Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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The IEP Process: Tips for Parents of Children on the Spectrum

An evaluation for your "Aspie" (i.e., a child with Aspergers or high functioning autism) should determine his special education needs and will generate an appointment for a team meeting to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP is the document that will detail, in writing, an individualized approach to meeting the unique needs of your youngster. The team should include:
  • A school representative who can make decisions about the delivery of services
  • One regular education teacher
  • One special education teacher
  • Someone who can interpret the evaluation results as they apply to your Aspie's educational instruction
  • You and your spouse
  • Other participants with special expertise or knowledge of your Aspie

Your Aspie may also participate if he/she chooses to be present. Participants with special expertise may include a parent-advocate knowledgeable about the IEP process, a professional consultant who specializes in developing IEPs, or a professional consultant who specializes in Aspergers. Finding a specialist can be a crucial issue, and it can be frustrating to both moms and dads and school officials when one is not accessible.

It may not be realistic to expect that an educator experienced in teaching children with Aspergers will be teaching your Aspie. Because you know your youngster best, you may become fiercely protective and defensive of what you believe your youngster needs. On the other hand, most willing and cooperative school districts may lack such expertise and may be of the position that they are doing all they can.

If you have requested that your school district evaluate your Aspie, the district must comply, and this process should be completed within sixty days after your first written request. After this, the district will ask that you sign a “Permission to Evaluate” form. The evaluation should be completed within sixty days after your original written request, not sixty days after you've signed the permission form. Once the evaluation is completed, a team meeting should be convened to review the evaluation. You should receive your youngster's evaluation well in advance of the team meeting, but no later than ten days prior to such a meeting. This team meeting may also serve as the first IEP meeting if you wish.

If your Aspie has been deemed eligible for services, IEP team members should be identified, and the first meeting should occur within thirty calendar days of the original determination of eligibility. The completed IEP must then be implemented within ten school days. It must also be reviewed yearly and can be revisited in a team meeting upon your request outside of the annual meeting date. The IEP must also be in effect for your youngster at the beginning of each new school year.

The initial IEP meeting is the time and place to develop the document that will be the blueprint for your Aspie's educators. The draft document should be transcribed into the final document immediately after the meeting. It should include:
  • acknowledgment of your Aspie's eligibility
  • area for you to sign, acknowledging that the school district has provided you with a copy of your rights during the process, known as “procedural safeguards”
  • basic information such as your contact numbers and address, your youngster's date of birth, and anticipated year of graduation
  • cover sheet with a sign-in page listing all participants
  • list of “special considerations,” such as visual or hearing impairment, behaviors that impede your Aspie's ability to learn, and communication issues
  • summary of your youngster's needs
  • summary of your youngster's strengths, passions and interests

A strong IEP team should be able to find a balance between your Aspie's strengths and needs. Too often, such meetings can focus upon issues that others may perceive as “behavioral” or emotional disturbances. When this occurs, teams get sidetracked and lose their focus. Teams may digress and deteriorate. Moms and dads may leave feeling angry or upset, and the self-fulfilling prophecy is perpetuated. For this reason, and particularly in very sensitive situations, it is advisable to have a professional in attendance that fits the bill of “other participants with special expertise or knowledge of your Aspie.” In partnership with the team, this person can help keep things focused on your youngster as a youngster first and foremost.

The next step is to set IEP goals that are specific to your Aspie's strengths and needs in order to track your youngster's educational progress and ensure that the team is implementing what it committed to doing. The goals should be realistically achievable for your youngster and written in such a way that they are easy to track or “measure,” in order to see your Aspie's growth and keep the team accountable. For example, an appropriate goal for a child with Aspergers of any age might be in the area of developing computer skills. While this may sound rather generic, the spin here is to make it specific to your youngster's Aspergers.

The purpose of the goal should be clearly stated, such as a goal for accessing the Internet: “The child will develop skills to use a computer to communicate, to gain information, and to increase social relationships independently three out of five times.” Next, objectives to meet the goal should be identified in sequence. The sequence for the computer goal might look like this:
  • The child will create and access a file and store information she wishes to save in the file.
  • The child will learn methods to access social interaction through electronic media (email).
  • The child will learn the functions of the computer, including turning the computer on, signing on to the Internet, and using the keyboard and other functions while exploring her passions (such as searching for information about insects as they relate to a lesson plan).

