If you have a child who has autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or a similar developmental disability, the prospect of sending your child to school may concern you. Fortunately, help is available. Children with ASD may be given an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), which covers all of the special services that a child needs to thrive in the public school system. Here is what all parents need to know about IEPs.
Who can get an IEP?
Within public education, if a student is evaluated and it is found that the child has one of the disabilities listed in the special education law IDEA and needs special education service to succeed in school, they will have an IEP. IEPs are available to any children in the public school system who require them, including at both public schools and charter schools. Preschoolers starting at the age of 3 to 5 years can also have an IEP if found eligible. IEPs are available to children through the high school graduation or a maximum of age 22.
What happens during an IEP evaluation meeting?
After a request or referral for evaluation, the school may have a meeting to discuss the evaluation. There will be a team of professionals—which may include special education teachers, speech pathologists, and other specialists—who will be evaluating your child. The school may decide to go ahead with the evaluation without a meeting and will obtain your consent prior to conducting the evaluation. It’s a good idea to spend some time familiarizing yourself with the laws in your state regarding special education services and come prepared to articulate your concern(s) and to bring a notebook with you so that you can document the meeting. It also may be good to bring along a friend or family member for support; informing the school ahead of time is recommended.
What happens after the evaluation?
After your child is evaluated, a meeting will be held to review the results and determine if your child is eligible for an IEP. Like the evaluation meeting, there will be a team of professionals and anyone you may have invited to attend for support. The team will determine if your child has one of the 13 categories disabilities listed in IDEA and if the disability has adverse effects on his or her education. If found eligible, the team will create an educational plan that is individualized for your child’s needs. Sometimes this occurs in the same meeting or a separate meeting will be scheduled.
How is an IEP developed?
If your child is found to be eligible for an IEP, you will be able to participate in the process of developing your child’s education plan. It is critical that the plan includes clear objectives and measurable goals for your child and state the individualized educational services and supports that will be provided. The plan should also include detailed information about your child’s current educational status, your child’s educational strengths and weaknesses, and how your child’s condition affects his or her education.