schools can have secret meetings, they cannot implement a change in methodology if methodology is addressed in the IEP.  Given the placement of the words "teaching methodology" in the context of lesson plans, and the discussion of methodology in the definitions and commentary cited above, this regulation limits the extent schools can co-opt the methodology choices.  The regulation lends support for the idea expressed in the regulations' commentary that some methodology issues are so important that they need to be specified in the IEP itself.  If the methodology is important enough to be in the IEP, schools cannot conduct secret "methodology meetings" to undermine the effectiveness of a method chosen by the IEP team.  The topics of the informal, school-only meetings are limited to day-to-day lesson plans, coordination of services and such, and not the mode of instruction.  School districts "shall ensure that the parents of each child with a disability are members of any group that makes decisions on the educational placement of their child." (34 CFR 300.501(c).)

Moreover,  regulation 300.501 creates support for specifying methodology in the IEP.   The regulation specifically disallows schools from not only changing methods but even discussing changing methods, when those methods are included in the IEP.  How can the District pretend that an IEP cannot include methodology when the regulation implies that it can?   Methodology is part of the placement decision.

Illinois State Board of Education

Illinois State Board of Education
                  Special Education Unit Review Checklist of
                  Special Education Policies and Procedures Assuring the Implementation of
                  Comprehensive Programming for Students with Disabilities and Suspected 
"10. A statement of special factors such as any special methods, materials, equipment or
procedures; positive behavior strategies and interventions; administration of medication; ongoing procedure to check to ensure that a child’s hearing aid is functioning properly; provision of services by any other public agency which will be necessary to provide the student an appropriate education; language needs for students with limited English proficiency; instruction in Braille and the use of
Braille; communication needs; assistive technology devices and services and for a student who is deaf or hard of hearing, the IEP must consider the student’s language and communication needs; opportunities for direct communication with peers and professionals in the student’s language and communication mode, academic level and full range of needs, including opportunities for direct instruction in the child’s language and communication mode. (300.303) (300.346 (a)(2)) (226.220)."
The Illinois State Board of Education requires school districts to have a policy manual which states that the IEP include special methods.  Check your State's policies and procedures.

Interpreting Congressional Records

I include one more  reference just to be complete, and to warn you that no interpretation of laws is ever simple.  You may want to skip this paragraph to avoid undue complications. The 1997 Congressional Reports may be cited against the new interpretation of methodology.  The Congressional Reports are not laws, but commentary which a court can use to interpret statutes which may be unclear.  The Department of Education's 1999 Regulations clarify the 1997 Congressional report.  The problem language is in House Report 105-95, where the Committee stated:
"Specific day to day adjustments in instructional methods and approaches that are made by either a regular or special education teacher to assist a disabled child to achieve his or her annual goals would not normally require action by the child's IEP Team. However, if changes are contemplated in the child's measurable annual goals, benchmarks, or short term objectives, or in any of the services or program modifications, or other components described in the child's IEP, the LEA must ensure that the child's IEP Team is reconvened in a timely manner to address those changes. ...

As under current law, a child's IEP must include a statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services to be provided to the child, or on behalf of the child. The Committee intends that, while teaching and related services methodologies or approaches are an appropriate topic for discussion and consideration by the IEP Team during IEP development or annual review, they are not expected to be written into the IEP. Furthermore, the Committee does not intend that changing particular methods or approaches necessitates an additional meeting of the IEP Team." (House Report 105-95.)

Huh?  These Congressional statements of intent may seem at variance with themselves and with the later Department regulations, but when viewed in the context of methodology as being the day-to-day adjustments, the Regulations are consistent.  Program modifications and components are an IEP team's decision, but day-to-day adjustments are not.  The Department of Education had the duty to interpret the statute by making regulations, and the Department determined that methodology was an appropriate item for the IEP.

More support

Another case involving methodology is  Evans v. The Bd. Of Educ. of the Rhinebeck Central School Dist., 930 F. Supp. 83, 24 IDELR 338, 348 (S.D.N.Y. 1996), where the court held that the facts demonstrated "that an integrated, multi-sensory, sequential method is a necessity rather than an optimum situation." and stated "The failure to use an approach that will provide Frank with the tools to become, for example, an independent reader is alone an important reason why the District's IEP does not provide an appropriate education." Evans via Wrightslaw.

In a related issue, OSEP has issued a letter which includes:

    "If, however, an IEP team determines that it is necessary for the individual providing special education or related services to a child with a disability to have specific training, experience and/or knowledge in order of the child to receive FAPE, then it would be appropriate for the team to include those specifications in the child's IEP."  OSEP, April 4, 2002. The school personnel must be trained to meet the student's individual needs.
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The 2004 amendments to IDEA and research-validated methodologies

 Below is an excerpt from a National Center on Learning Disabilities 'net chat held on 01/12/2005 re the IDEA 2004 amendments:

Q:  How should a request be worded for a child's IEP to insure that a research based program appropriate to that child's specific reading problem is used and used in the manner that the research demonstrates is most effective?

A:  Dr. Stevan Kukic:

"The statute is clear that the option is for a district to use a process using scientific, research based interventions for the identification of children as LD under IDEA 2004. The test on the IEP is three fold:

  • First, the process must be followed to develop the IEP.
  • Second, the provision of services laid out in the IEP must result in the child receiving some benefit. This is the two-fold definition of the word appropriate in the term free, appropriate, public education.
  • Third, there is new provision in IDEA 2004 that calls for "a statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services, based on peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable, to be provided to the child, or on behalf of the child, and a statement of the program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided for the child--
(aa) to advance appropriately toward attaining the annual goals;
(bb) to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum in accordance with subclause (I) and to participate in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities; and
(cc) to be educated and participate with other children with disabilities and nondisabled children in the activities described in this subparagraph;
 Therefore, it seems to me that the test is whether the interventions suggested have a good likelihood of working with the child in question. The likelihood clearly increases if the intervention has a strong research base with children like the target child which is the reason for the new provision. Last, if an intervention with a strong research base is not used with fidelity, it has a great liklihood of not working! Push hard for fidelity of implementation."

