Accomodations for a High School Student

by a Parent

My son is a 15 year old boy who just started high school. In middle school, my son had excelled in academics (all A's) with the IEP accommodations of a full-time aide (who acts as an executive secretary), and modification of homework. He is, however, challenged by the sensory-overload at school and by homework. He also has impairments in gross motor coordination, so he chooses not to participate in sports. Outside of school, he prefers to stay at home and usually avoids social situations and crowds. He has only one friend that he sees regularly. He is a loner but enjoys computer technology & games, science fiction, history (particularly WW2), as well as some aspects of physics & outer space science. His three greatest assets are his broad knowledge base, his sense of integrity, and his awesome sense of humor!

Despite efforts by myself and the school system to plan ahead for my son’s transition to high school, ninth grade got off to such a rocky start that I was afraid he might refuse to attend school. We had an IEP meeting scheduled that I knew would provide an opportunity to advocate for my son’s needs and share my knowledge of him with school personnel. To prepare myself, I attended a meeting of AANE’s Parents of Teens Support Group. I was hoping I could get some ideas to improve my son’s situation. Dania and the parents at the meeting gave me a lot of great suggestions.

Going into the meeting, I had one other great asset: my town’s Director of Special Education, who had helped my son succeed in middle school, had promised me her full support. At the IEP annual meeting, she kept her word and supported every accommodation request. She was pivotal in asking the right questions, so that team members understood why the accommodations were necessary and fair in spite of the fact that this is unprecedented at this high school. This is what I requested, and what the school agreed to provide:

  • General Supports and Environmental Modifications
    Overall goal: School will provide a structured, predictable environment with clearly defined goals, expectations, & consequences. To meet the goal:
    • Quarterly consultation by Asperger's expert
    • Full-time Aide/Academic Support
    • Teacher concerns/requests should be addressed with Academic Support, not with the student
    • Daily communication journal with Aide/Academic Support & mother
    • “Safe Zone” to retreat to, and protocol to assist him in leaving class or another situation should stresses/sensory overload become too great
    • School will provide a structured, predictable environment with clearly defined goals, expectations & consequences
    • No unscheduled delays in dismissal from school; if student needs to stay at school late for a club meeting or other event that should be planned in cooperation with his mother
    • Assistance as needed for passage through hallways and/or no penalty for occasional lateness to class
  • Modification of general academic requirements
    • They agreed to switch him to another history teacher--one who does not yell at the students!
    • Modification of organization of notebooks as appropriate
    • No foreign language
    • Permission to use scientific calculator
  • Accommodations for written assignments
    • Use of computer for extensive writing
    • When required to write by hand, permission to use pencil instead of pen so that he can erase errors and not feel he has to start over
    • If handwriting is illegible, teacher to confirm meaning of words before grading
    • No penalty for spelling errors
    • Preferential seating
    • Second set of textbooks to keep at home
    • Written directions for all independent homework, long-term projects
    • Note-taking
    • Photocopy of class notes/outlines provided to help student prepare for tests
    • Excused from requirement to type/re-type class notes
  • Homework modifications
    • Two academic support periods per day for supervised/mentored homework
    • Modification of homework to priorities that prepare him for participation in class the next day
    • In case of absence, only priority work required to be completed
    • Additional time without grade penalty to complete prioritized homework assignments
  • Testing modifications
    • Additional time as needed to complete tests/quizzes
    • Provision of enlarged tests/handouts as appropriate
    • Confirmation if question not completed that he had sufficient time and saw that item
    • Scribe for standardized testing or for in class tests where writing is extensive
  • Physical Education modifications
    • No change of clothing for physical education or provision of private changing room
    • No scoring for standardized physical education fitness test

Editor's Note: Each high school student with AS is different; not all teens would need or want all of the supports listed above, while there are other possibilities not included on this list. Other supports to consider are:

  • One skilled central person the student can go to wityh questions or problems, e.g. a school social worker
  • Permission to arrive early at school and enter the building
  • Extra time between classes
  • Pragmatic social language, social skills group, or friendship groups or peer mentoring program
  • Encouragement to join groups where a skilled adult can "coach" social skills informally, such as a club in the student's area of interest, e.g. cartooning, chess, school paper, or drama
  • A work/study or volunteer job with a skillful supervisor, e.g. in the school library, computer lab, etc.

For more wonderful ideas and strategies, see these books:

Bolick, Teresa: Asperger Syndrome and Adolescence: Helping Preteens and Teens Get Ready for the Real World · 2001 Fair Winds Press
Myles, Benda Smith & Adreon, Diane: Asperger Syndrome and Adolescence: Practical Solutions for School Success · May 17, 2001, Autism Asperger Publishing Co.
Tanguay, Pamela B. and Thompson, Sue: Nonverbal Learning Disabilities at School: Educating Students with NLD, Asperger Syndrome, and Related Conditions · Jessica Kingsley Publishers, ISBN 1853029416, 2002

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