Autism: Questions to ask during the ARD meeting
Monday, November 22, 2010 — (The Brownsville Herald – Headlines : Local) –
ARD meetings can be intimidating to even the most prepared families. The ARD, which stands for Admission, Review and Dismissal, is an annual meeting for any child labeled as needing special education. During the meeting, several different documents will be discussed. These documents can total dozen of pages for you to review. They include the individual education plan along with many other reports such as the autism supplement, behavior intervention plan, the full and individual evaluation and a variety of other assessments.
Imagine being a young parent with a special needs child for the first time or a parent with limited English. When you go to the meeting, you will be surrounded by the school administrator, the special education teacher, a general education teacher and most likely the diagnostician at the very minimum. In addition, several others may also be present such as specialists for speech, occupational therapy, hearing impaired, visually impaired, adaptive PE, LPAC (for Limited English children) and physical therapy. That can be very overwhelming for many families.
Recently, I was asked to help with a family no longer in our area review their child’s ARD documents. They went to a new part of the country and were unsure of what their rights were. When you review the ARD documents, it is important to focus on those areas that are important to you, as a parent. Don’t be afraid to ask questions while at the meeting. Write them down ahead of time. For example, a good question to always ask for a child who is primarily in a self contained unit is: Will my child be participating in general education classes?
Every child has a right to an equal access to education. A child that is severely cognitively delayed can benefit from being present in a general education class. The stimulation may be the noise or the gentleness of a child pushing a child in a wheelchair around the gym. The benefits go both ways especially in teaching tolerance for all people. P.E., music, computer labs, and art are example areas where almost all special education children benefit from participating with their peers. That was an issue raised at a recent ARD by the parents. The child had previously participated in music, computers, library and P.E. At the new school, he wasn’t being given that same opportunity. The parents told the school that it was not in their child’s best interest not to be participating in these programs.
What about the actual goals and objectives written? For children with autism spectrum disorders, focus tightly on the communication, reading and writing goals. If your child is nonverbal, encourage the teacher to have goals and objectives centering on specific words, vocabulary that will help him in daily life. If he cannot talk, he can express his needs by a picture icon or even an augmentative communication device. Ask if they are teaching your child how to communicate with picture icons. You can even request information on what books they plan to use.
Also, how is your child’s success being measured in his classroom work? For some children, the teacher might need to introduce a subject by taking the child’s hand and guiding it directly to the answers. Another child might need to have the answer given by giving a physical prompt such as pointing to the answer. Eventually, all children will work towards doing things independently. Make sure it is clear to you the level that your child will be working on. Just saying prompts and cues doesn’t tell you enough. Plus, does the child choose the answers from two choices, three choices or more? Is a test at a 70 percent accuracy or even a 100 percent accuracy level for success?
One of the hardest areas to discuss will be therapy services. Often, many districts are struggling with limited personnel. However, for children with autism spectrum disorders, services such as speech, occupational therapy and physical therapy are particularly important in the early years of development. Check the minutes of service. Ask if the service is given every week or will they make up minutes all at once so the child may not be receiving consistent services. Are the services done in class, or is it one to one or is the service in a small group? Ultimately, you and your family will benefit by asking questions.
Pamela Gross Downing, a special education teacher, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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