Autism Q & A: Questions about schooling

What happens to my child when my child no longer qualifies for Early Intervention Services?  What preschool services would he qualify for?  Will he continue to qualify for services outside of school?

When a child is about to turn 3 years old, his or her early intervention team will meet with your family and discuss a transition meeting with the school district he is eligible to attend. It may be determined that he will automatically continue to qualify for services or his testing will be updated from what was done in order to qualify for intervention services in the first place. However, if your child has made significant gains you might want to request an updated evaluation so that his educational program, which changes from an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) to an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP), will continue to be the most appropriate to his needs.

Any child who is receiving special education services is supposed to receive a comprehensive re-evaluation every three years.  The transition should be seamless even though the team and location of services may be different.  If your child received speech therapy or occupational therapy that was home-based, this is likely to end at this time.  These services are supposed to now be provided through the school district.

However, if it is determined that these services (therapies) are “medically necessary” it may be possible to continue through your private insurance or the Arizona Health Care Cost Control System (AHCCCS).  In addition it is more likely that services under DDD and/or ALTCS will continue to support services above what is provided by school if your child is diagnosed with autistic disorder.  However, it is important to know that for most preschools in Arizona autism is not considered a preschool eligibility category though it is in many other states.  Your child is likely to be made eligible either under developmental delay (DD) or speech and language impairment (SLI) though occasionally you may see another eligibility category.

Next: The transition to kindergarten.

Daniel B. Kessler, M.D., is a developmental and behavioral pediatrician and medical director of the Children’s Developmental Center at Easter Seals Southwest Human Development. His private practice, where he provides evaluation and treatment for children and adolescents, is located at Southwest Human Development.

The views he expresses in this series are based on his training, his reading of the literature and his more than 30 years of experience taking care of hundreds of kids on the autism spectrum. The series begins here.

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