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Individual Educational Plan: Common Mistakes to Avoid

There is probably no process as frustrating for parents and educators alike as the IEP process. As a team effort, the IEP process is designed to help develop a program that is in the best interest of the child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism. All too often, the schools experience a lack of resources or have other challenges, which leaves the parent feeling that she is not receiving the support that is needed.

There are several common mistakes parents and teachers make when creating an IEP (or going through the IEP process). These include the following:

1. The parent signs the IEP when she doesn't totally agree with it.

Never sign an IEP at the meeting, especially if you don't agree with it. A verbal commitment that "we will work out the fine details later" is not binding, but your signature is. Remember that you have three days to review the IEP before signing it. It is always a good idea to take the IEP home and review it one more time, even if you think that everything is fine.  Never feel pressured into signing an IEP!

2. The short-term goals will not meet long-term goals.

If a specific long-term goal is agreed upon, make sure that the short-term goals adequately support progress towards the long-term goal.

3. The parent fails to review a preliminary IEP.

Without a preliminary look at what is being proposed for your Aspergers youngster, your first opportunity to see the IEP is in the IEP meeting where you are expected to agree to - and sign - the IEP. This puts you in an unfavorable position, because you can feel pressured to agree to items without having time to really think through their implications. Always ask for a preliminary copy prior to the IEP meeting, and never feel like you have to sign at the meeting.

4. The IEP contains goals that cannot be measured.

This is the most common mistake made when creating IEPs. It is easy to make - and accept - overly generalized goals and achievement objectives and believe they are acceptable. Many IEPs contain goals and objectives like, "...will improve letter recognition." This is a vague goal which can be claimed as "achieved" with very little progress actually having been made. A better goal would be something like, "...will recognize 9 out of 10 random letters shown, 4 out of 5 times." This is specific and measureable.

There may be times when you will not agree with an IEP. All schools have a due process procedure you can follow that will progressively escalate your complaint through the appeals process. If you can’t agree on your IEP, the school will provide you the information and steps you need to begin the due process procedure.

Many moms and dads find the assistance of an advocate or attorney to be an invaluable tool in their dealings with IEPs and education issues. The decision to utilize an advocate or attorney is a personal decision, but one that has many merits.

The IEP process is critical to the educational success of the Aspergers child. Parents and educators need to develop an IEP process that (a) enables both parties to feel as though their concerns are heard, and (b) ensures that the child's needs are being met. 

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Anonymous said...

This is SO what I needed for this year.

Anonymous said...

Any IEP is also only as good as the teachers that follow it with actions!

Anonymous said...

Amen to the last comment!

Anonymous said...

... or DON'T follow it with actions.

We had excellent teachers for daughter's elementary years that were very specific in their goals for our daughter and did a great job working to meet them.

Then she went to middle school. What a joke! She went from excellent social skills training and learning to glorified babysitting. Her social skills class was just a study hall. After a year of weekly emails and phone calls, falling grades, and countless trips to the counselor's office we've decided to pull her out and school her ourselves. Even if we miss the mark a bit, we will definitely be able to do a better job than the nothing she was getting.

I did have hesitations about her IEP at the beginning of her middle school year. It was vague just like the article said. I still don't think, though, that she would have gotten what she needed even if the IEP had been changed. Again, I echo "Anonymous": Any IEP is only as good as the teachers that follow it with actions".

Tammy Johnson

Anonymous said...

Federal law requires the parents to receive all documents that will be reviewed at the team 5 days before the meeting. That includes teacher reports, IEP and assessments.

Anonymous said...

Love this article

Anonymous said...

My Aspie son attends Rockport school in Texas and they have been wonderful in helping develop a schedule that works for him. We feel super blessed!

Ilene said...

My son will be in third grade. For the last three years we have felt that we have been bashed over the head at the IEP meetings. The IEP's have been mishandled, and misapplied over the last three years.

I noted that to the assistant principal and the most recent iep meeting in May was the first one that has felt like we are on the same page and doing things to help our son. He wasn't diagnosed with aspergers before this year but in previous meetings we heard "autistic" thrown around even though we didn't see all the signs. I nearly walked out of some iep meetings as they continued to dwell on his behavioral issues.

Now that he has the asperger's diagnosis we are hoping that this coming years IEP will be handled well and he will get the appropriate help he needs.

Anonymous said...

This will be helpful. This year will be in this situation and I have heard how difficult it can be. My son attends a Charter School and I have been told it is harder to get an IEP. Anyone heard that or struggled with that in a Charter School?

Anonymous said...

While lack of resources are a fact, that shouldn't determine what kind of educator's are in charge. A qualified person should look at the child'd potential, not what is policy, look at the child's strengths. We need to abolish the thinking of twenty years ago, we need to address the childrens needs, treating them with respect, stop the abuse in the systems.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have any experience, or know if it's even possible, to start this process during summer? My 11 year old son was just diagnosed after school got out and we're kind of new to the process.

Anonymous said...

you should check with your child's school. Since school might be out in your neighborhood due to summer, you might need to go to the local district office. I would check their first.

Anonymous said...

Im very lucky that the school our son is in is very supportive. We have good IEP meetings and he is achieving at least 1 or 2 of his goals when we have them. I wish i could say the same about national standards I hate reading his report as I find it very depressing. I like his IEP meetings because I know what I need to do to help him anf the teachers always have some good ideas and will tell me if he has had a good or bad day. I can aproach any member of his IEP team and talk to them about his learning needs. We have great communication with his school and we feel very blessed to have that. I have heard from many other parents that they dont have a good support team at their childs school. Maybe the should go to St Leonards school as well.

Anonymous said...

So far we've had very unsuccessful imp meetings but that was before diagnosis. They continued to dwell on his behavioral issues without giving us any real clue on the aspergers. Finally we had a good meeting last May and I'm hopeful for a better year this year and the support my now third grader needs.

Anonymous said...

Could not agree more. Wish I had seen this when we first started the process and maybe we could have avoided a lot problems. Our son is very bright, but you would not know it from the grades and evaluations he has been receiving. He tested at 8th grade math in 3rd grade, but last year in 7th received D's, mostly do to failure to do homework or participate in class. He got A's B's on tests, but the other outweighed them even though per his IEP said he was to have reduced assignments. This will be his 3rd year with an IEP and still not getting the results we were hoping for him.

Anonymous said...

We're getting an IEP but the question is placement. Hang in there! We came armed with lots of assessments, evaluation, and diagnoses from our doctor and Children's Medicial. We love our aspie.

Unknown said...

We started this process at the end of the school year and now the ARD committee meeting will be mid summer and none of the people from his campus will be at the meeting. I'm glad he is finally getting somewhere, but we'll have to do it all over again when school starts. One step forward and two steps back.

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

Click here to read the full article…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

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Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

Click here for the full article...