We’ve often heard the colloquialism “the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” which is another way of saying that those willing to speak out and voice their discontent or concerns are rarely ignored and often rewarded with the changes they desired. This colloquialism has many applications, but none as apt as for the parents of children on the autism spectrum.

With diagnoses of spectrum disorders such as autism on the rise, it is important for parents and caregivers to take an active hand from the beginning in their child’s education. Federal law mandates that children with autism-spectrum disorders be provided a “free and appropriate public education” just as other students are provided. However, school districts and their personnel often fail to ensure this, or fail to enforce accommodations put in place for autistic students through Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).

Even though the law has classically seen schools and teachers as “in loco parentis,” which essentially means they are responsible to act as the authoritative role over children during the school day, parents of autistic children cannot sit back and assume school personnel have their sons and daughters’ best interests in mind at all times. School district budgets everywhere have been subject to decreases and cuts, which forces more and more teachers at these districts to wear many different “hats” throughout the day.

This day-to-day juggling act means that school personnel are being overwhelmed with more responsibility and roles, which then in turn diverts their attention from individual student situations. As a result, parents of autistic students must constantly be on their guard to ensure that their child’s unique educational needs are being met.

Parents are, under federal law, integral parts of their autistic child’s IEP “teams.” Therefore, parents have just as much input and say into what their child’s needs are, and how such needs should be addressed and handled by the school and its personnel. As a result, parents need to be active “team members” in their child’s individualized education, advocating for them and ensuring that their needs are being met within the curriculum.

When it comes to a child’s education, it truly is the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. Parents of autistic students need to keep being that squeaky wheel throughout their students’ education, to make sure that their children’s needs are met and not ignored.

If you have any questions about special needs education or Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), it is recommended that you consult with experienced legal counsel.