If your child has a diagnosis of autism, it is likely they will qualify for support services from the school system.
These services are usually called Special Education but might be called Exceptional Student Services (ESS) in some districts.
These services start at age 3. You don't have to wait until kindergarten!
The term special education should not scare you off!
It only means the school provides specialized services to help support your child's learning. Most of the time they provide this within the regular classroom. But if your child needs to be in a more specialized classroom, that is an option.
Therapy to help with things like speech, emotions and behaviors
Specialized instruction in their pre-school
Playgroups to help get used to group activities
Possible access to special pre-schools
Here's what you can do:
Call your school district's special education department. Tell them about your child and ask how to start the process of qualifying. The first step is to get a pupil appraisal.
NOTE: If you decide to send your child to a private preschool, that school will NOT be in charge of special education services. They can still help, but for official services from your parish, you must go through the public school department.
Gather your child's medical records and evaluation results if you have any.
What happens next:
Your child will get a pupil appraisal from the school district to see if they qualify. This must confirm that they have a disability that affects their learning. Even though you may know this is true, the school needs to document it. And even if your child has an autism diagnosis from a doctor, the school evaluation will not automatically give this diagnosis as well. You may have to push for it!
Usually the school district will pay for this evaluation. If you don't agree with the results, you can choose to get a different one (called an IEE). You might have to pay for this yourself!
If your child qualifies for Exceptional Student Services (or special education), you and the school will work together to create a plan that outlines the services your child will get. This plan is called an IEP.
Every child has a right to a free public education that meets their unique needs. It's the law.
Sources: LA DOE, Center for Parent Information and Resources