What is an IEP for Kids with Autism?

IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) are super important. My son, Lucas, who is now 23 years old was three when he got his first IEP. At that point, I didn’t know much about what an IEP was but I learned a lot over the years. So, today I want to share what an IEP is, why it’s really important for you as a parent or professional to know about, and how you can advocate for what is most appropriate.

What is an IEP?

An IEP is considered a contract between you and an educational entity – such as a school. IEPs are under federal regulations in the United States to provide a free appropriate public education. So, if you are in a public education setting from ages three through 21 for kids with autism and other disabilities, the public agency will have to provide an IEP. Parents need to be a part of the IEP team as well. So don’t let the school or government just present the IEP. You need to be an integral part of developing it. 

Components

The IEP has three big parts. There is the assessment, which looks at where your child is at. Because if a child doesn’t have single words and in the IEP goals are learning prepositions or using three-word phrases, there’s a disconnect. We have present education levels, not just in terms of language but also self-care and behavior issues. Where are they at with reading, math, writing? How is their play and socialization? Present education levels are a big part of the IEP. 

Then we have the goals that are based on the present education levels or assessments. This is the second important part of the IEP. The third part of the IEP is the placement. So, when people say, “I don’t like my child’s current placement, I want a different placement like a private school or one to one” That’s the placement. If you want Johnny to be moved to an expensive private school and be bused an hour away from home, you actually need to go back to the assessment and go back to the goals in order to lead to the placement. A lot of people, both parents and professionals, are confused and they just look at the placement. But there are other important parts of the IEP that you cannot be excluding. 

IFSP vs IEP

For kids that are under three years old, in the United States, there’s the Individualized Family Support Plan (IFSP). And for adults like Lucas, we have a different kind of plan, an Individualized Support Plan (ISP). But overall, if you receive governmental funding for education or for support, you will have some kind of plan with an assessment, goals, and some kind of placement or services that are going to be given. And like I said, this is like a contract. You want to make sure that what’s in the IEP is individualized. It meets the needs of the child. And when you look at it in terms of those chunks, you’ll be able to tell if the IEP is appropriate and if the plan is working.  

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IEP Goals

An IEP must be based on the child’s assessment and it also must include family priorities. The child should be making progress. It is usually set for a year, so every year you would come up with new goals and talk about placement. But you can always request an emergency IEP meeting if the child is making a lot of progress, the child is having problem behaviors, the child is making no progress with the current plan or there are safety concerns.

Another important thing I want to say in terms of IEPs is to step back and look at the forest, not the trees. You want to program very systematically so that you’re not programming too high for a child at this level. Also, take into account self-care and behavior problems in the IEP. Those can all be IEP goals and they can be a big part of the placement.

Parents and professionals should advocate for the most appropriate IEP. Check out my podcast on the five steps for advocating as well as the podcast I did with Dr. Amanda Kelly on the role of professionals in advocacy.

Where to Learn More

We do go deeper into IEPs within my online courses and communities in terms of advocacy and making sure the program is very step by step and that the child meets all the prerequisites before going further. To learn more about my online courses and how you can begin step-by-step programming, you can start out by taking my free two-minute autism quiz at marybarbera.com/quiz. That’ll get you into a free workshop and you’ll learn more about my online courses and community there.

In closing, it’s extremely important for individuals with autism to have effective IEPs in place. Every child with a disability in the United States is legally entitled to one. Sometimes the goals are not appropriate and the target goals may need to be changed. The placement may also need to be changed. But it all has to work together, so don’t just try to change the placement without looking at the present education levels and the goals. Remember to take my quiz at marybarbera.com/quiz to learn more.

Want to learn more about IEPs?
Take My 2-Minute Quiz

Transcript

[Transcript Copy]

IEPs are super important, Individualized Education Plans. Today I’m going to be talking all about what an IEP is and why it’s important. Whether you’re a parent or professional, you’ll want to watch this one. Hi, I’m Dr. Mary Barbera, autism mom, Board Certified Behavior Analyst, and bestselling author. Each week I provide you with some of my ideas about turning autism around, so if you haven’t subscribed to my YouTube channel you can do that now.  Lucas is my son with autism. He’s 23 years old and when he was three, that’s when he got his first IEP,  Individualized Education Plan. At that point, I didn’t know much about what an IEP was but I learned a lot over the years. So today I want to share what it is, why it’s really important for you as a parent or professional to know about IEPs so you can be able to advocate for what is most appropriate.