Dr. Kukic is former Utah State Director of Special Education and has just completed a five year term as chair of the National Center for Learning Disabilities' Professional Advisory Board. He is currently the Vice President for Professional Services for Sopris West Educational Services. Dr. Kukic played an integral role in the development of the new IDEA 04 provisions regarding specific learning disability (SLD) eligibility.

Quo vadis

Okay, that is the legal perspective, but what does that leave you?  For Law to be Law, it must be followed.  Some say that Special Education Law is not law because the written laws are not followed.  These references to statutes and regulations may sound good to a judge hearing an appeal of a due process hearing, but your goal is to get effective services for your child in the IEP.  A school administrator is not likely to follow through a long list of regulations.  He or she has been trained in making decisions as the administrator-on-high.

As brother Roger suggests, One strategy to obtain effective services at the IEP  is to define the methodological needs precisely enough that the team has to choose your  preferred "brand" of methods anyway.  It is rare  that a  particular "brand name" can be locked into an IEP, because school  folks are  touchy about being "directed" to choose one product over another,  even  though they may have no choice at all.   (That is similar to what happened in the successive appeals in the T.H. v. Palatine case.  The District dragged on the proceeding with successive appeals not on the issue that they knew what to do, but only that they did not want to be told what to do.)

If you go into your IEP meeting describing what the methodology "does," you may stand a  better  chance of getting what your child needs.  Sticking firm on a brand  name may just exasperate the school members.  For example, rather than insisting on "Lovaas," get the team to agree that the child needs 40 hours per week of discrete trial training with data review, etc.  They might use all the tools without using the label.  In other words, rather than fight over technicalities, you might focus  on  what the methodology of your preference is designed to accomplish.   It's a  lot easier to come to agreement over function than over form.

That is just one strategy.  But if your child's IEP seems inevitably headed to due process, you must document the proceedings.  Cases have been lost where the courts found insufficient evidence of the parents' requests for services.  You must document that the schools have refused to consider proven methodologies.  Hopefully, however, by making the school think harder about what they are doing, the team may actually develop something that works.

The IEP is not the guarantee of results.  The school must provide the services listed in the IEP, but the outcome can be uncertain.  Courts differ on how realistic an IEP must be in predicting whether an individual child will actually benefit from the services listed in the IEP.

The bad news is that courts grant deference to the school's choice of methodologies. Lachman v. Illinois State Bd of Education, 852 F.2d 290, 296 (7th Cir. 1988). Reversing it is difficult.  In most circuits, you will have to show that the method chosen by the school would not reasonably calculated to lead to meaningful academic progress.  See School District of Wisconsin Dells v. Z.S., no. 01-3720 (7th Cir. June 28, 2002):

    "A particular Individualized Education Program, to survive administrative review, such as the one that decreed the program of home instruction challenged by Z.S.’s guardian, need only be “reasonably calculated to enable the child to receive educational benefits.” Board of Education v. Rowley, supra, 458 U.S. at 206-07 (emphasis added); Patricia P. v. Board of Education, supra, 203 F.3d at 67; School Board of Collier County v. K.C., 285 F.3d 977, 982 (11th Cir. 2002); Rome School Committee v. Mrs. B., supra, 247 F.3d at 33. The administrative law judge substituted his own opinion for that of the school administrators. He thought them mistaken, and they may have been; but they were not unreasonable."

Another possibility suggested above in the Paxton and Deal cases, is to show the school committed procedural violations by failing to even consider workable methodologies. More on this trend later.

In one recent case, the parents prevailed when the hearing officer took the situation out of the Lachman-Rowley quagmire when he found that the choice of programs was not methodology at all.  William Fabian v. Flossmoor School District 161, ISBE 2558 (Sept. 29, 2002, Illinois).

An oral/aural approach to teaching a child with a cochlear implant is not a methodology issue, but rather what the child needs to satisfy the goal of talking. Likewise a multisensory approach to teaching a child to read is not methodology issue, but rather, what that child needs to satisfy the goal of reading [see Briere v. Fair Haven Grade School District, 948 F. Supp. 1242 1254 (D. Vt. 1996)]. In this case, Elizabeth Briere, due the intensity of her learning disabilities, required instruction utilizing a multisensory approach in order to benefit from education. If the goal is to teach a child to read, one could use a variety of different approaches such as phonics, whole language or phonographic to achieve that goal. However, some students, such as was articulated in Briere, may need a multisensory approach, because like Elizabeth Briere, that is what the child needs to learn to read, due to his or her disability. The Briere case is analogous for this Student. If the goal for this Student is to use his cochlear implant to learn to talk, he needs a highly intensive oral/aural approach to reach this goal. The Parents sought a cochlear implant for him because they wanted their son to be able to utilize oral language as his sole means of communicating with society. For him, to be placed in a different program, would be potentially harmful in that it consumes valuable time in a narrow window of opportunity.

Good Luck!

Links to regulations

Full copies of the Code of Federal Regulations and the Federal Register are available from Wrightslaw, the Government Printing Office,  and other places. The Illinois regulations are at
(Large pdf file.)

Another article discussing methodology is 

New Illinois State regulations regarding timelines for referrals.

 Another big change in the Illinois 2000 regulations involves the timelines for referrals for evaluations.  The ISBE changed Section 226.75 to state that the date of referral runs from the date parental consent or signature is obtained rather from the date the parents request the evaluation.  This definition ties in with the timelines for completing the evaluation in section 226.110, as a District has 60 days to complete the evaluation.  The danger in the change lies in the potential lag time in the District sending out the consent form to the parents.  Parents can eliminate this lag time by consenting to the evaluation at the time they request the referral.  Two improvements to the regs are that at the end of the 60 days the IEP meeting must also be completed and that if there are fewer than 60 school days left in the school year, the IEP must be in effect by the start of the next school year.  A copy of a form which can be used to request an evaluation can be found on pages 25-26 of the ISBE required forms booklet:  (The booklet is a 600K pdf document and may take time to download.)  The regulations are as follows:
Section 226.110 Referral
d) If the district decides to conduct an evaluation, parental consent must be obtained.
1) Pursuant to Section 14-8.02 of the School Code [105 ILCS 5/14-8.02], the evaluation and IEP meeting shall be completed within 60 school days after the date of referral or the date of the parent's application for admittance of the child to the public school.
2) The IEP meeting shall be conducted within 30 days after the child is determined eligible. The overall limit specified in subsection (d)(1) of this Section still applies.
3) When a child is referred for evaluation with fewer than 60 days of pupil attendance left in the school year, the eligibility determination shall be made and, if the child is eligible, an IEP shall be in effect prior to the first day of the next school year.

