So, how do I actually use this supplement?
It’s great that Texas put into effect the autism supplement to help children with autism and their educators to make sure that they are receiving an appropriate education. But, in order for it to be effectively utilized, it’s a good idea to be familiar with the options for placement, services, and accommodations to which these strategies can lead.
My suggestion is to print your own copy of the autism supplement and talk to someone who is familiar with your child and his or her needs to get ideas—maybe your child’s therapist, tutor, a family friend familiar with special education, an educational advocate, etc.
In my previous post, “So what is the Autism Supplement? How do I get it? Do I want it?”, I provided an overview of the autism supplement located at 19 TAC §89.1055(e). (See statute for full text.) In this post, I will focus on the first two of the 11 strategies in the autism supplement and specific examples of strategies for each.
The first strategy:
“[E]xtended educational programming (for example: extended day and/or extended school year services that consider the duration of programs/settings based on assessment of behavior, social skills, communication, academics, and self-help skills) . . . .”
- Extended School Year (ESY) services
- After school tutoring
- Extended PPCD (private preschool for children with disabilities) program
ESY. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) defines “extended school year (ESY) services” as “an individualized instructional program for eligible students with disabilities that is provided beyond the regular school year.”
In order to qualify for ESY services, the student must require a significant amount of time to recoup acquired critical skills and need extended educational or related services during school breaks. However, if the loss of such skills would be severe or substantial or is reasonably expected to result in immediate physical harm to the student or others, the student can qualify for ESY services without consideration of the period of time necessary for recoupment of such skills.
The following requirements apply to ESY services:
- The need for and type of ESY services are determined by the student’s ARD committee on an individual basis.
- ESY services are student-need driven.
- ESY goals and activities are reflected in the student’s current IEP.
- All disability categories are considered for ESY.
- ESY services are not limited in type, amount, or duration and may include community options and services.
- Transportation is available for students with a need.
Recommendations if you want ESY services:
- In the ARD meeting, tell the committee that you think ESY is appropriate for your child.
- Early in the process (the first ARD, if possible), ask for the school to keep data on your child during breaks (g. holidays, summer, etc.) to determine whether there is regression.
- If you have outside therapy providers, ask them to keep data regarding regression during therapy breaks.
The second strategy.
“[D]aily schedules reflecting minimal unstructured time and active engagement in learning activities (for example: lunch, snack, and recess periods that provide flexibility within routines; adapt to individual skill levels; and assist with schedule changes, such as changes involving substitute teachers and pep rallies) . . . .”
In 2007, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), advised “there is a growing consensus that important principles and components of effective early childhood intervention for children with ASDs include . . . incorporation of a high degree of structure through elements such as predictable routine, visual activity schedules, and clear physical boundaries to minimize distractions . . . .”
Minimal unstructured time means that IEP goals and objectives are being addressed, and the student is being engaged throughout the day and across settings, and it begins the minute the student arrives and ends the minute he or she leaves—I suggest also considering any time spent on school provided transportation. The schedule is student specific—not teacher or classroom specific—and formats and time increments should be tailored to the individual needs of the student.
During the ARD meeting, remember to consider and discuss the following:
- Examine behaviors during unstructured times, including the following considerations, if applicable:
- Is there an increase in self-stimulatory behaviors?
- Is there an increase in off-task behaviors?
- Is there an increase in self-injurious or aggressive behaviors?
- Are difficulties observed during transition periods?
- Analyze the student’s behavior in different unstructured environment (g. general education classroom, hallways, cafeteria, playground, small and large group settings, job site, restroom, assemblies, and pep rallies).
- Can the student use the same schedule as everyone else with no problems, including when schedule changes occur?
- How will the student be informed of the schedule so as to minimize surprise? Options include:
- Picture schedules. These may stay on the board in front of the room or with the student. Someone should review the schedule with the student each morning. Make sure to discuss privacy concerns—for example, a student probably would not be comfortable with his or her toileting schedule being posted for the entire class to see.
- Weekly planners for older students. Someone should review the schedule for the upcoming day with the student each morning.
These examples are not exclusive! Think outside the box. Get ideas from the internet, friends, family, therapists, doctors, etc. to work with the school to craft a plan for your child.
 Myers, Scott M., MD, Chris Plauche; Johnson, MD, MEd. “Management of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders.” Pediatrics—Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, vol. 120, no. 5., Oct. 2007, pp. 1162 – 1182, http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/early/2007/ 10/29/peds.2007-2362.full.pdf.