It needs to be based on a child level in all areas. It’s basically, an IEP is considered a contract between you and the educational entity. And in the United States, this is, um, the term used is it comes under, um,  federal regulations to provide a free appropriate public education. So if you are in a public education setting from ages three through 21 for kids with autism and other disabilities, the public agency will have to provide an IEP. Now when I say they provide it, you as a parent are definitely a part of that IEP team and need to be a part of the IEP team. So don’t just let them present the IEP. You need to be an integral part of, um, developing the IEP. The IEP has a couple of parts, but two big parts are, well actually three big parts. There is the present educational levels and that is the assessment, where your child is at.

Because if they don’t have single words and in the IEP goals are for them to learn prepositions and then to be using three-word phrases and those sorts of things, there’s a disconnect. So we have present ed levels, not just in terms of language but also self-care and behavior issues and all kinds of academics where they are at with reading, math, writing, where they’re at with play and socialization. So the present ed levels are a big part of the IEP. Then we have the goals that are based on the present ed levels or based on those assessments. We have the goal section as the second important part of the IEP. And then the third part of the IEP is the placement. So when people say, Oh, I, I don’t like my child’s current placement, I want to, I want a different placement.

I want a private school, I want a one to one, I want, you know that’s the placement. So if you just go in and say, I want Johnny to be moved to a, an expensive private school and be bused, they’re an hour away, you actually need to go back to the assessment, go back to the goals and, and then that will lead to the placement. So a lot of people, both parents and professionals are confused and they just look at the placement. But those other important, there are other important parts of the IEP that you cannot be excluding. Also for kids that are under three years old, in the United States, there’s the IFSP which is the Individualized Family Support Plan. And for adults like Lucas, we have a different kind of plan, not an IEP but an ISP, Individualized Support Plan. But overall if you receive governmental funding for education or for support, you will have some kind of plan with an assessment, goals, and some kind of placement or services that are going to be given.

And like I said, this is like a contract. So you want to make sure that what’s in the IEP is, is individualized. It meets the needs of the child. And when you look at an IEP in terms of those chunks, you’ll be able to tell if the IEP is appropriate. And if the plan is working.  It must be based on the child’s assessment and it also must include family priorities. And the child should be making progress. Now the IEP is usually set for a year, um. So every year you would come up with new goals, um,  and talk about placement and things like that, um. But you can always request an emergency IEP meeting if the child is making a lot of progress, the child is having problem behaviors, the child is making no progress with the current plan or their safety concerns and those sorts of things.

You can always request an emergency IEP meeting. Another important thing I want to say in terms of IEPs in general programming is step back, look at the forest, not the trees. Really think about where, where you’re going, um, and to program very systematically so that you’re not programming too high for a child at this level. Also, take into account self-care and behavior problems in the IEP, um. Those can all be IEP goals and they can be a big part of the placement. Parents should advocate for the most appropriate IEP. I did do a podcast on the five steps for advocating. You may want to check out and professionals also can be advocates for the child. I did a podcast with Dr. Amanda Kelly on the role of professionals in advocacy as well. So I hope you enjoyed those tips on an IEP. We do go deeper within my online courses and communities in terms of advocacy and making sure the program is very step by step and that the child meets all the prerequisites before going further.

So to learn more about my online course and how you can begin a step-by-step programming, you can start out by taking my free two-minute autism quiz at marybarbera.com/quiz that’ll get you into a free workshop and you’ll learn more about my online courses and community there. In closing, it’s extremely important for individuals with autism to have effective IEPs in place. Every child with a disability in the United States is legally entitled to an IEP. So then sometimes the IEP goals are not appropriate and the target goals may, may need to be changed. Also, like I said, the placement may need to be changed, but it all has to work together. So don’t just try to change the placement without looking at the, the present ed levels and the goals. Don’t forget, go to my quiz and if you liked this video blog, share it with others, give me a thumbs up, leave me a comment and I’ll see you right here next week.

 

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