Autism Resources

Advocating for Your Child with Autism in an IEP Meeting

BlueSprig July 24, 2021

It’s that time of year again! As students head back to school and parents begin to participate in Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings, now is a great time to provide a refresher on navigating the special education process. The purpose of an IEP meeting is to create or update a student’s IEP. As a parent of a child with autism, attending an IEP meeting can be a daunting experience. Understanding your rights and how to advocate effectively for your child’s needs is essential. Having the knowledge and confidence to navigate a successful IEP meeting can ensure that your child with autism receives the best possible support and services. This blog post will provide information on preparing for and confidently advocating for your child with autism in an IEP meeting.

Understanding the IEP Process

The meeting discusses everything from referrals and routine to development, and everyone has a role to play. This meeting should be collaborative with school representatives and the child’s care team. Parents, teachers, therapists, and even students can request an IEP meeting whenever they want to make changes to the child’s IEP. Reviews must happen annually, but many other meetings occur whenever concerns arise.

The Individual with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA)

Each child’s IEP must contain specific information, as listed within IDEA, our nation’s special education law. This federal law ensures that children with disabilities receive the services necessary to access education. The two main components of IDEA are Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE) and Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). FAPE entitles children with disabilities to receive specially designed instruction to meet their individualized needs. It is the “Individual” part of the IEP and is provided free of charge. LRE is the part of the law that entitles children to be educated in the general curriculum to the maximum extent possible.

By understanding your rights as a parent, you can better advocate for your child’s education. Remember always to be prepared, ask questions, and don’t be afraid to speak up if you feel that your child’s education is at stake. For additional information, we recommend Wrightslaw.

Understand Your Rights Ahead of Time

One of the first things to know is that if you would like to have changes made to your child’s plan or testing, you should put the request in writing. The school has 60 days to comply with the request and 30 days to complete the IEP after testing.

The school must provide you with ten days’ notice before the IEP meeting. This gives you time to prepare and gather the necessary information to present at the meeting.

Additionally, it’s essential to know who should be present at the meeting. According to federal law, the IEP team must include the parent, regular education teacher, special education teacher, and Local Education Agency (LEA) representative. If changes are being made, other individuals to be present should be the school psychologist, OT, PT, SLP, or any other specialist. If any of these required individuals are absent or unable to attend, you have the right to decline the meeting or postpone it until all parties are available.

Another important right is that you can request that a teacher or specialist stay for the entirety of the meeting. This is especially important if you feel their expertise is necessary to discuss your child’s education plan. If a teacher asks to leave the meeting early, you have the right to say no if you feel that their input is essential and should be considered throughout the meeting. Meetings should be rescheduled as needed so that all necessary parties can be in attendance throughout.

Preparing for the Meeting

Ensure you approach these meetings positively, understanding that all parties plan to provide your loved one with the best educational environment. You can prepare for the IEP meeting by doing a few things beforehand. We recommend collecting all items and records you’d like to bring in an organized binder.

1. Collect your child’s records from providers, progress reports, teacher notes, and your notes and observations.

2. Invite advocates on your child’s behalf, such as BCBA, psychologist, therapist, or other professional who works with your child, and let the IEP lead know who will be in attendance ahead of time. These advocates may be able to provide the case manager with additional information.

3. Prepare your questions ahead of time. (We love this example!)

4. Consider that, if nothing else, you know and understand your child better than the IEP team members. Take that strength and confidence into the IEP meeting.

Communicating Effectively with School Personnel

Meeting with your child’s teachers in person or on the phone before the IEP meeting may be beneficial. This pre-meeting conversation allows teachers and caregivers to establish an agenda for the meeting, understand what will take place, and ensure time is spent strategically with the school support team.

Identifying Your Child’s Strengths and Needs

One of the most important things you can do as a caregiver to prepare for an IEP meeting is to identify your child’s strengths and needs. This will help you advocate effectively for your child and ensure that their education plan addresses their unique needs.

Start by thinking about your child’s strengths. What are they good at? Which subjects interest them? What motivates them? This information will be valuable in setting goals for your child’s education and advocating for accommodations to help them succeed.

Next, consider your child’s needs. What are their challenges? Where do they struggle? What types of support do they require to be successful in school? It’s essential to be specific when identifying your child’s needs, as this will help you make a strong case for the services and accommodations they require.

Be sure to bring this information to the IEP meeting and share it with the school personnel. Your child’s strengths and needs should be a central part of the discussion, as they will inform the development of the education plan and any necessary accommodations or modifications.

Remember, as the caregiver, you are your child’s strongest advocate. By identifying their strengths and needs, you can help ensure they receive the support they need to succeed in school and life.

Setting Goals and Objectives for Your Child’s Education

Consider your child’s strengths when setting goals, as they can help them make progress and learn how to make progress by seeing what they are good at. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, results-oriented, and timely.

Specific: A goal will specify what your child will be learning or working on and what the result will be.

Measurable: Standardized tests or screenings are a benchmark for measuring your child’s progress toward the goal.

Attainable: A realistic goal that represents progress for your child.

Results-oriented: What your child will do to achieve the goal.

Time-bound: Includes a timeframe in which the school expects your child to achieve that goal, what will happen if your child reaches the goal, and how progress will be measured.

Understanding Accommodations and Modifications

During the meeting, the school team will talk about possible accommodations to make your child’s educational experience better and more accessible to them. Accommodations are anything the teachers and staff do to make your child feel safe and confident. While every student with special needs is unique, and therefore no IEP will be identical, recommendations for accommodations will differ from student to student. Ahead of the meeting, consider what accommodations may benefit your child. That way, during the meeting, you can provide insights on what will work best for them in the classroom.

Some accommodations may include:

  • Daily schedules
  • Visual instructions for tasks
  • Visual charts
  • Noise-canceling headphones
  • Low distraction environment for tests

Follow up after the Meeting

It is vital to remain engaged and involved in your child’s education beyond the IEP meeting. Attend parent-teacher conferences and communicate with your child’s teachers throughout the school year. Don’t hesitate to contact the school personnel with any questions or concerns.

The IEP meeting is just the beginning of a collaborative effort to provide your child with the education they deserve, and ongoing communication is crucial to success. Following up after the meeting can help ensure that your child’s needs are being met and that they receive the support and resources necessary to thrive!

About Blue Sprig Pediatrics and the BlueSprig Family of Companies

BlueSprig, founded in 2017, is a leading provider of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) treatment services to children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). BlueSprig is committed to providing compassionate, individualized, and evidence-based behavior analysis treatment. Headquartered in Houston, TX, BlueSprig is a nationwide provider of ABA treatment with 140+ locations. For additional information about BlueSprig or to receive updates, contact us.