The Denver Autism Wheel

New to autism? Start here

Posted on: July 2, 2010

As you may have noticed, navigating the DD/LD (developmental disability/learning disability) jungle in Colorado can be a total nightmare if you’re flying it solo or if you’re new to it. Our research is grounded in our school aged children with high-functioning autism; however, many of the resources listed here are invaluable no matter where you or your loved one is on the Spectrum or how old they are. We have our eyes to our own future of middle- and high school and beyond, but we also started when our kids were preschoolers. Having said that, here are some good starting places that will help you get your feet under you.

BEST PLACES: (Autism Society of Colorado: first Wednesday of each month is Beau Jo’s Pizza night. If you’re in Denver Metro, come meet families, advocates and individuals in our community) (Autism Speaks: get their first 100 days kit)

This site is helpful but geared for regular ed; it’s very, VERY difficult to find specific info on SpEd within school districts, but this site contains standardized test results, parent reviews, neighborhood information and district standings. We look for trends in the reviews–parents who went out of their way, either to recommend or warn against a particular principal or school, students who didn’t like homework but appreciated the dedication their teachers demonstrated…

–District websites
They do provide some information about how they organize and support their SpEd. The more information they provide on their website, the better. It means they take SpEd seriously (I will take a moment here to call out Littleton Public Schools as an example of a public school district that gets it; their website gives an indication of the investment they make in SpEd). Also look on the websites for phone lists. If you can speak to an actual principal without a whole lot of kerfuffle, that’s a pretty good indicator the principal takes his or her responsibilities seriously, not just as an administrator, but also as an ambassador of the school. You can usually find district websites at the Great Schools site, if you can’t find them elsewhere.
Whichever county you live in, find the ARC that represents that county. They provide a wealth of information, support, advocacy and sanity checks at no cost. You can get an education advocate who will attend IEP meetings and parent/teacher conferences, advocate for your child and you, and prevent the district from ramming bad ideas into standard practice. The people who work at ARC tend to have skin in the game themselves, so they’ve navigated these waters as parents and understand what you’re going through and how to avoid the bureaucratic torpedoes.

Some other resources:

WEBSITES (University of Denver organization specializing in therapies, diagnosis, training for LD/DD) (SpEd legal advocates, in case your IEP is totally hosed…very good at making sure public schools accountable to the Free and Appropriate Public Education rules they are obliged to follow)

From Emotions to Advocacy (good book on how to become an effective advocate for your SpEd student)
Writing Measurable IEP Goals and Objectives (good for understanding what makes a good IEP goal, how it’s going to be measured, how to follow it through the school year)

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