Friday, February 25, 2011

The IEP and Autism

One of the questions I am most frequently asked is, "Can you tell me about the IEP?" If you learn nothing more in my articles - I hope you will remember this - the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) basically outlines the path your child will take while s/he is in school. This is a mandatory, legal document. The IEP team (school personnel along with you and people you request to attend) must meet at least one time per year. During this meeting your child's goals for the next year are discussed and adopted.

So, how do you prepare for the IEP? First, I suggest you study (over and over) the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 2004. Next, you need to take action - after all, you are your child's advocate. The first item on the list is this: do not wait for the date of the IEP team to meet. Go to your child's school frequently. Meet with the teacher. Discuss the goals in the IEP and ask how well your child is progressing in each one. If your child is nearly half-way through the school year and the teacher has not started working on one of the goals, for example, this might be the time to request an IEP meeting. Since the IEP is a formal, official meeting you must give the school time to send out the required forms and make certain the key people will be able to attend the meeting. Why do you want to call for this meeting?

There are several reasons. First, your teacher has not informed you that your child has not started one of the goals, this is important. Second, you will want to know why the teacher has not started and why you have not been informed. Third, you want to know what the teacher intends to do about this particular goal and the team must make a decision that satisfies all of you (do you want to support the goal and see that it is started; do you want to modify it; do you want to eliminate it). During the initial visit, when you first learned the one goal had not been started, you will definitely want to review the other goals to see how well your child is meeting each performance goal. Check each goal, check the benchmark, and check the date to satisfy yourself that your child is on target to meet or exceed the goal during this IEP period. In my book, I offer some key information regarding the IEP, how to act, react, what I suggest you do if you are unhappy and options you have if you are not satisfied with the new IEP. The basic thing to remember is this: You are your child's advocate.

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