Section 226.75 Definitions
"Date of Referral": The date on which written parental consent to complete an evaluation is obtained or provided.
"Day": A calendar day, unless otherwise indicated as “business day” or “school day”.

  • Business Day: Monday through Friday, except for Federal and State holidays (unless holidays are specifically included in the designation of business days, as at 34 CFR 300.403(d)(1)(ii)).
  • School Day: Any day, including a partial day, during the regular school year that students are in attendance at school for instructional purposes.

TH footnote

After the parents, in TH v. Bd Ed Palatine, prevailed in their action for the ABA reimbursement in two levels of due process and the U.S. District Court, the School District (Palatine) took the  State of Illinois Board of Education to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing:
 "According to Oak Park and Palatine, the combination of Carter with 105  ILCS 5/14-7.02 leaves them in a bind: they can't  get state reimbursement unless the private school  has been approved, but they also can't use the lack of approval to avoid reimbursing parents for  what may be a costly private placement. That may well be so, but it does not follow that the IDEA requires the state to contribute more than the amount allocated under [20 U.S.C.] sec.1411(g). In Carter itself the Justices had this to say about the school district's contention that the Court's holding would break the bank:
 '[P]ublic educational authorities who want to avoid reimbursing parents for the private education of a disabled child can do one of two things: give the child a free appropriate public education in a public setting, or place the child in an appropriate private setting of the State's choice. This is IDEA's mandate, and school officials who conform to it need not worry about reimbursement claims.' "
 Oak Park and Palatine v. ISBE (appeal from TH v. Palatine) (7th Cir., March 24, 2000), No. 99-1589.
 In other words, paying for a nonapproved school may create a financial disincentive since a State Board of Ed may not reimburse the school under  the State's reimbursement formula.  The State Board of Ed can keep 25% of  Federal moneys which it doles out to local districts under formulae.  This problem effects many students since many States lack schools experienced in the methodology appropriate for a student, leaving the alternative of forcing schools to  learn the methodology themselves.  Many schools are  predisposed against some methodologies, will learn it poorly, or will dilute it with their own notions.  The  IDEA Statute does require school to have a comprehensive system of personnel development to ensure that all persons who work with the children have all the skills to meet the needs of the children.  (See Dickman  footnote, following.)


Illinois 2003 footnote
Case #002632 – Judge Julia Quinn Dempsey, Hearing Officer
Appropriate Placement, Home Bound Instruction, Sufficiency of Services, Unilateral Placement, Content of IEP, FAPE, Methodology
ISBE Synopsis: "The parents of a 10 year-old boy diagnosed with Autism requested the hearing because they were dissatisfied with the educational program being provided by the school district. The parents argued that the district's program was not challenging enough and didn't use ABA/DTT. The parents removed the child after an incident where a teacher sprayed him in the face with a cleaning substance. Neither party prevailed on all issues.

The hearing officer found that the parents were justified in their decision to remove the child following the “spraying” incident. The district was faulted in not offering the parent another placement and for not appropriately addressing the child's needs for ESSAY. It was also found that the IEP goals and objectives were appropriate but in need of much more detail on the academics.
The parents were awarded reimbursement for the home program from the time the child was removed from school through the summer. However, the district's program and IEP were found mostly appropriate with no procedural violations. The District was ordered to provide autism training to staff and to provide ABA/DTT type instruction at school for the child. Additional help in integrating the child into the classroom was also ordered.
Both parties were represented by legal counsel."

Dickman footnote

OSEP based its advice in the April 2, 2002, "Dickman" letter on the text of IDEA itself, which requires each State to have a Comprehensive System of Personnel Development to "ensure that all personnel who work with children with disabilities... have the skills and knowledge necessary to meet the needs of children with disabilities. ..."  20 USC secs. 1412(a)(14) and 1453(c)(3)(D).  The text of the statute follows:
20 U.S.C. 1412(a)(14) Comprehensive system of personnel development
        "The State has in effect, consistent with the purposes of this chapter and with section 1435(a)(8) of this title, a comprehensive system of personnel development that is designed to ensure an adequate supply of qualified special education, regular education, and related services personnel that meets the requirements for a State improvement plan relating to personnel development in subsections (b)(2)(B) and (c)(3)(D) of section 1453 of this title."

20 U.S.C. sec 1453(c) Improvement strategies
      Each State improvement plan shall -
(3) describe the strategies the State will use to address the       needs identified under subsection (b) of this section, including
          (A) how the State will change State policies and procedures to address systemic barriers to improving results for children  with disabilities;
          (B) how the State will hold local educational agencies and schools accountable for educational progress of children with disabilities;
          (C) how the State will provide technical assistance to local  educational agencies and schools to improve results for children with disabilities;
          (D) how the State will address the identified needs for in-service and pre-service preparation to ensure that all personnel who work with children with disabilities (including both professional and paraprofessional personnel who provide special education, general education, related services, or early intervention services) have the skills and knowledge necessary to meet the needs of children with disabilities, including a description of how - 

