Part 2: George turns 3, his legal rights

AUSTISM COLUMN Pamela Downing.jpg

AUSTISM COLUMN Pamela Downing.jpg

Posted: Friday, April 11, 2014 7:44 pm

Part 2: George turns 3, his legal rights

Special to the Star

Valley Morning Star

Gretchen decided to ask the teacher what she thought about her youngest child George. His sister, Jackie, had ASD (autism spectrum disorder). George at first seemed fine. He appeared to be developing normally for his age. After a while, it became obvious that George’s speech wasn’t quite right for his age and behavior problems were occurring. Did he have ASD? Did he need specialized early intervention?

The teacher knew the family fairly well. They were the kind of family teachers love to have. The parents followed through with suggestions from the school. Jackie even received outside therapy besides what she had at school. Most importantly, the home environment was filled with love. The teacher knew she could not say what specifically was wrong with the George. However, she did recognize basic milestones and George appeared to be lagging behind. She also knew that autism was a possible genetic factor too.

The teacher had seen the impact of families who failed to have their children tested to see if they qualified for specialized services. The ages of 0-6 are critical in the development for all children. If a son or daughter is lagging in speech or other cognitive skills, early intervention can help a child move forward academically. The teacher remembered one particular child, Richard, a first grader, who had never been in school until he turned 5. He was echo laic, not potty trained, and his behavior made it impossible to be considered for general education classes. The parents thought they had just spoiled Richard too much. Testing showed he had classic autism. They didn’t realize that Richard could have received specialized assistance from the school district once he turned three years old.

The teacher explained to George’s parents that testing needed to be done as soon as possible. The boy was nearing three years old. If the tests showed areas of deficiency, George may qualify for early intervention. Starting school early with specialized instruction can give a child the skills needed to move forward academically. Some children will catch up and enter general education while other students will move forward at their own pace.

George was discovered to have speech and academic deficiencies. Fortunately, with early intervention, George was able to move into the general education curriculum over time. He was held back one year which gave the boy a chance to catch up socially and academically.

Special education addresses a variety of disabilities. Some children, such as a deaf and blind child, will start receiving services immediately following their birth. Other children, depending on their disability, can enter into specialized education programs once they turn three years of age. They do not need to wait for the first day of school. Instead, they begin school services on the day of their third birthday. If you are concerned about your own child, do not wait until three to get your child tested. If you feel something is just not right, trust your instincts. Call your school district’s special education services center. It does not cost your family to do the testing or to receive early intervention.

Pamela Gross Downing, a special education teacher can be reached at


Friday, April 11, 2014 7:44 pm.

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