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Posts Tagged ‘IEP’

Call it Cheating or Call it Accommodating?

August 1, 2011 23 comments

This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro. Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a recent graduate of Seton Hall University. He started the club Student Disability Awareness on campus to help spread awareness and raise funds for those affected by autism. Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities.

I’ve heard this debate to death. Where do we draw the line? Do individuals with disabilities deserve extended time on tests and other accommodations or does it give those individuals an unfair advantage versus the individuals who do not receive these accommodations? The main stream debate seems to have been focused on the SAT/ACT and quite recently involving the GRE/GMAT/LSAT’s as well.  (Imagine someone with autism with these choices!)  Where do I stand on the question? To be honest I’m not a firm believer in the concept of timed tests at all.

The reason this came up for me quite recently was I was having a discussion with a peer about how individuals with autism may not deserve extended time but other learning disabled individuals may  after all some person’s with Aspergers are off the charts intellectually. It should come down to how does your autism affect your writing skills; how does autism affect your ability to read an exam; and how does autism affect your ability to focus on an exam? While many individuals judge autistic individuals within a certain stereotype of it being a communication/social interaction disability the argument was that maybe it should be focused on those who have a stronger deficit in one of those 3 primary areas previously mentioned more apparent for individuals with Learning Disabilities such as Attention Deficit Disorder, Dyslexia and/or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

In both high school and college I received extended time on tests as an accommodation (in fact, in high School we were given the opportunity to take as long as we wanted/needed with no time limit). In college it was very interesting to see the reaction of my peers when I would tell them that I had extra time that they didn’t. One individual even went to the lines of saying that I was “cheating”. The hope of leveling the playing field is clearly not a belief seen by all.

So where does my opinion lie in this debate? Easy. I think the education system is broken. This is one of the many problems that our education system in theUnited Statesis dealing with. More individuals with disabilities are going to college now than ever before which includes those with autism. Does our patriotic message of “equality all” tarnish with extended time? Yes and no. Autism is a wide spectrum filled with many different types of traits and characteristics that affect us educationally. That means some will deserve this accommodation and some won’t. The problem is when you give someone permission for extended time you are only seeing that they have a disability. All the characteristics mean nothing. You either give it to all who have autism or you don’t.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Are you pro extended time or con for individuals with Autism? Thanks everyone for reading!

This is one of my Autism Speaks U related blog posts. If you would like to contact me directly about questions/comments related to this post I can be reached at kerry.magro@autismspeaks.org or through my Fan Page here.

Tips on Applying for Financial Aid for your Family Member with Autism

February 18, 2011 15 comments

This is a blog post by J-Jaye Hurley, Autism Response Team coordinator on the Autism Speaks Family Services team and the mother of a child with autism.


1.      Print all pages of the application and read them carefully. Twice.  . . These applications are usually lengthy and complex so you must review their own requirements.  Many applications ask for similar items (tax statements, IEPs, etc) but they are ALL in a different format.  If you do not provide the information they request AND in the format they request, you can be denied.  If you do not send in all the information at the same time, you can be denied.  Also review their application criteria before you apply.  A friend of mine filled out a long application only to realize they didn’t provide assistance for the therapy she was interested in.  Know all requirements before diving in.

2.     Be aware of deadlines.  Some family grants are year-round but the majority I applied for had specific deadlines. In fact, I was unable to apply for one that I wanted because I missed their annual deadline.  If you are requesting therapy notes or letters of recommendation, make sure you allow plenty of time to gather all information, complete application and send in PRIOR to that deadline.  If they receive your application after the deadline, you will be denied.

3.     Be concise and honest.  Most organizations review thousands of apps, and the majority of the application is financial information.  However, most apps ask the parent for some personal information about the child.  Make sure you tell them about your child, why you need their help and how this will make a difference for your child and family.  They don’t need your entire life story, but they do need you to be honest and upfront about your needs and situation.  Most of our stories speak for themselves so just be yourself and speak from the heart.  We are passionate parents and advocates by nature so go with what you know – your child.

4.     Get recommendations.  Some applications say they will accept letters of recommendation but don’t require them. I recommend your seeking those letters as they only serve to provide additional information on your child and family to this anonymous committee.  Ask your therapists, physicians or family members.  You can save letters and use them for multiple applications each year.

5.     Have a friend/spouse review your apps.  Before you mail in your completed applications, have someone review it for you.  My husband caught typos & had suggestions.  As a former English teacher, I always recommend having another pair of eyes review your writing.  Applications are no exception!

6.     Include a picture of your beautiful child!  This helps bring a personal and real connection to those reading your applications.

7.     If at first you don’t succeed, apply and apply again!  I was turned down for some of my applications and I plan to re-apply before 2011 deadlines.  Make a copy of your completed application, as it stays basically the same from year to year.  It is much easier to update last year’s application than start from scratch on a 10 page app.  Update your new information and try again.

Check out this article in Family Services Community Connections.

Family Services provides resources and information. If you have a question, contact the Autism Response Team today. If you’re concerned that your child may be affected with autism or if you’ve received a diagnosis, browse the Tools for Families section, where you’ll find our 100 Day Kit, and the Autism Video Glossary. If you’d like to do a quick search for service providers near you, selectFind a Local Resource and browse the Resource Guide.

In Their Own Words – Public vs. Private School Debate: Do the Math

September 24, 2010 33 comments

This “In Their Own Words,” is written by Glen Finland. She is the author of “Next Stop,” a memoir about raising her autistic son to adulthood and learning to let go.

Last year my autistic adult son David wrapped up twenty years of education, ten of them spent in private school, the other half in public school. And, hindsight being 20-20, here’s what educating a high functioning autistic son like David taught me. It’s simple mathematics: Send your kid to public school and keep your money in your wallet. You’re going to need it for what happens next—because what happens next is the rest of his life.

