As we shared in our last post we learned a ton as we started our autistic twins education inside the public school district.
Having taken a ‘deer in the headlights’ approach to our first IEP (Individual Education Program) meeting, it was more of a survival technique than a strategy. The twins were just two, and we had no advanced knowledge of what an IEP was prior to being immersed in one. Here are some thoughts we learned along the way that we wanted to share with you on your journey to educate your child with autism in the public school system.
Workshops. Our Regional Center provides meetings twice a year for parents to learn about the special education process. This includes explaining what an IEP is, tips for preparing for the meeting, and your rights.
Standards. Your school can provide you with a pamphlet each year that outlines the standards for all subjects for your child’s grade. This will help you see where they are headed and where your child will need a goal.
IEP. IEP’s are prepared by the school team to assess the child’s current status and prepare for the future year. They are held annually. Every three years they include an expanded assessment prepared by the school psychologist, and additional questionnaires prepared by the parents.
Meetings generally begin with a review of the goals from the prior IEP. The new IEP starts with an overview of Present Levels, a review of the new Goals, then Accommodations, Modifications and Services that will be provided. You are welcome to invite other team members you are working with outside of school if you have any.
Present Levels. It can be difficult for you to read about your child’s behavior, or level of functioning, seeing it on paper, while other people are around you, even though you live with it. It’s difficult. You may feel defensive or taken back, or in denial. A lot of emotion can come up.
Maybe being around them at home you get used to their behavior. Maybe you don’t see it because life forces you to ’just keep swimming’. Maybe they’re getting away with behaviors at school that they don’t even try at home or maybe the school is exaggerating.
This is a piece of the having a child with autism in the public school system puzzle you will have to get used to on your own. Just be aware that this could be upsetting and that everyone is there to help. Keep in mind that you can’t get to the solutions until you examine the problem.
Goals. Our approach has been to ask each team member in advance of the meeting for a copy of the new goal. There’s a lot of information to go over in an IEP meeting (especially when you have 2 kids on the autism spectrum).
Having a little of that information in advance has been very helpful to us. When goals are presented to us at the meeting for the first time we often don’t have feedback, because we are just trying to take it all in. When we have a chance to review them in advance we feel empowered to roll up our sleeves and be a part of the team.
Accommodations, Modifications and Services. The latter part of the IEP will specify what is needed in terms of personnel and provisions to accomplish the goals. Staff may assist your child in the classroom, or in small groups, or even one-to-one.
Standardized testing may be taken in a smaller setting and with more time. Even seating in the classroom may be discussed. Does your child do better being closer to the teacher, or closer to the board, or in the back of the classroom where no noise is behind them?
Anything that can advance the education of your child is welcome for discussion. Please let us know if you have questions in the comments section below. We’d also love to hear things that worked for you as you worked with the public school system for your autistic child’s education. Good Luck.