Creating an IEP for a Student with Autism

The IEP ProcessWriting an IEP

To help decide what special education and related services the student with autism needs, generally the IEP team will begin by looking at the student's evaluation results, such as classroom tests, individual tests given to establish the student's eligibility, and observations by teachers, parents, paraprofessionals, related service providers, administrators, and others.

This information will help the team describe the student with autism's "present levels of educational performance" in other words, how the student is currently doing in school. Knowing how the student with autism is currently performing in school will help the team develop annual goals to address the areas where the student has an identified educational need.

The IEP team must also discuss specific information about the student.
This includes:
the student's strengths;
the parents' ideas for enhancing their student's education;
the results of recent evaluations or reevaluations; and
how the student has done on state and district wide tests.

In addition, the IEP team must consider the "special factors" described below. It is important that the discussion of what the student with autism needs be framed around how to help the student:
advance toward the annual goals;
be involved in and progress in the general curriculum;
participate in extracurricular and nonacademic activities; and
be educated with and participate with other children with disabilities and typically developing children.

Special Factors To Consider
Depending on the needs of the student with autism, the IEP team needs to consider what the law calls special factors. These include:

If the student's behavior interferes with his or her learning or the learning of others, the IEP team will consider strategies and supports to address the student's behavior.
If the student has limited proficiency in English, the IEP team will consider the student's language needs as these needs relate to his or her IEP.
If the student has communication needs, the IEP team must consider those needs.
The IEP team must always consider the student's need for assistive technology devices or services.

Based on the above discussion, the IEP team will then write the student with autism's IEP. This includes the services and supports the school will provide for the student. If the IEP team decides that a student needs a particular device or service (including an intervention, accommodation, or other program modification), the IEP team must write this information in the IEP.

For example, consider a student whose behavior interferes with learning. The IEP team would need to consider positive and effective ways to address that behavior. The team would discuss the positive behavioral interventions, strategies, and supports that the student needs in order to learn how to control or manage his or her behavior. If the team decides that the student needs a particular service (including an intervention, accommodation, or other program modification), they must include a statement to that effect in the student's IEP.

Implementing the IEP
Once the IEP is written, it is time to carry it out -in other words, to provide the student with the special education and related services as listed in the IEP. This includes all supplementary aids and services and program modifications that the IEP team has identified as necessary for the student to advance appropriately toward his or her IEP goals, to be involved in and progress in the general curriculum, and participate in other school activities. While it is beyond the scope of this guide to discuss in detail the many issues involved in implementing a student's IEP, certain suggestions can be offered.

Every individual involved in providing services to the student should know and understand his or her responsibilities for carrying out the IEP. This will help ensure that the student receives the services that have been planned, including the specific modifications and accommodations the IEP team has identified as necessary.

Teamwork plays an important part in carrying out the IEP. Many professionals are likely to be involved in providing services and supports to the student. Sharing expertise and insights can help make everyone's job a lot easier and can certainly improve results for students with disabilities. Schools can encourage teamwork by giving teachers, support staff, and/or paraprofessionals time to plan or work together on such matters as adapting the general curriculum to address the student's unique needs. Teachers, support staff, and others providing services for children with disabilities may request training and staff development.

Communication between home and school is also important. Parents can share information about what is happening at home and build upon what the student is learning at school. If the student is having difficulty at school, parents may be able to offer insight or help the school explore possible reasons as well as possible solutions.

It is helpful to have someone in charge of coordinating and monitoring the services the student receives. In addition to special education, the student may be receiving any number of related services. Many people may be involved in delivering those services. Having a person in charge of overseeing that services are being delivered as planned can help ensure that the IEP is being carried out appropriately.

The regular progress reports that the law requires will help parents and schools monitor the student's progress toward his or her annual goals. It is important to know if the student is not making the progress expected or if he or she has progressed much faster than expected. Together, parents and school personnel can then address the student's needs as those needs become evident.

Reviewing and Revising the IEP
The IEP team must review the student's IEP at least once a year. One purpose of this review is to see whether the student is achieving his or her annual goals. The team must revise the student's individualized education program, if necessary, to address:
the student's progress or lack of expected progress toward the annual goals and in the general curriculum;
information gathered through any reevaluation of the student;
information about the student that the parents share;
information about the student that the school shares (for example, insights from the teacher based on his or her observation of the student or the student's classwork);
the student's anticipated needs; or
other matters.

Although the IDEA requires this IEP review at least once a year, in fact the team may review and revise the IEP more often. Either the parents or the school can ask to hold an IEP meeting to revise the student's IEP. For example, the student may not be making progress toward his or her IEP goals, and his or her teacher or parents may become concerned. On the other hand, the student may have met most or all of the goals in the IEP, and new ones need to be written. In either case, the IEP team would meet to revise the IEP.

Look at Those Factors Again!
When the IEP team is meeting to conduct a review of the student's IEP and, as necessary, to revise it, members must again consider all of the following factors:
the student's strengths,
the parents' ideas for enhancing their student's education,
the results of recent evaluations or reevaluations, and
how the student has done on state and district-wide tests.
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