What Is an IEP & How Can It Help My Autistic Child?

Being the parent of an autistic child comes with plenty of challenges. Some of those challenges center on your child’s academic life. What will it be like? How will they be treated? Thanks to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), your kid has the right to a free and appropriate public education. This is where the Individualized Education Plan or IEP comes into play.

As the name suggests, an IEP lays out a specific educational strategy for your child. Therefore, if they’ve been diagnosed with autism, the IEP will be centered around the details of that diagnosis.

More About IEPs

  • It is a legal document that must be adhered to by the school district
  • The child’s evaluation results are included (see below)
  • The IEP outlines measurable goals for a child during the upcoming school year
  • It describes the services that will be needed in order to attain those goals
  • During the school year, an IEP is helpful for assessing a student’s progress

The process of writing an IEP begins with an evaluation. Either a parent or an education-based professional may request such an evaluation. Of course, if the evaluation is suggested by the school, it requires the parents’ consent. If, as the parent, you dissent from the evaluation’s findings, you can request it be done again by an independent professional. Once it has been agreed that a child requires services, an IEP meeting is scheduled.

The IEP Meeting

The following people will be at the meeting:

  • One or both parents unless they designate a surrogate (perhaps due to language)
  • The child’s teacher along with another educational representative

In some cases, the child may be present. This is very much a case-by-case situation. Be sure to talk about this possibility in advance. Regardless of other specifics, you are entitled to a written copy of the IEP and it’s highly recommended that keep one on file.

Goals of the IEP Meeting

  • The child’s needs, interests, and strengths are identified
  • A discussion of previous interventions and treatments
  • The parents get to voice their concerns or questions about their child’s education and evaluation. This includes sharing their vision and expectations for the school year.
  • Any additional information about the child is shared (from parents, teachers, or therapists) if it is deemed helpful.
  • Ideas for intervention options, e.g. physical therapy, occupational therapy, psychological services, speech pathology, social work, and more.
  • Setting goals and objectives

The IEP and Your Autistic Child

Autism is a spectrum. It manifests differently — sometimes very differently — for each child. Obviously, this makes an individualized education plan so crucial. Goals and needs vary widely but will still fall into some general categories, e.g.

  • Motor: For example, handwriting could be a skill to work on
  • Social: This one can really vary but often, it could involve learning the skills needed to engage appropriately in group play
  • Academic: Depending on grade level and individual ability, we might be talking about anything from addition to easy writing
  • Behavioral: Socially acceptable coping skills are the ideal

But What About the Parent?

You have so much on your plate. You’re caring for your child at home. You’re advocating for them at school. Meanwhile, you may other kids, a spouse, a career, and so much more. You could use your own individualized plan! This is where therapy can be so helpful. Working with a skilled counselor is the ideal way to develop the balance you need. There is no IEP for raising a child, regardless of ability. However, there are steps you can take to smooth the process until it’s manageable. Please read more about counseling for children with autism. Let’s connect and set you up with a consultation soon.

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