This ensures accountability as well as consistent support. A method and schedule of evaluation for each goal objective should also be included. For example, the method for the last objective listed might read, “During computer learning opportunities, the child will be afforded opportunity to increase social interactions by learning to use e-mail and other communication avenues.”

A goal for enhancing self-advocacy might address your Aspie's ability to identify and communicate her sensory sensitivities in the school environment. A goal or objective might read, “The child will be able to communicate in a socially acceptable manner the specific change she requires in her educational environment four out of five times.” The method should include supporting the youngster to identify environmental stimuli that are irritants and detract from learning.

The IEP should also list “program modifications and specially designed instruction” that may include elements incorporated into goal areas, which team members should bear in mind. Such a useful list may include examples like:
  • Allow extended wait time and processing time.
  • Be consistent with the expectations established for the child.
  • Explain directions clearly, in steps and with visual representations.
  • Limit or eliminate visual and auditory stimulation and distractions in the learning setting.
  • Provide advance notice of schedule and special situations.
  • Provide an individual, weekly schedule to follow.
  • Use photo depictions where possible instead of cartoons or drawings.

The IEP document will also indicate the projected date for implementation of services, the anticipated duration of services, and any revision dates. Specifications addressing how the school district intends to report IEP goal progress should be clearly stated. There must also be a statement reflecting why your Aspie's current educational placement represents an inclusive environment as fully as possible as opposed to an alternative placement.

Some moms and dads and school districts are possessed of more experience and greater expertise in educating kids with Aspergers than others. There will always be kinks to iron out in the IEP process, and these can usually be addressed at the annual IEP meeting or at a requested reopening of the IEP. When moms and dads encounter resistance from a school district it is usually because the district:
  • Doesn't “see” the Aspergers as a viable diagnosis
  • Believes your Aspie's challenges to be exclusively behavioral issues
  • Believes it is meeting the goals and objectives of the IEP to its best ability

Where moms and dads resist a school's efforts, it is usually because they are extremely frustrated that the school district doesn't understand Aspergers and, as a result, doesn't “get” how to educate their Aspie. Ignorance can be used as an initial excuse, but it is not an acceptable long-term excuse. School districts have a responsibility to make provisions for the continuing education of educators and to seek outside technical assistance and expertise as necessary.

Moms and dads have a responsibility to serve as a resource concerning their youngster's strengths and needs, as well as to direct the district to viable resources and expertise wherever possible. When the circumstances of educating your youngster through proper implementation of the IEP goals and objectives become less than satisfactory, you have recourse available to you, provided by the IDEA law.

You may request an Impartial Due Process Hearing at any point in which disagreement arises about the delivery of education to your Aspie. This includes your youngster's identification, evaluation, placement, or implementation of the IEP.

The Impartial Due Process Hearing takes place with an “impartial hearing officer.” The hearing officer is the “fact finder” who hears all the evidence and makes a ruling on the issues presented during the meeting. Such individuals are employed by your state government's education office of dispute resolution and are of varied background and position, such as former education administrators, attorneys, or psychologists.

A hearing is to be held within thirty days of the request. The school district must forward a mother/father's request to the office of dispute resolution within five days of its receipt by the district office. The hearing officer's decision must be issued within forty-five days of the request for the hearing.

There are often delays in scheduling or a hearing officer may not be timely in making his final determination to settle a dispute. During the dispute, the Aspie in question is to remain in her current educational placement. The hearing officer's decision may be appealed and taken to an appeals panel within thirty days. The appeals panel must render a decision within thirty days after the review request.

Such measures will be entirely avoidable, but if a mother/father remains dissatisfied after exhausting local administrative avenues, action may be brought in any state court of competent jurisdiction or in any district court of the United States, as provided for in IDEA. There is no statute of limitations for commencing such action in federal court, but it is advisable to file as soon as possible. There may be time-frame limitations for filing a case in your state court.

Moving to file a case is stressful, frustrating, and draining for all parties involved. However, court rulings can set precedent for changes in law to the benefit of all. Any time significant change has occurred in how kids with differences are educated, it has been at the instigation of passionate moms and dads simply wanting fair and equal opportunities for their kids.

