On Your Side: Parents of autistic student puzzled by high test scores but low grades

Julia Jenae is on your side. 3/17/2017

Two Duval County parents say their son is struggling to find balance in his education.

Their 15-year-old is autistic and high-functioning on the spectrum; a combination that's keeping him in a limbo that threatens his future. 

An estimated one in 139 children in Florida are autistic. Parents Tim and Darlene Miller say their son Mitchell has had an Individualized Education Plan since the fifth grade. 

"Every spectrum kid is not the same - autism has got to be the most misunderstood disability on the planet," Darlene says. "[Mitchell] actually loves school; he loves learning. Math and science are one of his favorite subjects."

Mitchell, a sophomore, attends regular classes and hopes to attend a four-year college to pursue a career in information technology one day. 

His parents say despite test scores - typically A's - his report card reflects something different. 

"We were informed that the district average for the PSAT was 800 and Mitchell has an 1100, but he still looks at himself as stupid because he's failing his classes," Darlene says. "It's frustrating. I don't know what to do for him."

The Millers say they've gone through the accommodations process and describe their son as intellectually above average but emotionally immature.  

"He gets easily overwhelmed with classwork; he'll spend hours trying to get one thing perfect," says Tim. "Are we hopeful? Yes. But am I optimistic? No."

A representative for Duval County Public Schools said in response to First Coast News request for options available to high functioning autistic students struggling with courses:

Students who have been found eligible for exceptional education support through the Autism Spectrum category are provided specific support in the least restrictive environment based on their Individualized Education Plans (IEP). For students who are supported in general education classrooms, in-class instructional supports and services are provided by either the Exceptional Education Teacher, or the appropriate service provider as indicated on the student’s IEP. These students also receive instructional and assessment accommodations as identified by the IEP team and placed in their Individual Education Plans (IEP).

By statute, any parent of a student supported through exceptional education may request an IEP review at any time. The IEP team must convene at a mutually agreeable time to address the specific request. If the parent’s does not agree with the IEP team’s decision, the parent may enact procedural safeguards and contest the team’s decision.

Other Resources

Florida Public Health

Duval County Public Schools

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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