          (i) the State will prepare general and special education        personnel with the content knowledge and collaborative skills   needed to meet the needs of children with disabilities, including how the State will work with other States on common certification criteria;
            (ii) the State will prepare professionals and paraprofessionals in the area of early intervention with the content knowledge and collaborative skills needed to meet the needs of infants and toddlers with disabilities;
            (iii) the State will work with institutions of higher education and other entities that (on both a pre-service and         an in-service basis) prepare personnel who work with children with disabilities to ensure that those institutions and entities develop the capacity to support quality professional development programs that meet State and local needs;
            (iv) the State will work to develop collaborative agreements with other States for the joint support and development of programs to prepare personnel for which there   is not sufficient demand within a single State to justify support or development of such a program of preparation;
            (v) the State will work in collaboration with other States, particularly neighboring States, to address the lack of uniformity and reciprocity in the credentialing of teachers and other personnel;
            (vi) the State will enhance the ability of teachers and others to use strategies, such as behavioral interventions, to address the conduct of children with disabilities that impedes the learning of children with disabilities and others;
            (vii) the State will acquire and disseminate, to teachers, administrators, school board members, and related services personnel, significant knowledge derived from educational research and other sources, and how the State will, when appropriate, adopt promising practices, materials, and technology;
            (viii) the State will recruit, prepare, and retain qualified personnel, including personnel with disabilities and personnel from groups that are underrepresented in the fields of regular education, special education, and related services;
            (ix) the plan is integrated, to the maximum extent possible, with other professional development plans and activities, including plans and activities developed and carried out under other Federal and State laws that address personnel recruitment and training; and
            (x) the State will provide for the joint training of parents and special education, related services, and general education personnel;

Source url:

Comparison of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA ‘04), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504),
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and The Elementary and Secondary Education Act
(also known as No Child Left Behind Act of 2001  NCLB 01) 
Requirements Ensures that all children with disabilities Requires any agency, school or institution Extends coverage of Section 504 to Targets improving the academic
In the Law have available to them a free/appropriate receiving federal financial assistance to employment, public and private achievement of the disadvantaged,
  public education that emphasizes special provide persons with disabilities to the educational institutions, transportation including students with disabilities.
  education and related services designed to greatest extent possible, an opportunity to providers and telecommunications,  
  meet their unique needsa nd prepare them for be fully integrated into the mainstream. regardless of presence of any  
  further education, employment and   federal funding.  
  independent living.      
Definitions in the Specific disability categories are defined in Defines persons with disabilities who have Definition of disability essentially same Same as Under IDEA 04. Specific
Law the law; covers children with educational a physical or mental impairment which as Section 504 and extends coverage disability categories are defined in
  disabilities that require special services from limits one or more major life activities; have to persons without disabilities who the law; covers children with
  specially trained teachers. a record of such impairment or are may be related to or associated with educational disabilities that require
    regarded as having an impairment. a person with a disability; includes special services from specially
  Not all children with disabilities are eligible.   HIV status, contagious and non- trained teachers.
      contagious diseases.  
        Not all children are eligible.
Who is covered Covers children with educational disabilities Protects all persons with a disability from Protects all persons with a disability from Covers students with educational
  that require special education services ages discrimination in educational setting based discrimination in educational setting based disabilities that require special
  3-21 or until graduation. States have the solely on disability. solely on disability. education services ages 3-21 or
  flexibility to also serve infants and toddlers.     until graduation. States have the
        flexibility to also serve infants and
Services provided Offers educational services that are remedial Eliminates barriers that would prevent a Eliminates barriers that would prevent Requires that schools provide
  to children and available to all mainstream student from full participation in programs a student from full participation in students with a free and appropriate
  students (eg., PE, Art, field trips) or services offered to the general school programs/services offered to the general education with measurable outcomes.
    population. school population. Students with disabilities must
        perform at the same standard as
        those for non-disabled students.
Funding Schools receive federal funding to provide Requires that schools not discriminate Requires that schools not discriminate Funding is available to schools under
  remedial services for children in elementary based on students' disability and must based on students' disability and must Title I of the law. Schools which
  and secondary schools. provide appropriate accommodations, but provide appropriate accommodations, but receive these funds must comply
    schools receive no additional financial schools receive no additional financial with NCLB and IDEA 04.
    support to provide support services or support to provide support services or  
    auxilliary aids. auxilliary aids. Appropriate accommodations must
        be given to students during
        assessments, as well as in class.
Evaluation/ School district is responsible for identifying Same for elementary and secondary Students must self-identify as having a School district is responsible for
Documentation and evaluating children with disabilities. schools. disability and must provide adequate identifying and evaluating children
    Same for students in college. documentation of disability. with disabilities
  Evaluations are the responsibility of the Same for elementary and secondary Evaluations/documentation of disability Evaluations are the responsibility of
  school and are performed at no expense schools. are students' responsibility and expense. the school and are performed at no
  to child/parent. Same for students in college.   expense to child/parent.
  Parents must consent to evaluations and Same for elementary and secondary Student has responsibility for advocacy, Districts must carry out performance
  placement decisions. schools. negotiating accommodation plan. evaluations regardless of parental
    Same for students in college.   consent.
IFPS & IEP Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) and 504 Plan developed with parents, teachers, Accommodation plan developed with  Individualized Family Service Plan
Accommodations Individualized Education Progrma (IEP) are school personnel involved (for elementary student and Disabilities Services (IFSP) and Individualized Education
  developed with parents, teachers and other or secondary students). Coordinator on campus. Program (IEP) are developed with
  specialists. Same for college or post secondary.   parents, teachers and other
        specialists involved.
Classroom Placement must be in the least restrictive Placement is in regular classroom with All courses are mainstream with Placement must be in the least
Placement environment (LRE). This may be special support services to eliminate barriers to accommodations provided to students restrictive environment (LRE).
  classrooms, resource or regular classroom. the educational experience (for elementary, who qualify under ADA. This may be special classrooms,
  (Elementary and Secondary children) secondary and college students).   resource or regular classroom.
        (Elementary and secondary children).
Developed by the Postsecondary Education Consortium at the University of Tennessee, a member of PEPnet, through an agreement
with the U. S. Department of Education, Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.


The ADA: "Know Your Rights and Accommodations"

 A growing body of research highlights how important it is for students with disabilities to develop self-determination and self-advocacy skills before they leave school. To do this they need to be provided with opportunities to learn about their disability and how it affects them, understand the accommodations they need to be successful, express their accommodation needs in school and other settings, and know the basics of laws that address the rights of people with disabilities.

One of the most important laws for people with disabilities is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. The ADA is a civil rights law that protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination in the workplace, school and other settings. Although the ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, an employee who requires accommodations in order to perform a job must disclose information about the disability and the need for specific accommodations to the employer in order to be protected by the law. That's why it is important that students develop the skills to do this effectively before they enter the workforce.

