Being a Black child on the autism spectrum is an intersectionality that sadly sets the stage for being overlooked in our public school system, and, in society, for that matter. Our most vulnerable population (on multiple levels), who need the most support, oftentimes find themselves receiving much less than that. The pandemic has made it clear there is a great divide when it comes to underserved communities. The discrepancies they encountered when trying to access their education in a digital world became too hard to ignore.

Access to technology, support for parent training, and misaligned Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals are the three most alarming areas of neglect; these should be built into a brick and mortar program well before remote learning becomes mandatory. Access to technology is imperative, especially when it becomes the sole way to be educated. It no longer remains a luxury for the privileged. Packets and handouts are no substitute for face-to-face learning, and, sadly, many of our students in underserved areas were subjected to just that, grade level packets that were not individualized or modified for the student’s personal educational goals. Technology should be afforded to all students at the onset of their learning journey, not only to enhance brick and mortar learning, but to broaden the education to homes even when remote learning is not in play.

This brings me to the next point of parent training: teaching students with ASD cannot be in a vacuum. Parent training needs to be readily available and accessible to parents on a regular basis. This could easily occur if school districts upped their one-to-one technology pairings and trained parents in their own languages in the comfort of their own homes - no need for in-school gatherings any more. Parent training is the way we can teach our students full circle, and technology is the key.

Along with the importance of technology and parent training comes IEP goals. If remote learning taught us anything, it is that IEP goals must be relevant to the learner and not just to progress in academic settings. Parents had a hard time working on goals, because they are written with the classroom in mind. Goals for learning need to be written with life in mind. Once goals align with success in life, we know we are headed in the right direction. Autistic learners in underserved communities need support that serves them, not support that the district decides is good enough. If it’s not supporting our children into adulthood, then what are we really doing?