top of page

Prepping Parents for Success: What to Ask for in an IEP for Autism

When your child has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the process of navigating the educational landscape can sometimes feel overwhelming. And as a parent, you want your child to have access to the best educational opportunities as possible. It's common for parents with children on the spectrum to contemplate the pros and cons of public vs. private schooling. However, for many parents, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) makes public education an accessible and advantageous option. 

An IEP is designed to ensure that students with disabilities receive specialized instruction and services tailored to their unique needs. If you're preparing for an IEP meeting for your autistic child, it's essential to be proactive and well-informed. Here, we'll offer some IEP meeting tips for parents and explore the key considerations when creating an IEP for autism spectrum disorder.

Understand the Purpose of an IEP for ASD

An IEP for autism spectrum disorder is not a one-size-fits-all document. Every child's needs are different, and the IEP is tailored to address these unique requirements. The goal is to provide a roadmap for educators, therapists, and other professionals to support your child's academic and functional achievements. It outlines where your child excels, and where they need assistance, as well as specific objectives and goals with clear methods for achieving them. 

Functioning as a legal contractual agreement between you, your child, and the school district, an IEP establishes a foundation to guarantee your child's access to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). Since public school services are mandated for autistic children, an IEP plays a pivotal role in facilitating this accessibility. It ensures that specific needs are clearly defined and outlines a comprehensive plan to address them through specialized educational services.

What is Included in an IEP?

An IEP operates within the school system's framework. It delineates the specific services and adaptations designed to facilitate the child's learning process. For instance, a child with autism might require a structured classroom setting, visual aids, and scheduled sensory breaks to optimize their learning environment.

The IEP document can span multiple pages, including up to 13 sections, detailing the child's requirements and strategies for ensuring equal educational opportunities.

An IEP typically covers:

  • Current academic and functional levels

  • Annual measurable goals

  • Adjustments to school programs or equipment to aid learning

  • Required special education and related services

  • Assessment procedures for tracking progress

  • Attendance and scheduling plans for specialized services

  • Transition plans as the child advances toward graduation

IEPs undergo annual evaluations and revisions to accommodate evolving needs. This may include academic, social, and functional life skills goals, along with related services such as occupational and speech therapy.

Preparing for the IEP Meeting for Autism

As you approach the IEP meeting for your autistic child, it's crucial to be well-prepared. A few preparatory steps include:

  • Assemble an IEP Team: By law, there are certain individuals that must be involved in writing a child’s IEP. This includes:

  • At least one of the child’s parents

  • At least one of the child’s special education providers

  • A representative from the school district

  • A representative from the local education agency who is knowledgeable about the school system and qualified to either supervise or directly provide special education services

  • Additional individuals with knowledge or information about the child, such as other family members, physicians or therapists

  • Representatives from any other agencies responsible for funding or providing transition services (if the student is 16 years old or, if applicable, younger)

  • The student, if appropriate

  • Gather Documentation: Compile all relevant assessments, medical diagnoses, therapy reports, and any notes or observations you've made about your child's behavior and progress.

  • Set Clear Objectives: Know what you hope to achieve in the meeting. Whether it's specific services, accommodations, or goals for your child, having a clear agenda can guide the discussion.

  • Seek Support: Consider bringing an advocate or another supportive individual to the meeting. This can be especially helpful if you're unfamiliar with the process or feel intimidated by the school's team.

Key Questions to Ask During the IEP Meeting

As a parent, you are the best advocate for your child. You know your child’s needs better than anyone else. It’s important that the IEP addresses all your child’s needs in order to best help them grow and learn at school. It's best to come prepared with a list of questions to better help you understand your child’s plan. 

Here are some potential questions to consider:

  • What specific goals are set for my child, and how will progress be measured? Ensure that these are SMART goals—Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

  • Which services and accommodations will be provided? This can include speech therapy, occupational therapy, behavioral interventions (like ABA services), assistive technology, or specialized classroom setups.

  • How will my child's social and emotional needs be addressed? Social challenges are common in children with ASD. It's crucial to understand how the school plans to support your child in these areas.

  • How will communication between the school and home be maintained? Regular updates can help you track your child's progress and address any emerging challenges.

  • How can I best support my child’s goals at home? Goals and objectives should be consistent between school and home to reduce confusion and promote positive behaviors.

Asking questions will allow you to gain a better understanding of your child’s IEP and feel more confident in their educational goals. As a parent, you play a pivotal role in your child’s growth and success, so don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or advocate for your child’s needs. 

Post-Meeting Follow-Up

After the IEP meeting, make sure to review the finalized document carefully. Ensure that all agreed-upon services, accommodations, and goals are accurately documented. Remember, an IEP for an autistic child is a living document. It can (and should) be reviewed and adjusted as your child's needs evolve.

Final Thoughts

Navigating an IEP for autism spectrum disorder may seem daunting, but with preparation and a clear understanding of your child's needs, you can ensure a productive and beneficial IEP meeting. Remember, the end goal is to provide your child with the tools, resources, and support they need to thrive academically and personally. With the right approach, you can be an instrumental part of making that happen.

Key Takeaways

  • The purpose of an IEP: The IEP ensures your child’s needs and goals are met in the educational setting. It outlines your child’s strengths and areas of opportunity and provides a roadmap for educators on how best to assist your child.

  • Preparing for the IEP meeting: The best way to set your child up for success is to come prepared. Assemble an IEP team, gather documentation and information about your child, set clear objectives, advocate for accommodations, and bring a list of questions so you can better understand your child’s education plan.

  • Advocating for your child: You know your child best. Ensure all agreed-upon services and accommodations are being met and adjust the IEP as your child’s needs evolve. 


bottom of page