A reasonable accommodation is any change or adjustment to a job or work environment that permits a qualified individual with a disability to participate in the job application process and to perform the essential functions of a job. Reasonable accommodations are usually less expensive than people think. In most cases, an appropriate reasonable accommodation can be made without difficulty and at little or no cost. Examples of reasonable accommodations include making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by an individual with a disability; restructuring a job; modifying work schedules; acquiring or modifying equipment; providing qualified readers or interpreters; or modifying examinations, training, or other programs.

ADA Links:




Although a few of these links specify they are geared toward children with ADD/ADHD, you'll find they will work with ASD children also.

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) Teaching Tips for Teachers

Children-Special Needs ~ Vision, Learning, and Dyslexia ~ Software for dyslexia, talking computers, text to speech synthesis, speech recognition, TextHelp, etc.

Dyslexia Information.Com ~ easy to use homework sites tricks of study, acquiring skills resources, sites for schools ~ For teachers of children and students with dyslexia; teaching methods, recognizing dyslexia, assessment.....

SofDesign Dyslexia Training ~ Special programs for dyslexics and information regarding dyslexia.

Educator Resources - ADD

TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children) hs several good items including Structured Teaching, Structuring For Success (Inclusion Ideas), Strategies for Surviving Middle School with an Included Child with Autism and more.

Teaching Tips for Children and Adults with Autism by Temple Grandin, Ph.D. ~ Assistant Professor

Surviving Middle School
by Elizabeth Lewandowski

The move from elementary school to middle school is a tough one for our children and for us as parents. Middle schools are larger, there are more students, and the change may be disorienting for our children. In elementary school, children spend most of the day with one teacher who has more time to get to know each child, see problems developing, and learn what teaching methods work and don't work for a child. In middle school, our children have different teachers for each class, teachers see more students and have less time to get to know them. Here the work is more difficult, abstract, expectations are greater, and homework increases.

Educators tell me that grades 5-8 are the toughest socially and behaviorwise for all students, with 7th being the most difficult. (6th was the most difficult for my son.) Hormones have a lot to do with this, as boys become more territorial, and can mistake our children's clumsiness or knocking into them as a challenge, which can cause hallway scuffles.

Our children are also going through puberty. The teenage attitude, perception, and tone of voice experienced and expressed by someone who does not always have a clear understanding of "the social ropes" add to the struggles of adolescence.

There is also more social stress and peer pressure in middle school. Most children are trying to fit in and be like everyone else, or not be noticed at all. Our children may be unaware of how their actions are interpreted by others. Because they stand out and are often alone, they are picked on more than most. They have neither the coping skills nor the support network of friends that other children have.

As a parent who has been through the ups and downs of middle school with my child, and if we both make it through the coming school year, will have survived it, here are some tips (gleaned from our experiences and from the writings of such authors as Rick Lavoie, Susan Moreno, and Karen Williams)that might help you and your child make it through to the high school years.

Encourage the school to continue using strategies that have helped your child in previous grades. These strategies might range from avoiding sarcasm (Maintaining a calm, matter-of-fact tone of voice is important. When one of our children speaks in an angry or upset tone of voice, responding in a similar tone of voice can escalate the entire situation.), to writing assignments on the board or, especially for complex ones, photocopying them (It can be difficult for our children to absorb information if it is not written, and our children tend to have difficulty with executive function skills), to building check points into long assignments (to make sure the child is doing the work and doing it properly).

Selecting a teacher who will work well with your child is the most important intervention. If your child's elementary school teacher is unfamiliar with the middle school teachers, ask her to write up a list of qualities that your child's "ideal" teacher would have. Also come up with your own wish list. Speak to child study team members, ask their opinion, and share your wish list with them.

There are some children you know do not mix well with your child. It is not only detrimental to your child if they are in the same class, but it also makes more work for the teacher. Let the child study team know who these children are. (Try to keep the list small.) If there are several schools feeding into your middle school, find out which children pick on children that are different. (Parents and child study teams will know.) Avoid having these children in your child's class.

Talk to your child's teacher and come up with a positive student profile. Write up the great things about your child, what he needs help with, what interventions work, which ones don't. Also include your child's strengths and special interests. (Teachers can use these to promote self-esteem as well as acceptance among school-mates.) Give this to the child study team and your child's teachers.

Introduce yourself to the vice-principal (or the person handling discipline), the guidance counselor, and the members of the middle school child study team. Establishing a positive rapport makes it easier to work together should difficulties arise.

Consult with the child study team and establish a person your child can see when he is upset, or a place he can go when he needs "down time". Find out about getting a permanent pass to the guidance office.

Ask if your child can walk through the school before the regular orientation and meet his teachers. Anything that can ease the transition is worthwhile.

Consider requesting a second set of textbooks to keep at home. This is helpful if your child forgets to bring the correct books home, or if he feels panicky at the end of the school day trying to select needed books and catch the bus.

If your school has lockers, request your child's locker not be near a child who is likely to give him a hard time. Ask if it is possible for an especially kind, understanding, or friendly student to have a locker next to his. Find out if your child can practice opening his locker before school starts. Ask about hallway supervision.

Find out about Physical Education (P.E.) class, supervision of the locker room, and whether the children are expected to shower. If there are assigned lockers, ask if your child can have one near the P.E. teacher's office. He should definitely not have a locker in an area out of the teacher's sight. Talk to the P.E. teacher about any difficulties your child may have. Ask the P.E. teacher from the elementary school to speak to the P.E. teacher at the middle school about what works and what doesn't work with your child.

Determine who supervises the lunchroom, if there are any special routines or rules, and if seats are assigned. If seats are assigned, ask that compatible students sit with your child. At least one of the lunchroom aides should be inserviced on Asperger Syndrome and should be asked to "keep an eye out" for your child. Also, it may be possible for a teacher or guidance counselor to pop in from time to time. A skilled educator can often spot problems involving social skills and can intervene. Find out if the children have recess or outdoor time when they are done eating. If they do, speak to whoever is responsible for supervising it and let them know about any concerns you may have.

Inform the bus driver about your child's disability, special needs, and any potential problems. Find out about the bus rules. If there is assigned seating, make sure your child will not be seated near children who will harass him.

Stress to the school personnel the importance of intervening when bullying or mean-spirited teasing occurs in their presence. When they do not intervene, it gives our children and their schoolmates the message that it is okay to treat our children this way, and that they are deserving of this treatment.

