Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for Children with Autism - How to Prepare & What to Expect

What is an IEP?

Special needs children have the right to a good education, and the law has provided for that. If you are the parent of a special needs child then you probably already understand the importance of having an individualized education program (IEP). The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates that “free appropriate education” is a right of every child in the U.S. According to this Act, a child with autism must have an IEP, which guarantees that a child with special needs receives an education that meets their individual needs. An IEP is a legal document that lays out the learning needs and requirements of a particular child. It also contains the necessary modifications and accommodations that the school will make to a child’s education. Other information includes your child’s yearly goals, school services to support your child, accommodations for standardized tests, and transition planning.

A child with autism will experience learning delays in one or more developmental areas including behavioral, motor, social, and academic. The point of incorporating an IEP is to improve the chances of a child in learning skills that can help with development. A child must, however, be eligible to be considered for the program. The process starts by requesting for an evaluation to determine your child’s eligibility. You can get information about the assessment process from the school. A parent’s consent is necessary before evaluation, which can be done by the school or you can opt for a private one.

Preparing for an IEP meeting

An initial IEP meeting may seem daunting, but that can be solved with the right preparations. Firstly, know the people that will be at the meeting; that is the school counselor, special education teacher, physical/occupational/speech therapist, school principal, and general teacher. You can choose to have your child present or not, and you can bring along anyone else that you deem fit. Conduct proper research concerning the program so that you are aware of what to ask for. You can put together questions to be addressed during the meetings to clarify some things. Remember that you are advocating for your child, so be ready. Have a list of your child goals, supplementary aids, and placement options when going into an IEP meeting. Bring along any private evaluations, medical, and school records.

What to Expect

Because your child’s needs are likely to change over time, an IEP meeting must take place at least once a year to ensure that the established program continues to cater to the needs of your child. During the meeting, you can expect the team to discuss the current performance level of your child based on their learning and progress from the year prior. The team then has to examine the objectives of your child and the level of progress toward meeting them. During these annual meetings, you’ll also have the opportunity to evaluate the services that the school provides, the various accommodations, and how well they are working for your child. You should expect to get the timeline for when a new IEP will go into effect.

An individualized education program is designed to ensure that your child’s needs are met so that they may be provided an opportunity to learn. This is why IEP meetings, though tedious, are so important. IEP meetings are a platform to consider the possibility of new interventions in case a child’s is not exhibiting progress. The IDEA requires that a child should undergo re-evaluation at least once in a three-year period.

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