Special thanks to Wade Rankin at Injecting Sense for the original pointer the Oregonian article.
If your autistic child is in an inclusion setting in high school, attending as a “regular” student, you will eventually encounter military recruiters. As part of No Child Left Behind, public schools are obligated to provide student information to the local recruiters. A recent story in the Oregonian (excerpted below) shows the problems that can occur.
To help prevent this kind of problem, you can take the following steps:
- Have appropriate documents of diagnosis, treatment, IEPs, etc. for your child
- If possible, obtain a letter from the school district case manager, pediatrician and others
- Be proactive, and find out who the local recruiters are, for all services
- Be even more proactive, find out the chain of command for your local recruiters, all the way up to the first field grade officer (usually a Lieutenant Colonel, Battalion Commander)
- Send a letter to the local recruiter, with a courtesy copy to the chain of command, stating your child’s situation and that you would appreciate having your child excluded from their recruiting activities
- If needed, send the documentation you’ve gathered to the local recruiters.
Of course, you may want to ask your son or daughter what they would like to do before acting on the latter two options. They may want to, and be able to, serve in the military and it would be wrong to try to stop them (beyond the efforts many parents already make to keep their “typical” kids out of the military). On a related note, registration for Selective Service is still mandatory for all men on their 18th birthday. As far as I know, there are no exceptions.
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“When Jared first started talking about joining the Army, I thought, ‘Well, that isn’t going to happen,’ ” said Paul Guinther, Jared’s father. “I told my wife not to worry about it. They’re not going to take anybody in the service who’s autistic.”
But they did. Last month, Jared came home with papers showing that he not only had enlisted, but also had signed up for the Army’s most dangerous job: cavalry scout. He is scheduled to leave for basic training Aug. 16.
Officials are now investigating whether recruiters at the U.S. Army Recruiting Station in Southeast Portland improperly concealed Jared’s disability, which should have made him ineligible for service.
Jared didn’t speak until he was almost 4 and could not tolerate the feel of grass on his feet.
Doctors diagnosed him with moderate to severe autism, a developmental disorder that strikes when children are toddlers. It causes problems with social interaction, language and intelligence. No one knows its cause or cure.
School and medical records show that Jared, whose recent verbal IQ tested very low, spent years in special education classes. It was only when he was a high school senior that Brenda pushed for Jared to take regular classes because she wanted him to get a normal rather than a modified diploma.
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