Do not assume that the people at the middle school will communicate with each other about problems or potential solutions. Even if they intend to, things can get very hectic, and it might take a while. If your child has a problem, speak to his teacher, his case manager, and anyone else who can help come up with a solution or needs to be aware of problem situations.

Cultivate a friendship with at least one other parent of a middle schooler. (Hopefully one whose child is in class with yours.) You'll have someone to call in a panic if your child forgets to write down an assignment or if you can not figure out what an assignment is from what he has written down. This friend can also help you figure out what clothing and hairstyles will help your child blend in. Their child might let them know about any major problems developing for your child. You can also ask about general school atmosphere or events that your child may be unable to communicate to you.

Encourage your child to get involved in activities or clubs that are of interest to him. He may be able to connect with other students who have similar interests and eventually develop a friendship.

Do your best to get a social skills group started in your school. It will help your child improve social and coping skills. School staff can help him learn to generalize these skills outside of the group. He will also have a chance to connect with other children who may not be completely hooked into a group of friends.

If you have found a skilled, intuitive professional outside the school setting who is experienced in teaching social skills to autistic spectrum children, have your child continue working with him/her. It is an investment in your child's future.

I hope these tips and ideas will help smooth your child's path through middle school. I wish someone had clued me in to these before my son and I began our middle school odyssey.


Independent Educational Evaluation

You have the right to obtain an independent educational evaluation of your child.

You have the right to an independent educational evaluation at public expense if you disagree with an evaluation obtained by your district. However, your district may initiate a due process hearing to show that its evaluation is appropriate. If the final decision is that the evaluation is appropriate, you still have the right to an independent educational evaluation, but not at public expense.

If you get an independent educational evaluation at your own expense, the school district must consider the results and recommendations of the independent educational evaluation in any decision made about your child's educational program. You may also present the results of an independent educational evaluation at a due process hearing.

You also have the right to request a re-evaluation to determine if your child's educational needs have changed.

It is important to remember that the IEE relates to evaluation and not to the placement of the child in a particular special education program. While the school may have to pay for an IEE which differs from their own evaluation, they are not obligated to pay for an IEE which agrees with their evaluation of the student but differs in its recommendations as to how the IEP should be written. A Wisconsin case involving the River Falls School District and a parent who was seeking to have the district pay for her son's IEE demonstrates this point. The summary ends with this conclusion:

State law grants a parent of a child who has been evaluated for EEN the right to obtain an IEE of the child if the parent disagrees with the district's M-team evaluation. A parent's right to obtain an IEE and have it paid for by the district arises only when the parent disagrees with an M-team evaluation conducted by the district.

The complainant has not expressed disagreement with her son's current M-team evaluation. Accordingly, the complainant does not have the right to obtain an IEE for her son and have it paid for by the district. The district did not violate the law by denying complainant's request for payment for an IEE for her son.

The Individual Education Program (IEP)
The IEP is the written plan that describes what your child will work on through special education services.

The IEP meeting usually includes, at a minimum, the special education teacher, you (parent/guardian), and a school district administrative representative. The child may be involved if appropriate, particularly at the secondary level (middle school and high school). Other participants may include the school psychologist, school social worker, the school nurse and any teachers who work with your child.

The IEP is completed at this meeting, with you, before your child is ready to receive special education services. It is then reviewed at a meeting with you and the school staff at least once a year thereafter. It also can be reviewed at any time upon request.

There have been reports of teachers arriving at the IEP meeting with the forms already completed, just waiting for the parents signature. While this may save time, it is not a legal procedure. The parent is to have input in what is included in the IEP and how the IEP is written.

It would be appropriate for teachers or other school staff to come prepared with evaluation findings, statements of present levels of educational performance, and a recommendation regarding annual goals, short term instructional objectives, and the kind of special education and related services to be provided. However, the school must make it clear to the parents at the outset of the meeting that the services proposed are only recommendations for review and discussion with the parents.

The final IEP must contain the following:
A statement of the child's present levels of educational performance

The statement of present levels of educational performance will be different for each child with a disability. Thus, determinations about the content of the statement for an individual child are matters that are left to the discretion of participants in the IEP meetings. However, the following are some points that should be taken into account in writing this part of the IEP.

The statement should accurately describe the effect of the child's disability on the child's performance in any area of education that is affected, including (1) academic areas (reading, math, communication, etc.), and (2) non-academic areas (daily life activities, mobility, etc.).
Note: Labels such as mental retardation or deafness may not be used as a substitute for the description of present levels of educational performance.

The statement should be written in objective measurable terms, to the extent possible. Data from the child's evaluation would be a good source of such information. Test scores that are pertinent to the child's diagnosis might be included, if appropriate. However, the scores should be (1) self-explanatory (i.e., they can be interpreted by all participants without the use of test manuals or other aids), or (2) an explanation should be included. Whatever test results are used should reflect the impact of the disability on the child's performance. Thus, raw scores would not usually be sufficient.

There should be a direct relationship between the present levels of educational performance and the other components of the IEP. Thus, if the statement describes a problem with the child's reading level and points to a deficiency in a specific reading skill, this problem should be addressed under both (1) goals and objectives, and (2) specific special education and related services to be provided to the child.

A statement of annual goals, including short-term instructional objectives;

The annual goals in the IEP are statements that describe what a child with a disability can reasonably be expected to accomplish within a twelve month period in the child's special education program. There should be a direct relationship between the annual goals and the present levels of educational performance. These goals must be specific and measurable.

A statement of the specific special education and related services to be provided to the child and the extent that the child will be able to participate in regular educational programs;

The IEP must specify how many hours per day will be spent in the special education setting and how many hours a day will be spent in the regular classroom. Any other special services, such as adaptive physical education, speech therapy, or other specialized programs must also be clearly stated in the IEP, along with goals and objectives for each.

If modifications (supplementary aids and services) to the regular education program are necessary to ensure inclusion, those modifications must be described in the child's IEP. This applies to any regular education program in which the student may participate, including physical education, art, music, and vocational education.

The projected dates for initiation of services and the anticipated duration of the services;

The IEP is usually written for each school year.

