On the Horizon – 06/13/12

Welcome to “On the Horizon”

Issue 188: Prioritizing Needs and Treatments for Children with Autism

On the Horizon is an award winning weekly ezine for parents of children with developmental disabilities who want simple, effective strategies to reduce stress, support their child’s development, and improve quality of life for the whole family.

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  • A Note from Nicole: Importance of Great Guides In Our Lives
  • Feature Article:
    Prioritizing Needs and Treatments for Children with Autism
  • Ask the Horizons Team
  • Upcoming Events: Sibshop
  • Recommended Resources

Hi Everyone!

I’m very thankful for sunshine as I head out to a baseball game for my 10-year-old.  This season has been full of highs and lows for my son and his team, but they are having a great time playing.  I have been more aware than ever before of the value of a good coach, as he has been so supportive of all the kids this year.  I listen to some of the other coaches as they scream at kids, use complicated systems of plays and signals, and generally make the experience a miserable one for the players and spectators.  Each game this season has reminded me of how important appropriate scaffolding is, how a coach can guide kids to develop as players and people, and how much growth is possible in the course of a few months.  Here’s to the presence of great guides in the lives of our kids!

My feature article this week is about prioritizing needs and treatments, and is relevant for parents as well as professionals.  The more issues a child has, the more confusing and complicated sorting out needs and appropriate treatments can become.  I think there are some fundamental guiding principles that help make the process easier.  Check out the article and let me know what you think.

The question of the week is about school re-evaluations and what is required.  It can be a confusing issue and I hope this clarifies the issue for some of you.

Make it a fantastic week!

Looking to the horizon,

Prioritizing Needs and Treatments for Children with Autism

By Nicole Beurkens, PhD

I recently had a parent refer to the many needs of her daughter in this way: “It’s like there are three floors of the house burning! Where do we start and which level do we fight the fire on first?” This provides an excellent visual metaphor for determining priorities in treatment.

When a child has autism, or another neurodevelopmental disorder, there are many areas of need to consider. The pervasive nature of the diagnosis leaves little unscathed in terms of development and functioning. The extent to which each area of functioning is impacted varies, but it’s safe to say that all children on the spectrum are affected by their autism in numerous areas. There are communication problems, social interaction problems, restricted behaviors, rigid thinking, and other issues that come from having the core deficits of autism.

Click here to read the rest of this article…


My son has been eligible for special education as a student with autism for 3 years (since he was 6), and was eligible with an early childhood developmental delay prior to that.  He is now due (actually overdue) for his 3-year re-evaluation for special education.  When I looked at the plan the school gave me for what they were going to evaluate, they don’t have any specific evaluations listed.  They are mostly going to do observations, and when I asked them about it they told me they don’t have to do any evaluations on him since he’s still autistic and no one is questioning the eligibility.  This doesn’t seem right to me, but I’m confused about how to handle this.  Can you help me understand what should be done for his evaluation?

Connie in Michigan


Hi Connie,

You bring up a very important issue and I’m glad you asked.  Schools are required to conduct a re-evaluation of special education students at least once every 3 years.  The purpose of this evaluation is to determine whether the student continues to qualify for special education, and under what eligibility, as well as to determine the student’s current level of functioning in order to inform the writing of appropriate educational plans.  While I understand that no one may be questioning whether or not your son still has autism, the school team is required to conduct an evaluation that provides information about his current level of functioning so that an appropriate IEP can be written.

In Michigan the requirement is that students with ASD eligibility receive two comprehensive evaluations that look at whether or not they meet the criteria for ASD.  For all subsequent evaluations a comprehensive evaluation of the autism is not required unless there is evidence that it should be revisited.  However, even in these cases where the autism evaluation is not necessary, the team is still required to assess all relevant aspects of the student’s functioning in order to determine whether progress has been made, what areas require instruction, etc.  It sounds like your son has only had one comprehensive evaluation for ASD eligibility, in which case this current re-evaluation needs to look at all of the autism-related issues again.  This re-evaluation should include autism-specific assessment as well as all other relevant areas of assessment.

Even if a comprehensive evaluation wasn’t required to determine his ASD eligibility, more than “observation” is required.  The team should be specific about what formal and informal measures they will be using to document your son’s skill levels across all relevant areas – social, communication, academic, adaptive behavior, fine and gross motor, etc.  Having this information will allow them to determine his present level of performance, which should then lead to the writing of appropriate goals and objectives for the coming year.  My recommendation is for you to contact your child’s case manager, or the person who is coordinating the evaluation process, to discuss your concerns in detail.  Let them know that you want an evaluation that provides solid documentation about your son’s current skill levels in all relevant areas.  Hopefully they will be responsive and re-write the evaluation plan to provide a more comprehensive assessment.

Good luck and let us know how it turns out!

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Upcoming Events


Looking for an opportunity designed for SIBLINGS of children with autism or other developmental disorders?

Siblings of children with autism or other disabilities have their own unique needs and experiences, and we use the renowned Sibshop model designed to provide them with support, education, and fun.

July 14th – 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Cost is $20 per child – Sibshop is held at Horizons in our sensory room. We will do a combination of movement and discussion activities, arts and crafts, and games. Participants need to bring a lunch. Snack will be provided.

RESERVE YOUR SPOT TODAY by clicking here, emailing our office info@horizonsdrc.com, or by calling us at (616) 698-0306.


Horizons Client Events


June 23rd – 10:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. at Horizons. Join us for a day of learning and sharing together. RESERVE YOUR SPOT TODAY at info@horizonsdrc.com or (616) 698-0306. We look forward to seeing you! Exclusively for our Horizons Developmental Resource Center Client Families.


Hear Nicole Speak

Upcoming dates and locations where Nicole Beurkens, PhD will be speaking:

MAGIC Foundation Annual Convention

July 19-22, 2012
Chicago, Illinois

American Psychological Association Annual Convention

August 2-5, 2012
Orlando, Florida

Autism and Other Neurodevelopmental Disorders: Practical Strategies to Improve Processing

September 26, 2012 in Missoula, Montana

September 27, 2012 in Butte, Montana

September 28, 2012 in Billings, Montana

October 18, 2012 in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania

October 19, 2012 in Cherry Hill, New Jersey


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