Question: To what educational opportunities is my child with autism entitled?
Answer: The child with autism has a range of entitlements. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ensures that children with disabilities can receive a free and appropriate education in the least-restrictive environment. There's often quite a bit of discussion about 'appropriate.' It is 'appropriate' -- the wording -- and not 'optimal' to help families work with their school districts in terms of addressing this need. A number of states have had work forces looking in an evidence-based fashion at the available data that helps to inform us and educators about what approaches should be utilized with given children, and that's been helpful to parents in terms of advocating for appropriate educational services.
The Least Restrictive Environment refers to the child being served educationally in the setting where they have access to the most typically developing children. For children under three, the terminology is that the child should be served in a natural setting, and that's typically the home for that age group.
In addition, the child with autism and their families should be entitled to knowledge that their child will be safe and supervised, that any co-occurring medical needs will be addressed, such as the presence of a nurse on hand for a child who has significant asthma or seizures. The child will need to have certain activities of daily living issues addressed, such as perhaps toileting, and help with self-care or feeding may need to be worked into the IEP, and these are entitlements as well.
And in the end, if the family feels that the child's needs have not been met through this process, they have the right to due process, which would allow them to readdress this system impartially.