Appropriate objective criteria and evaluation procedures and schedules for determining, on at least an annual basis, whether the short term instructional objectives are being achieved.

How will the student demonstrate progress towards meeting these objectives? These may be either formal or informal assessments, but they must be clearly stated in the IEP.

Due Process
Handle any disagreements in a professional manner. There are some common sense steps you can take towards resolving conflicts which could make the situation less confrontational and more productive.

If the school and family cannot come to an agreement on the needs, placement, or program of a student, both parties have the right to request a due process hearing to resolve their differences.

If you do not consent to the placement or to the proposed IEP, the school may still believe your child needs special education. The school may ask for mediation or a due process hearing to have your child evaluated without your consent. The school may ask for mediation or a due process hearing to have your child receive special education without your consent.

Either you or the school district may request a due process hearing in the event of a disagreement regarding the following:

- An assessment proposal or plan;
- Refusal to initiate or change your child's identification, assessment, or educational placement; or
- The provision of a free appropriate public education.
- A hearing may also be requested regarding some disciplinary actions. Due process hearing procedures include the right to a mediation, and the right to a fair and impartial administrative hearing at the state level.

The school district is required by law to have established procedures to permit you to resolve any disagreement you have concerning your child's placement through a process called mediation. Mediation is a process that permits you and the school district to present the dispute to a neutral third party. The school district is required to make mediation available to you when you request a hearing.

You are not required to mediate your dispute with the school district.

The school district may not use the mediation process to delay or prevent a due process hearing. The mediation process may not be used to deny you any other rights to which you are entitled under the law. If you do choose to mediate, the mediation must be conducted by a qualified impartial mediator who has been trained in the use of effective mediation techniques.

If you choose to not particpate in mediation, you should be aware that schools can still establish procedures that require you to meet with a neutral third party, even if such meeting is for the sole purpose of explaining the benefits of mediation and encouraging you to use the mediation process.

The state is required to have a list of qualified mediators who are knowledgeable in the provision of special education services. The state will pay for premediation meetings described above as well as the mediation itself.

Mediating sessions must be scheduled in a timely manner and held at a location that is convenient to the parties to the dispute. Discussions during the mediation are confidential and cannot be used as evidence in subsequent due process hearings or civil proceedings. If you and the school district reach an agreement during mediation, this agreement must be put in writing.

In extreme cases, the case may go to court. However, be aware that another case, Collinsgru v. Palmyra Board of Education, No. 96-5807 (3rd Cir. November 23, 1998) established a precedence when the Court ruled that parents could NOT represent their child in federal court in regards to matters of mediation.

Source url no longer working.


This is a good checklist for parents to give to the teacher; also a very good document to give to a Doctor that may be evaluating your child.

Behaviors That May Be Personal Challenges For A Student With An Autism Spectrum Disorder

These forms were adapted from the Technical Assistance Manual on Autism for Kentucky Schools by Nancy Dalrymple and Lisa Ruble, which is an excellent resource for parents, teachers, and special education personnel.

Qualitative Impairments in Social Interaction:

____wanting and needing to be left alone at times
____trouble with back and forth social interactions
____inability to respond to social cues
____inability to understand how somone else might feel
____inappropriate giggling or laughing
____impaired imitation - not engaging in simple games of childhood
____not accepting cuddling, hugging, touching unless self initiated
____lack of socially directed smiles when young
____little sense of other people's boundaries
____engaging in stereotypic question asking as interaction pattern
____inappropriately intrusive in social situations
____mimicking actions from TV, but not in reciprocal manner
____inappropriate use of eye contact, avoidance or extended staring
____poor use of non-verbal gestures
____trouble with competition, i.e., winning, losing, being first

Restricted Repetitive & Stereotyped Patterns of Behavior, Interests & Activities:

____repeatedly watching videos or video segments
____lining up and/or ordering objects
____strong attachment to inanimate objects (strings, bottles)
____fascination with movement (spinning wheels, fans, door & drawers)
____pacing or running back and forth, round and round
____exploring environment through licking, smelling, touching
____very sensitive to sounds (may have acted as if deaf as baby)
____insistence on routines, resisting change
____negative reaction to change in environment
____perfectionist, problems with correction or "mistake"
____difficulty with unstructured time
____difficulty waiting
____impaired response to temperature or pain
____staring at patterns, lights, or shiny surfaces
____lack of fear of real danger
____excessive fearfulness of some harmless objects or situations
____defensive to touch that isn't self initiated
____history of eating problems
____history of sleeping problems

Qualitative Impairments in Communication:

____problems with pronouns
____problems getting the order of words in sentences correct
____problems answering questions
____problems responding to directions
____problems understanding jokes
____problems understanding multiple meaning of words
____problems understanding sarcasm, idioms, and figurative speech
____echoing what is said directly, later, or in a slightly changed way
____low spontaneously initiated communication
____difficulty understanding abstract concepts
____difficulty with concepts that are time bound or lack concreteness
____difficulty with long sentences
____difficulty when verbalizations are too fast
____problems with reciprocal conversations
____problems using speed, tone, volume appropriately

Learning Characteristics:

____uneven profile of skills
____well developed long term memory
____ability to manipulate items better than paper-pencil abilities
____over and under generalization of learning
____good visual skills
____short attention span to some activities and not to others
____delayed response time
____problems organizing
____sequential learner
____needs help to problem solve

Observable Problem Behaviors:

____aggression - biting, hitting, kicking, pinching
____self-injurious behaviors - biting, hitting, pinching, banging parts of body
____temper tantrums
____screaming, yelling
____non-compliance and refusal to move, to do things
____eating problems
____sleeping problems
____toileting problems
____low motivation

Possible Motor Problems:

____motor planning - can't seem to make body do what it needs to do
____motor fatigue - tired easily
____perceptual motor, spacing, sequencing, printing, writing
____initiation - can't seem to be started in motor acts


Some Environmental Challenges that Lower A Student's
Ability to Function Competently

Internal Comments:

____not being understood
____not understanding
____not having enough information
____not having adequate skills for job
____not having choices
____making a mistake
____being tired
____being sick
____being touched
____being hungry

