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Individualized Educational Plan (IEP)

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What is an IEP?

image015Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a child who receives special education services must have an Individualized Education Program, or IEP. An IEP is a written document which lists all of the services and accommodations the child will receive, making it an extremely important document in the educational life of students with disabilities. However, each individual education program is designed specifically for that student’s greatest benefit. An IEP created for one student may not be the best fit for another student.

The IEP is developed by a team that includes

  • Theparents of the child (one or both)
  • At least onespecial education teacher of the child – the therapists
  • At least oneregular education teacher of the child – the classroom teacher
  • Arepresentative of the public agency – often the counselor
  • Other individuals who haveknowledge or special expertise regarding the child – often school psychologist, physician or advocate.

IEP Eligibility

An autism diagnosis does not automatically guarantee that the child is eligible for an IEP. Since ASD affects people in different ways and can range from mild to severe, you will have to get your child evaluated for intellectual disability and prove the need for special education. Either you as the parent, or school professionals, can request that these evaluations be conducted. If the school district makes the requests, they must notify you within two weeks’ time and your consent is required before any testing can begin. If you feel the test results are inaccurate, you can request independent evaluation outside school, and your child’s school district will be required to pay for it.

Contents of IEP

An IEP should consider all areas of educational assistance, which includes two main areas of school life:

  • Academic Goals – The general education curriculum provided to children without disabilities
  • Non-academic goals: the additional benefits which tend to be more social than academic. These services can include social skills (interacting with peers), functional skills (dressing, crossing the street), and other related services which may include occupational, speech, or physical therapy.

The resulting IEP contains the specific information required by special education law. Content of an IEP must include the following:

  • A statement of the child’s present level of academic and functional performance, which will include how his/her disabilities influence his/her progress and participation in general education curriculum.
  • Measurable annual goals the student may reasonably accomplish, both academic and functional.
  • The intermediate progress reports which states how the child is progressing towards meeting these goals.
  • All specific special education and related support and services that will be provided.
  • To what extent the child will participate in regular education programs. (e.g. inclusion).
  • Specific program modifications and/or support which will be provided to school personnel to help the child achieve their annual goals. This will include objective criteria along with evaluation procedures and schedules to assess whether or not the child has advanced to meet the listed short-term goals.
  • Any necessary individual accommodations which will be required to measure academic and functional performance on State and district-wide assessments.
  • The initiation date, duration and frequency of each of the services and modifications, including extended school year services.
  • Once your child has reached age 16 or older, the IEP must also include a transitional service plan which outlines a set of activities assisting them to transfer from school to post-school activities.
  • If an IEP team decide that the State or school assessment should be replaced by an alternate assessment for the child, the IEP must specifically state why the child cannot participate in the regular assessment and how the alternate assessment is appropriate for the child.

The IEP Meetings

imageOnce the evaluations have been done, the IEP meetings will be scheduled with the parents and educational professionals at the school. The child may also be included in the meeting, but it is more common once the child reaches high school age. During the meeting, the parents and school IEP team – teachers, special education teacher, the counselor, a school psychologist (if applicable), and an administrator, and any other necessary personnel will discuss exactly what the child needs to succeed academically.

You are entitled by law to attend and participate in these meetings and school personnel must provide you with ample notices about the meeting time and location. You may also request a copy of the evaluation results to review prior to the meeting.

As you prepare for the IEP meeting, the school may ask you the following questions:

  • What are your child needs, interests, and strengths?
  • What would you like to see your child accomplish during this school year and subsequent school years?
  • What are your primary concerns regarding your child’s education?
  • Whether or not IEP programs are working for the child advancements, and what are they?
  • Is the evaluation suited to what you know about your child?

The main purpose of the IEP meeting is to create an educational plan for your child, but it is also a chance for you to share your child’s information, your expectations, and what has worked at home. In the even you disagree with the suggested IEP, you may request changes to be made.

Inclusion of Students with ASD

Full inclusion, or the teaching of all students both disabled and non-disabled, is currently desirable in the contemporary educational system. In general, the principle of least restrictive environment (LRE) states that special needs students should be taught in the same classroom as all of their peers as often as possible so that students with disabilities receive services within the regular education classroom. However, since autism spectrum disorders may impair communication and social interaction skills, it can be difficult for children with autism to be successful in general education settings unless carefully planned interventions have already been established. As such, the decision for a child with autism to be placed in an inclusive classroom is dependent upon the child and the situation.

However, the issue of full inclusion has brought about much discussion and debate. Many parents and educators argue that any time students with disabilities are asked to leave the classroom, they could miss out on some of the most valuable lessons children can learn by simply being around others and how to react during that time. Sometimes they are asked to retreat to the special education room, and at other times they are simply told to sit in the hallway until they learn to ‘handle the situation’.  Yet, with inclusion, a special education teacher, or a paraprofessional who works closely with and is trained by licensed educators, will sit in the classroom with your children in order to help when and as they need it. As such, inclusion not only allows these children to better understand social normality’s, but also helps them to recognize when they actually do need help, and when they can manage to accomplish a task on their own.

Special education is an increasingly complicated arena in which legal, psychological, scientific, social, cultural, and a host of other discourses compete. Instead of being satisfied with current trends, we might do well to view students in special education as a statement about insufficient progress towards the integration of people into society at large, and continue to push for inclusive education.

 

References

WebMD. (2015). “Autism Spectrum Disorders Health Center”..

Parent Center Hub. (2015). “Contents of the IEP”.

Autism Society. (n.d.). “Individualized Education Plan (IEP)”.

Lindsay J. Vander Wiele. (2011). “The Pros and Cons of Inclusion for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: What Constitutes the Least Restrictive Environment?”

Paula Kluth. (2015). “Questioning Removal, Rejection and Exclusion”.