The Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a blueprint for everything that will happen to a child in the next school year. The planning process involves parents, teachers, and other individuals working with the student who has an autism spectrum disorder. In addition to outlining academic and behavioral goals, the IEP includes interventions, modifications, supports, and hands-on learning opportunities designed to aid the student with autism from when they first enter school to the transition to adulthood.
Federal law entitles all students with disabilities to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Federal law also states that students with disabilities should be placed in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), where they can make progress toward achieving their goals. Finally, federal law requires that those goals be developed and measured within the framework of an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Students with autism have special needs beyond academics that fall under this law.
As the teacher and principal observer, you play a key role in the development, implementation, and evaluation of a student’s IEP. You will be responsible for reporting on the student’s progress toward meeting specific academic, social, behavioral goals and objectives that are outlined in the IEP. You will also be asked for input about developing new goals for the student in subsequent IEP meetings.
IEPs are created by a multidisciplinary team of education professionals, along with the child’s parents, and are tailored to the needs of the individual student. Special and general education teachers, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, school psychologists, and families form the IEP team and meet regularly to discuss student progress on IEP goals.
Before the IEP team meets, an assessment team gathers information about the student through a formal evaluation. A school psychologist, social worker, classroom teacher, and/or speech pathologist are examples of professionals who may conduct educational assessments. A neurologist may conduct a medical evaluation, and an audiologist may complete hearing tests. The classroom teacher also gives input about the student’s academic progress and classroom behavior, and parents give input to each specialist throughout the process. One person on the evaluation team consolidates all the information, the team meets to make recommendations, then the IEP is written based on the evaluation and suggestions from team members.
IEPs always include annual goals, short-term objectives, special education services that the student requires, and a yearly evaluation to see if the goals were met. Annual goals must explain measurable behaviors so that it is clear what progress should have been made by the end of the year. The short-term objectives should contain incremental and sequential steps toward meeting each annual goal.
For tips on writing objectives and developing measurable IEP goals for students with autism, please see Life Journey through Autism – An Educator’s Guide to Autism.