• Gary Mayerson: Inside Our Newest Resource for ASD Families

    Gary Mayerson's new book Autism's Declaration Of Independence - Navigating Autism In The Age Of Uncertainty is a fantastic legal resource for ASD families. Order your copy now on our website. 

    Two decades ago, I founded Mayerson & Associates, the nation’s first law firm dedicated to the representation of individuals with autism. If there ever was a niche law practice, this would be it. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with hundreds of autism professionals and more than 1200 families across 35 states. I love doing what I do.

     The world of autism has become far more challenging and complex since the release of my 2004 field guide for parents, How To Compromise With Your School District Without Compromising Your Child.  Today, 1 in 54 children will be diagnosed on the autism spectrum and each year in the United States alone, more than 50,000 individuals with autism will transition to adulthood only to face the likely prospect of unemployment, the abrupt end of their educational entitlements, and limited housing and program options that can vary wildly from state to state. Of course, as if affected families did not already have enough on their plate, the entire world is attempting to tame an unseen threat to health and public safety. No one on the planet is exempt from the pervasive uncertainty that defines this difficult time.

    No one knows for sure when the nation’s schools will reopen. However, the real issue has nothing to do with setting a date on the calendar for a return to the classroom. The real question is what school will look and feel like when students return.  How, for example, will COVID-19 impact “the right of students to be educated in the “least restrictive environment?” How will classrooms now be set up?  Is remote teaching here to stay?  How will busing be handled?  What special precautions will need to be taken with respect to lunch?  Will students need to wear masks?

    The playbook for these issues and others has yet to be written and all parents and school systems will need to adapt and innovate as needed. While an understanding of the law and the applicable statutes is important, the primary focus of Autism’s Declaration of Independence is substance and practicality, with a constant eye on the ultimate outcome. Pretty much any student can “graduate” from the public education system. However, what steps can be taken to make sure that a student with the potential to do so has sufficiently acquired the functional skills for graduating to something that is personally meaningful and fulfilling for them? The transition to adulthood when IDEA’s educational entitlements come to an end is, of course, the “main event.”

    From the start of the student’s assessment process to the graduation ceremony, what is the plan to develop greater levels of independence and self-sufficiency? The pandemic has shown us just how volatile and unforgiving life can be. What may be here today might well be gone tomorrow. In this age of uncertainty, how, then, should parents advocate and access funding for the services, school placements, and “transition” programming their child will require to achieve a good outcome after exiting the public education system? How can we make it easier for families to navigate the many systems that they will encounter? What is the significance of maintaining high expectations? How should parents go about developing and shaping a plan for the future in the context of this new and difficult era?

    Today more than ever, a student’s available options and choices upon the student’s transition to adulthood will turn on the student’s ability to generalize and sustain learning in a safe environment, coupled with the quality, integrity, and effectiveness of the student’s pre-transition educational experience, all put into motion by high expectations and the effective advocacy that is essential to individualizing the learning experience.

     The strategies contained in Autism’s Declaration of Independence are designed to help parents and professionals harness these many moving pieces, understanding that each child’s potential and needs are unique.

    There are many books written on autism from a clinical perspective. There also are the “these are your legal rights” guides that focus on the applicable legal standards. Autism’s Declaration of Independence aims to reconcile both of these inextricably intertwined perspectives in the context of these difficult times, while providing many useful and practical tips along the way.

     In Part II, contributions from some of the most experienced professionals in the field provide invaluable insight that parents and professionals can turn to again and again. These appendices explain the assessment process and generalization—how important it is to build a solid foundation based upon an individual’s unique needs and learning process. The final appendix addresses the serious national problem of bullying. I’ve also included many vignettes from actual client experiences. Elopement from school. The threat of sexual abuse in a public-school setting. Fighting for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) programming in Tennessee. Bullying in the classroom and, later, bullying in the workplace. The dangers associated with police encounters. The challenge of educating a child with autism in a remote section of the country. The challenge of remote learning at home and the related challenge of practicing “social distance” for a population that normally spends so much of its time trying to learn how to bridge social distance. Dealing with disciplinary matters. Preparing for school lockdown drills where the threat being prepared for is an active shooter. Advocating for access to extracurricular sports activities—and more.

    Whatever the issue at hand, my objective is that these compelling case studies and personal accounts will help bring the subject matter to life for the reader, providing just a little more certainty and predictability to help families and professionals navigate these difficult and uncertain times and help the next generation achieve the best possible outcome.


    About The Author

    Gary Mayerson graduated from the Georgetown University Law Center and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.
    In 2000 Gary withdrew from a lucrative Manhattan law partnership to found Mayerson & Associates (www.mayerslaw.com) as the nation’s first civil rights law firm dedicated to the representation of individuals with autism. Gary was inspired to start his highly specialized firm after a family member was diagnosed with autism and he saw firsthand how difficult it can be for parents to obtain effective programs and services.

    To date, Gary and his colleagues have represented more than 1200 autism families in 35 states, including Alaska. Gary also consults to expatriate and other families living abroad who are in the process of relocating to the United States. Gary and his firm are responsible for more than 150 important federal court decisions hailing from the Second, Third, Fifth, Sixth, Tenth, and Eleventh Circuits—as well as Deal v. Hamilton County Department of Education, the first autism case to reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Gary lives in Manhattan with his family and rescue dog, Petal.

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