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"... the most important considerations in devising educational programs for children with autistic spectrum disorders have to do with recognition of the autism spectrum as a whole, with the concomitant implications for social, communicative, and behavioral development and learning, and with the understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the individual child across areas of development." —Educating Children with Autism, 2001
The IEP is the document that is at the heart of the delivery of special education services. It contains the details regarding a student’s educational goals and how those goals are to be measured as well as the accommodations and services that will be provided or made available to ensure that the student is receiving a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) as mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal law which was first enacted in the mid 1970s, with the latest revision enacted in 2004 and in force as of July 2005.
There are many steps parents or guardians can take to assure that their child is receiving the Free Appropriate Public Education promised by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The most crucial step is that parents become knowledgeable about their child’s disability, paying particular attention to their own child’s strengths and weaknesses. Inasmuch as a specific disability can “look” different in every child and that it is not unusual for a child to have more than one disability, having this insight and expertise will help others who work with your child better grasp their needs and abilities and will lead to a more fruitful discussion about how best to educate your child.
If your child already has an IEP you should make sure that you understand how the goals stated are to be met, that the accommodations and services listed are being received and that you know who to contact if the IEP is not being followed.
Whether you are new to the IEP process or a parent with many years of experience, always keep in mind that as a parent you are a FULL member of your child’s IEP team. IDEA lists the people who should be IEP team members. For a listing of the composition of the IEP Team in Maryland, download the Maryland Disability Law Center's Handbook.
Improving the educational experiences and outcomes of students on the autism spectrum in grades K-12.