Asperger's Syndrome in Young Children: A Developmental Guide for Parents and Professionals

By Laurie Leventhal-Belfer; Cassandra Coe | Go to book overview

APPENDIX III
Eligibility Criteria for Special Education
Services in the United States

How do the [Education of All Handicapped] laws translate for the young child with Asperger's Syndrome? It is important to understand that, despite having a diagnosis of autism or Asperger's Syndrome, a child isn't automatically guaranteed special education services. Eligibility is determined by evaluating whether or not the child's disorder is significantly impacting the overall functioning (academic, behavioral, and social) of the child in his classroom environment. States can vary in the way they interpret the federal guidelines; however, most states look to determine a discrepancy between a child's IQ and his academic functioning. Younger children typically qualify for services when their scores on standardized assessments in language, motor, and preacademic skills fall below 7 percent in two or more areas. Thus it is common for an autistic child to qualify, as the autism does impact a variety of areas of his or her functioning. But as discussed throughout this book, young children with Asperger's Syndrome typically have average cognitive, motor, receptive, and expressive language skills, not qualifying them readily for special education services. Thus the challenge can be how to appropriately describe the deficits of a child with Asperger's Syndrome when structured testing doesn't always pick up the pragmatic language, organizational, social, and behavioral weaknesses, and they don't meet all the criteria for autistic-like behavior. A good IEP (individualized education plan) team who has experience with these children may be able to determine eligibility based on behavioral and social difficulties. But often these services aren't available until after the child has exhibited significant behavioral problems in a mainstream regular classroom where interventions have been tried and modifications made by the teacher.

More often than not, it is the parents who learn to advocate for their child's rights that end up acquiring more services. However, parents need to be prepared that in many instances, despite strong advocacy, districts may not have the resources available. Parents also should be aware that districts can vary widely in how they interpret behavior and how they view inclusion/pull-out services.

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