I called the neighboring school district that offers the communication class to see if it would be possible to transfer to their school district so that our son could receive appropriate special education services. The director of special programs was very kind and listened to my concerns, but she explained to me that their district does not accept transfer students. She suggested that our family could move to their city, but she wondered if that was too extreme. I told her that families raising children with developmental disabilities have a different definition of “extreme”. We have already considered this alternative. See A Program that I like.
To further illustrate this point, I thought I would share some of the possibilities that have been running through my head.
1) Continue living from crisis to crisis with our son in his current school setting, and hope the other children will treat him kindly. See Not Received.
2) Pull our son out of school and teach him at home. However, he will not learn the functional social communication skills that he needs, and our family will have to live on one income.
3) Move to the neighboring city and commute to work. However, the program ends after middle school, and we would have to move again if our son still needs this support.
Unfortunately, few districts offer appropriate special program for children with high functioning autism and the ones who do often only offer it for certain grade levels. So once children reach a certain age, the program goes away even if they are still in need of these services. Also, when budgets are spread thin, districts contemplate closing existing programs to save money, removing this support right out from under the children who so desperately need them.
What legal recourse do we have as families? Can we find protection under IDEA or No Child Left Behind? What can we do if the Least Restrictive Environment does not offer enough support for our children?
Watch this episode of Parenthood to see a family wresting with this issue of educational placement.