Parents of a young adult with special needs face an unending management of another person’s life over the decades ahead: housing, transportation, insurance, clothing, food, job coaching, medical expenses, and, of course, quality of life expenses like entertainment, vacations, and even pets. Think of how far the tuition fee of a single year of private school could go toward taking care of some of these expenses down the road. Now multiply that figure by twenty. The numbers will tell you if it’s a wise investment.

In public school with a good IEP, the services are free. They should be; you’ve already paid for them with your taxes. Your child will also learn in less of an isolated bubble—and yes—be forced to toughen up a bit by facing the real world struggles of life in the quicker moving mainstream. Don’t expect runaway success there. In fact, be prepared for regular bouts of failure. But no matter how painful the lesson, down the road your child will be that much better equipped for the the daily slights he’s sure to incur—those careless, casual assaults on his spirit that he will face simply for being differently abled.

For example, it has come to my attention that my 23-year old son is now a heavy tipper. These days he drives a 54-mile roundtrip each day to his job as a custodian at a federal office building outside the nation’s capital. He’s a good driver, but when he stops off for coffee along the way, he might pull out a $20 bill to pay for a single cup of java, then walk away. His generosity is not because he’s got such deep pockets; it’s because he wants to avoid the impossible math involved in the exchange and, even more, the eye contact that goes along with it. Whose pocket that leftover chunk of change ends up in is totally dependent upon the scruples of the particular cashier. It took me months to figure out where all his change was going and how to remedy the situation with a few five dollar bills, but these are the kind of real world surprises that continue to sneak up on us every day. This reminds me to be careful about who I allow to “keep the change” when it comes to planning ahead for my son’s future.

You know, it’s true what mothers have always said about the time with our children: “The days go by like years, and the years go by like days.” So go ahead and let your child ride the big yellow public school bus for now. It’ll do him no harm. And that way he can count on your really being there for him once school lets out for good.

“In Their Own Words” is a series within the Autism Speaks blog which shares the voices of people who have autism, as well as their loved ones. If you have a story you wish to share about your personal experience with autism, please send it to editors@autismspeaks.org. Autism Speaks reserves the right to edit contributions for space, style and content. Because of the volume of submissions, not all can be published on the site.

The End of the IEP and the Beginning of “Reasonable Accommodations”

July 25, 2010 15 comments

This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro.  Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a rising senior at Seton Hall University, majoring in Sports Management. He started an Autism Speaks U Chapter: Student Disability Awareness on campus to help spread awareness and raise funds for those affected by autism. Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events. It is an exciting and collaborative way for students to raise funds and awareness for Autism Speaks, while supporting their local autism communities.

In June 2007, I graduated from high school. It was an amazing time for me. The majority of my classmates and I were off to great new beginnings. My new beginning began at Seton Hall University. “This is going to be great!” I thought to myself on many occasions before the first day of classes.

Before this day happened however all new incoming freshman had to attend a summer “Orientation Period.” During this period we would have the chance to spend the night in the freshman dorms, receive our laptops and also get to meet several faculty members at the school. In addition to this, I had one additional separate meeting that most of the other freshman didn’t – an accommodation meeting with The Director of Disability Support Services at SHU.  This is when the ball dropped for me.

During the meeting I learned many intriguing and frightening things about how college was going to be a huge difference from high school; the main difference for me was going to be “The IEP.” When I asked what the difference would be, I was told the difference was I would not have one. I can’t believe I was that oblivious that this was going to happen.  Later, I learned that under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) the IEP only exists K-12th grade. At the college door you get a Section 504 accommodations plan.

In college, you only receive “reasonable accommodations” to help make the classes accessible to those specific students with disabilities. The bottom line: there is no plan for you. The only way to receive what you need is by being independent and advocating for your needs. But what does anyone need? If you are a freshman and have autism how do you explain what you need?

At times, this led to many distractions that never would have occurred when I was younger. Sometimes I thought it was unfair. I had to advocate for my own single room in the dorms due to my social complications, extended time on tests for my reading comprehension, a note taker for my classes due to my lack of motor skills and many other complications. For someone trying to fit in it seemed like it was designed to make you stand out like a sore thumb. It even seemed as if as soon as I accomplished one of these tasks, the next semester would begin and it would start all over again for my new courses which required different accommodations.

When you add this to managing a full course load, trying to socialize with your  fellow peers, along with being involved in extra-curricular activities, it can sometimes feels like you are drowning. I mean, “reasonable accommodations” are supposed to help level the playing field, not hinder you in any way. There isn’t a “reasonable accommodation” for that.

Although getting accommodations sometimes was daunting, I was still able to get by and will be going through the same process again with Disability Support Services come this September in my senior year at Seton Hall. For several semesters now I sit up front and tape most of my classes and download the recordings onto my computer, instead of utilizing a note taker. Never would have thought of that freshman year. For those reading who are younger and not yet in college, my advice is to sit in on as many IEP meetings as you can. Learn and ask as many questions as possible.  The letters after your diagnosis don’t tell you if you need extended time or a note taker, but knowing if you are a visual or auditory learner may. Within this I would also strongly consider letting your parents be involved in some of your early decision making, especially when it includes freshman year accommodations. Independence is not grown over night and we all need that added voice sometimes to make sure we are level-headed and knowing exactly what we are getting ourselves into.

As many say early intervention is the key once first diagnosed, early intervention for those on the spectrum in college (and high school for that matter as well) is the key to ultimate success. What I’ve noticed about autism over the years is that it’s not a weakness unless you let it become one. Don’t let it hinder you. Let the advantages of who you are and what you have to offer be your ability to make it at the college level; just always know what your weaknesses are so you can be ready for whatever is to come next!

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