When will the New York City public school system be capable of meeting the educational needs of children with autism? The jury is still out but school districts have gotten creative in dealing with parents on this issue. One school district in NYC recently said to a parent of a child with autism that: (a) a one-to-one paraprofessional is not available to a child in a classroom as small as a 6:1:1, and (b) a paraprofessional is available only for students suffering from "behavioral crises" and not a child who has difficulty with attention, focusing and staying on task. Neither of these contentions is true. What the school district isn't saying is that federal law guarantees every child the supportive services required to help that child benefit from special education instruction. The DOE's own handbook states that special education instruction includes paraprofessional services and describes them as 'placement neutral' services because they can be provided in any type of classroom, including a 6:1:1. And if the school district is unwilling to provide a full-time para to keep this child on-task and focused, it better be able to offer a more supportive type of classroom (and it is doubtful that it can).
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