Major Changes

____alterations at school, work, home, community
____small schedule changes
____time changes
____activity location changes
____staff or teacher absent
____friend or buddy absent
____family member or friend is late or not coming
____anticipating an event or activity
____cancellation of an event or activity
____having to wait too long

Environmental Confusion

____surrounded by too much movement
____surrounded by competing visual stimuli
____not having enough space
____being off the pace of others
____losing things of value


____being corrected
____being denied
____being interrupted
____being late
____being ignored
____fear of losing people who are valuable
____being teased
____being left out
____being scolded


Possible Sensory Challenges: Risk Factors


____has been diagnosed with hearing problem at some time
____reacts to unexpected sounds
____fears some noises
____distracted by certain sounds
____confused about direction of sounds
____making self-induced noises
____likes sounds that are constant and mask outside sounds


____has been diagnosed with a visual problem
____is senstive to light
____avoids eye contact
____is distracted by some or too much visual stimuli
____enjoys watching moving things/bright objects
____has difficulty tracking
____becomes excited when confronted with a variety of visual stimuli
____has trouble with stairs, heights
____enjoys patterns
____upset by things looking different
____makes decisions about food, clothing, objects by sight
____arranges environment in certain ways and can tell if out of order
____closely examines objects or hands
____likes TV, VCR


____sensitive to smells
____smells objects, food, people
____explores environment by smelling
____reacts strongly to some smells
____ignores strong ordors


____is defensive about being touched
____prefers deep touching rather than soft
____has to know someone is going to touch ahead of time
____initiates hugs, cuddling
____explores environment by touching
____becomes irritated if bumped or touched by peers
____dislikes the feel of certain clothing
____refuses to touch certain things
____is sensitive to certain clothing
____over or under dresses for temperature
____doesn't like showers
____likes to play in water
____mouths objects or clothing
____refuses to walk on certain surfaces
____appears to have depth perception problems
____dislikes having hair, face, or mouth touched
____upset by sticky, gooey hands


____has an eating problem
____dislikes certain foods/textures
____will only eat a small variety of foods
____tastes non-edibles
____explores environment by tasting


____seems fearful in space
____arches back when held or moved
____spins or whirls self around
____moves parts of body a great deal
____likes rocking, swinging, spinning
____walks on toes
____appears clumsy, bumping into things
____climbs a lot and doesn't fall
____avoids balancing activities

Perceptual/Perceputal Motor

____has trouble with paper/pencil activities
____has difficulty with time perception
____difficulty with body in space
____relies on knowing location of furniture
____problems with use of some tools
____problems organizing materials and moving them appropriately
____distracted by door, cupboards being open, holes, or motion


Social Skills That May be Personal Challenges

Personal Management/Self Control

____finishing work
____taking care of personal and school belongings
____being quiet when required
____talking when spoken to, especially if asked a question
____working independently without bothering others
____being prepared and organized for activities and lessons
____turning in assignments on time
____changing activities
____accepting correction
____accepting that mistakes can be fixed

Reciprocal Interactions

____taking turns
____sitting and participating in group
____initiating social interactions
____gaining joint attention (point, look,talk)
____offering help, comfort
____asking for help, seek comfort
____inviting others to join
____asking for feedback, recruit praise
____asking for a favor
____social chat
____getting attention in specific way, raising hand, waiting
____caring when someone is hurt or sick, not laughing
____letting someone know that you are hurt or sick
____asking someone to play or do an activity

Reciprocating Social Interactions Appropriately

____commenting on a topic
____answering questions
____giving a reliable yes/no
____accepting help
____accepting that some things aren't possible
____responding to teasing
____making a choice
____sharing other's enjoyment
____giving eye contact appropriately

Manner of Interaction

____being polite
____being kind
____being considerate
____not being a tattler
____being honest
____not hitting, kicking, saying bad words
____looking at person talking appropriately
____not walking away while someone is talking
____keep a specified distance from a person

Learning Situation Specific Behaviors

____with peers, no adults
____in church, school, home
____at a sports event
____in a store
____with strangers
____what and where are private
____with authority figures

Abstract Social Concepts

____being good
____doing one's best

Group Behaviors

____come when called to group
____stay in certain places
____participate with group
____follow group rules:
__________talk one at a time
__________pick up, clean up, straighten up
__________put away
__________get out
__________walk, stand still, stay to right
__________voting - majority rules
__________winning and losing


Questions to Ask About

When these questions are answered, remember to address and analyze the
student's entire day and week across all environments to assure these
motivational strategies are addressed systematically.

Are the activities useful and meaningful for the student?

Are experiences shared rather than constantly instructed?

Is information given so person understands; questioning developed &

Are there cooperative experiences?

Are likes, interests, and strengths; questions minimized?

Is intrinsic motivation utilized?

Are naturally occurring reinforcers used?

Is natural initiation encouraged and invited?

Are attempts towards goals and objectives reinforced?

Are environmental and instructional cues utilized instead of relying on
constant adult verbal and physical cues?

Is feedback provided immediately so the connection between the reinforcer and event is clear?

Are familiar, acquired activities kept in the program as new ones are added?

Are the reinforcing simuli varied, are there choices of reinforcers, and is the schedule of reinforcement varied?

Are student preferences used and attempts made to update these and use reinforcers that the student REALLY likes?

Are typical social reinforcers (smile, pat, praise)really motivating?

Is choice making encouraged, invited, accepted and taught?

Are the options for choice expanded through meaningful experiences and successes?

Is reciprocal communications encouraged and is there ample opportunity?

Are reciprocal social interactions reinforced and shared rather than corrected?

Personal Resources: Protective Factors

The likes and preferences as well as the interests of the student with anautism spectrum disorder must be discovered, known, and kept current. These need to be a part of the student's program plan, used to create interest, and to motivate the student. Analyze the student's day to see when and how many of the preferences and interests are incorporated throughout the day.

If the student is in situations that are constantly challenging without some reinforcing activities, learning will be threatened.

Availiability When? and How Often? Choice?


Personal Resources: Protective Factors

Equally as important are using the strengths of the student in all learning experiences. Build upon strengths, incorporate them and build self-esteem. Too often a student with autism spectrum disorder is taught through weakness.

Strengths -
How and When Used