You may be a persuasive advocate when interacting with your Aspie's school district. You just may be the person to educate and enlighten the professionals in your district if they require a better understanding of Aspergers. In some extreme instances, families have moved to another school district or another state in order to have their Aspie attend a certain school program. Unfortunately, in addition to the stress on the whole family that this type of upheaval can cause, it also allows school districts to remain uneducated about how best to support children with Aspergers.

More resources for parents of children and teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism:


Nicki said...

the best thing I ever did for my son was get him a Sylvan Learning assessment done and took it to his IEP meeting as it listed where his strength were and where his weaknesses were in a much better break down, this helped his teachers to teach him.

Anonymous said...

Ashley Henderson Gonzales
I wish anyone that has an Aspergers child and has an IEP, the absolute best. But from experience with an Aspie son with an IEP, in Henrico County VIrginia, it has been a nightmare. Due priocess is not at all a fair and objective process if or when you run into problems and or violations. It is costly going against county attorneys that are well versed on tactics to intimidate and bully parents in attempts to make them go away. For anyone in which the process does work, you are in the minority and should feel very fortunate. Just my personal experiences and opinion.
16 hours ago · Like
Gina Sanchez Great article. Thanks for sharing this. I'm nervous about my son starting Kindergarten. This is helpful!
10 hours ago · Like
Heidi Hemingway Would this be the same in the uk

donna said...

my son ha sbeen on an IEP for 3 years for an Executive Function disorder. His 3 year re-evaluation came up and they wanted to drop services as he ha dmet goasl and did not have a disability. I went outside the school and had an Neuropsych eval and the Aspie diagnosis is here. Now I need to analyze his IEP tgo see if with this new diagnosis we want to change add or modify accomadations or goals or even the service delivery grid. I had hired an educational advocate to work weith me to get his IEP just right. I am so glad I have had him, it is expensive though. I also with ananymous in VA luck. Are there any professionals you can hire to work for you in dealing with the schools?

Anonymous said...

How do I get a real diagnosis to help my child be receive services? It seems like Aspergers kids slip thru the educational labels done with the school testing. They told me my son may be too intelligent to qualify!? I am starting to panic. Two more specialists being pulled in, but it is looking like he will not hit the marks for services thru the school system! What do I do?

Anonymous said...

Its taken me years to get my sons diagnosis and our school to pay attention. We are waiting for paperwork to get his IEP started. I would love any suggestions of things to put in his IEP to help him keep his focused in school. He is constantly bored and frustrated because he is working below his capabilities. He is so intelligent but I fear with him being help down to the "standards" that he will lose interest completely! He doesn't quailfy for "special education" because he is "gifted". They don't recognize that is Aspergers does effect him academically because his lower grades are still in line with the standard, but I know he is capable of more. Help!

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous
I suggest you check on-line the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. Look for the Diagnostic and Counseling Center page. They will evaluate and provide counseling for "gifted with leaning disabilities".
Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I have a 12 y/o son w/AS who is mainstreamed in 7th grade. We have a rather long IEP for him, but we are having a lot of difficulty getting the team to understand his differences and how to respond.

His case manager this year does not get it at all, and I have asked 3 times so far for a new case manager and have been refused. He also does not feel that my son needs an IEP or any sensory input during his day...don't even get me started on that! He pulled him out for testing earlier this year and my son is not supposed to be pulled, he tests alongside all the other kids and does not like to be singled out at all. The case manager said he assumed since he had an IEP he needed to be pulled, and that is what they told my son at the time also. My son took his test with tears in his eyes in the special ed room.

I also asked how he would reach his goals of doing 4 to 5 prompts every 2 weeks in his journal if he is only giving him 1 prompt a week...he responded that he "must have missed that" in the IEP.

Also, my son established a routine last year (and he is ALL about routine) with the last case manager that she would call into the room he was in and he would be sent on an "errand" to her room to go over charts and journal. This case manager has been telling him to just show up on Fridays in his room. When he does not show, the CM approaches him in the hallway around the other kids and my son gets very upset and embarrassed. When I spoke with my son about going on his own, he got extremely upset,saying "that is not how it works" and he is very overwhelmed, has too much to remember. Why can't I get him to understand that he needs to bend a little with my son to see positive results?

