Legal Rights of Children with AutismAutism Mom Blog

Legal Rights of Children with Autism

Every citizen is granted the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (among other things).  But on the whole, children are not considered full-fledged citizens until they reach the age of 18, at which time they are adults (unless they somehow manage to become emancipated at a younger age).  So whether children have autism or not they technically enjoy no legal rights.  And yet, there are legal issues pertaining to the protection of children, and to their health, well-being, and access to public services.  This is especially relevant for kids with disabilities, since they may face discriminatory practices without the ability to speak up for themselves.  And when it comes to children with special needs, such as those who suffer from an autism spectrum disorder, the law makes allowances for both education and specialized services.

A good place to start is with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), passed in 1974, and subsequently amended and expanded in 1997 and 2005.  This act guarantees that children will have access to a free and appropriate public education, regardless of any disabilities they may suffer.  Autism is one of the disabilities specifically outlined by this law.  Other legal rights afforded to children with autism are outlined in section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, by which special services must be provided to disabled children in the course of their education (when not covered by IDEA).  For example, schools unable to provide for the special needs of an autistic child (if specific facilities or professionals are required) must find a way to make such services available, either by way of private schooling or other off-campus arrangements.

But how can you use these laws to the advantage of your child?  There are several steps that must be taken.  First and foremost, you’ll have to secure an independent expert evaluation.  Schools may perform such an evaluation on your child if they feel (or you inform them) that autism is possible.  This will result in a recommendation that addresses your child’s particular educational needs.  However, you should keep in mind that schools have a lot of children to think about, not just yours, and they also have a budget.  Plus, school psychologists are often woefully uniformed on the topic of autism.  This doesn’t necessarily mean they will intentionally bilk your child, but if a lapse in education occurs because you didn’t exercise due diligence, your child will be the one who suffers for your oversight.

After you visit an expert (or several) and receive recommendations for your child’s educational needs, you must turn copies over to the school district for review.  This will be followed up with a meeting to create an individualized education plan (IEP) for your child.  The IEP will be based on recommendations by the school, reports from outside experts (obtained by you), and the input of the parents.  It’s important to realize that at this point, the school is trying to spend the least amount of money possible, so you need to come prepared with evidence that backs up your claim to all services afforded your child under the law.  You may even want to hire an attorney if you feel that you’re being railroaded, lied to, or simply denied your child’s right to education and special services.  As the parent of an autistic child, the onus is on you to know the law and uphold it on your child’s behalf.

Kyle Simpson writes for Corboy and Demetrio, a personal injury law firm based in Chicago, Illinois. Check out the corporate website for information on Corboy & Demetrio community service.

7 comments to Legal Rights of Children with Autism

  • I like what you guys tend to be up too. Such clever work and coverage! Keep up the wonderful works guys I’ve incorporated you guys to our blogroll.

  • patricia

    my freinds 3 children were robbed from her by department of hildren and fanily services with false allegations, her son edward is 9 yrs old he is autisc he was placed 85 miles away from mom and dad, social worker tells mom and dad she dont have time to set up a vist it was 2 months before they gpt to see edward. social worker violated a welfare and insttion code children who are placed in foster care are allowed a phone call and a visit with their parents 24 hours after being placed, when edward seen his mom last week for the first time in 2 months he was moved again, in 2 months he has been moved 3 times, now he is in a shelter home with much older boys 16 and 17 boys with problems, edward reports to his mom his 16 yr old roomate is beating him up and is hurting him, mom reports it to the social worker and to the home but he wasnt removed from that home, who knows what that boy did to edward for teling on him, edward tryed to kill himself a few days ago and now he is in the hospital. my freind needs support for edward he has special needs and children services will not meet the needs of edward, he needs a advocate can u help this mom

  • Liseli Silishebo

    I have a great niece, Ari, who is autistic and is 7 yrs old. Her parents were fasely accused by Ari’s half siblings. DHS took Ari and her 3 yr old brother and placed them in foster car. They were moved to 3 different homes in 2 months and only got to visit their parents (at DHS offices) after a week. Now Ari and her brother are back with their mother only and she is supervised 24/7. My questions to you is:
    Does DHS have a right to tell Ari what to say to support their agenda (to destroy her family)?
    Does DHS have a right to collect “evidence” from a child who has a disability and does not understand anything (as DHS had earlier determined – Ari does not have much of a yesterday (past) or tomorrow (future) concept; she pretty much understands the present-the here and now)?
    They have disturbed my baby a lot and I need to protect her.

    • Tammy

      Hi Liseli. I think the mom needs to contact a disability advocate. Do a search for ARC and the city/state she is in. If she’s in a small city, try a search for the closest big city. Also, she can contact Autism Society of America. They have advocates that can help advise her.

  • Sahar Rahim

    My son, Ali is 11 years old was diagnosed with PDD-NOS at age 18 month old. He is now in fifth grade in Deer Park School District. In the end of March, the school notified us that they don’t have a program for him next year, but we couldn’t find a school to meet his needs or meet his IEP. All the options we have left to choose from as a new placement are DDI School which has its own model and Ali has to fit this model or they wouldn’t accept him. They have 6-1-3 and no special services will be provided separately to him such as speech, OT, PT. Any services he needs will be within the program that is provided by the teacher in the class. The second option is Boces which I’m not a favor of it at all because Ali can pick any other kids behavior and could stay with him for years as we are suffering some of that. The other public school which has the best suitable program for him is located in the neighbor district, but they said that they don’t accept students out of their district. So, I’m thinking to let him get his schooling at home, but the school told me that the maximum they can provide him is two hours a day. I’m not familiar with the law and his rights, and I’m not familiar with the different between the homeschooling, flex schooling, and the un-schooling plus I really don’t know what is better for him at all. Is the school still responsible to get him the services he needs in his IEP at home, or we are on our own? What would he get in two hours? Please if you have any advice, I appreciate if you e-mail it to me.what is exactly his legal rights to get his needs?

    • Tammy

      I’m not sure what the current laws say about PDD-NOS. I know at one point that some people were trying to get it to not be recognized as being on the spectrum. The best advice I can give you is to see if there is an ARC chapter you can contact, or contact Autism Society. They can help you with information on your legal rights.

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