IEPs and Autism: Ensuring Your Child’s Program Is Right for Them

IEPs and Autism: Ensuring Your Child’s Program Is Right for ThemAll children in the United States are entitled to a free public education (FAPE), one that is appropriate for their needs and abilities. These rights are afforded under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which created the Individualized Education Program (IEP). If your student is eligible for special education services, they may and often need an IEP.

Some parents and guardians may be unaware that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a condition typically eligible for an IEP. However, ASD can encompass a wide range of symptoms and challenges, so it’s important to have a professional medical diagnosis, along with an experienced legal professional to help you move through any educational roadblocks.

First, let’s talk a little about autism spectrum disorder.

What is autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?

Nationwide Children’s Hospital describes ASD as follows:

The term Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) refers to a complex neurodevelopmental condition. Its presentation varies for each individual, but primarily, it affects communication and social interactions between a child and their caregivers, peers, and/or teachers. It also impacts the way the child thinks and behaves. It can cause them to play, behave, and think in repetitive or unconventional ways.

The level of support needed can greatly vary from person to person. Some children and adults with ASD may have few challenges navigating day-to-day life. Most, however, may need caregivers and significant and substantial additional support in order to live and survive in our society.

How is ASD diagnosed?

There is no one set test for autism spectrum disorder. Nationwide Children’s Hospital notes that diagnosis “starts by assessing a child’s behavior and development in comparison to children of the same age.” Physicians and other healthcare professionals trained in ASD evaluate and observe the child, as well as interview the parents about various milestones and other relevant information. Through “psychological and language testing, the team can confirm that an ASD diagnosis is appropriate and not some other physical, developmental, or mental health condition.”

The earlier that ASD is identified, the earlier parents and caregivers can begin necessary therapies to help a child gain skills, improve quality of life, and move toward more independence. This may include behavioral modification to tamp down unruly or disruptive behaviors, speech and occupational therapy to improve a child’s language development, social skills, fine motor skills, executive functioning, and emotional/behavioral regulation.

Not all ASD IEPs are the same – and they shouldn’t be

If your child is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, he or she would most likely greatly benefit by having an IEP that requires the school, not you, to provide services that will help them.  Know that too many school systems often balk at providing these services. The “I” in individualized education program (IEP) means the “individual” child. Because children with ASD have many and perplexing issues, parents and guardians must advocate strongly for their child’s specific learning needs. No two children are the same, much less two disabilities. Unfortunately, without the assistance of an experienced lawyer, too many school systems will not provide the many services that these children require.

An IEP requires a team meeting; school officials typically stand together and often try to impose their view on the parents. You do not have to accept the proposed IEP. You can challenge it by filing for a due process hearing. Moreover, if you are having issues or disputes with your child’s IEP, you have rights. You have the right to make a complaint, you have the right to mediation, and you have the right to a hearing.

To talk to an experienced and dedicated attorney, contact the Law Office of Perry A. Craft, PLLC today. Every child has the right to a proper and free education. If you need someone to help you advocate for yours, call or fill out our contact form today. We represent students and parents throughout Nashville.