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Brendan: Education Mediation-- Independence through IPAS
Fourteen-year-old Brendan loves music, the outdoors and movies--especially "Star Wars." In those ways, he is just like any other teenager.
But autism hinders his communication and learning style, making his education challenging under good conditions, and nightmarish during the bad.
It was one of these bad times that brought Brendan's mother, Stephanie, to IPAS Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services three years ago. Big changes were afoot--the family had just relocated to a new school district, and Brendan was ready to advance from sixth grade to middle school.
Since most children that have autism thrive on routine, his family decided to ease him into the transition by enrolling him in summer school, avoiding the traditional school year's hectic pace.
The plan seemed to be a good one--until Brendan was suspended on the second day of summer school and charged with battery for kicking a bus attendant. The principal said he was not welcome back because he had assaulted a staff member.
"I was shocked," said Stephanie. "I couldn't believe they had done that when they knew Brendan had special needs."
As her shock melted into anger, Stephanie took action. She got online, and found IPAS.
"I e-mailed them, and they got back with me quickly, explaining the steps to follow and eventually hooking us up with an advocate," she recalled. "They knew the laws, and stepped right in and helped."
The process took some time, and Brendan missed summer school. But with IPAS' help, the family ultimately received 90 minutes of individual tutoring each week for the rest of the school year to compensate for the time Brendan lost that summer.
"It was great," Stephanie recalled. "They helped him work on picture identification, handwriting, colors, community stop signs, all sorts of things. It didn't help him get accustomed to his new school as we had hoped, but it did help make up for that lost opportunity."
She feels that without IPAS, her story would not have had a happy ending. "He could have been kicked out of school permanently, or maybe worse," she said. "He could have been charged with assault. Instead, IPAS helped Brendan receive the services he deserved."
Stephanie feels comforted to have IPAS on her side.
"It's nice to have an advocate," she said. "They've helped me with other problems Brendan has encountered, and I know they will be there to help me with other major rights problems which may come along."