Question: What is an IEP (Individualized Education Program), and how does the IEP process work for a child with autism?
Answer: An IEP is an individualized educational plan. And again, this is an entitlement for a child with autism served in the school system. And it's a collaborative process in which an evaluation team -- often involving observations from a classroom, a representative of the district, the family, and any advocates that the family brings with them -- all come together to set an appropriate set of goals to be addressed in the educational setting for the child with autism.
And this process leads essentially to a discussion and then putting down in writing of what becomes a contract about what the school district has agreed to supply to address and create an appropriate educational plan for this particular child. This becomes an opportunity for negotiation, for advocacy on the part of the parent.
It's important in this situation that the parent be pro-active and aware of any services that they feel that the child would benefit from and that may not have been included in an IEP to date or are at risk of being discontinued in a new IEP, and bring through supporting documentation or think through their own arguments about how to advocate for this set of services.
But the IEP is not only a document. It is an opportunity to come together to think through the child's needs. It represents a contract. And it represents the parents' voice, and an opportunity for advocacy on what they feel their child's needs are at this time. And it should be utilized as a real opportunity.