Also, last year they gave my son small "rewards" for doing well on his behavior charts. That has not happened this year at all,and my son is wondering why, since he is doing well and really trying hard. He even wrote in his journal a note to the CM asking why and the CM never responded to his question, 3 times. The Sped director actually stated that they can continue to "baby him" if that is what we want,but that will not help him as he gets older. I had all I could do to keep it together and told her that I do not feel that accomodating the needs of a child with a disability to be "babying" him. He had an established routine, a positive behavior/rewards system in place,and they just decided to do away with it and not discuss it with anyone, most importantly my son.

There was also an incident where he made an inappropriate comment to some girls, and all that happened was a mark on his chart, a general comment was made, and nobody ever addressed it with him! I found out 5 days later, when I asked for specifics on the general comment. So how will he ever learn what is appropriate and what is not, and why, if he is never spoken to about it? They do not understand that the teaching moment is directly after he says these things, not 5 days later. We had out private therapist address it with him, why it was inappropriate, who he can say things like that to, who he cannot, very specifically. The Sped director them told us she was confused because she thought we did not want him singled out. I told her, that is not singling him out, it is what they would do with any other child. Singling him out is when they give any indication to his peers that he is in special ed or has an IEP, not treating him as they would any other child...does this make sense? They sure are not understanding. Is there anything specific we should have put in writing in his IEP in January?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Anonymous said...

I am just very frustrated at this point, I feel like I am talking to a brick wall. The advocate tries to reinforce what we are saying at the meetings and agrees with us 100%. I am going to have her help us out with some very specific ideas to add to his IEP in January when we meet again. I have a lot of this documented already with emails between myself, the case manager and sped director, and it was all discussed at our most recent meeting. It just seems like we do not get anywhere at these meetings. Very frustrating.

Anonymous said...

I need help!! My son is 11 and in 6th grade. He has been diagnosed with ADHD, aspergers, and PDD. Since kindergarten all his report cards have all stated things such as problems with focus, understanding, social interaction, and everything else that goes along with that. He was diagnosed in 1st grade with ADHD and last year with aspergers and PDD. The school refuses to recognize this. They look at my child and since he doesnt have a physical disability then everything that happens is my son being defiant. Hes been suspended from school several times. in school suspensions are an average thing, yet he's NEVER been given a detention. Its quite obvious they would rather "not deal" with him. They gave him an in school suspension once over the teacher telling him to get a book, him getting one, her telling him no, get a real book, and him completely puzzled saying, but this is a real book. He is made fun of everyday by classmates. Has absolutely no friends at school, and considers his 3 year old brother to be his best friend. It breaks my heart. I have done everything the school has asked me to do, and they just keep putting me off and putting me off until its the end of the year and then the next year it starts all over again. Last year they finally put him on a 504 plan (they adamently refuse to set up an IEP ( i was told no, because they cant easily suspend him-by the principal) and they still refusew to follow it!! Please help, any advice would be greatly appreciated!! Thank you!!!!!

Anonymous said...

can anyone help? My son is having a hard time in school!! We put him in a Charter Montessori this year because he was off an IEP and put on a 504. There was not much else for them to do and pulling out an half an hour a week will not help him. So we moved him to an the Montessori so he can work more on his level and ability. I am just not sure that the school is right for him. I do think it is structured but in a different way than public school. I do like the curriculum though. He never has good days. He is always fighting with the other kids. His OCD are getting worse. However, with all this. I am not sure if this would not be going on in the public school too. He need a worker with him but does not qualify for one. I was just wondering what other family has done.

Anonymous said...

Could really use some advice - my son was finally diagnosed a few months ago (i've known for years) - AS and ADD - he's had an IEP for years for speech and OT - had a meeting with admins yest. regarding IEP and they say they are NOT adding anything to his IEP even though he has a medical diag - I need to know my son's rights! they say it's not affecting his grades (b's and c's) so he doesn't need ...anything more - but I KNOW he does! WHO do i contact, ask, help!? I'm in FL by the way -· soooo i.e. unless he is flunking classes he's doing 'fine' ?! b's and c's are good, ok, but not great - and he is brilliant! but does have LOTS of sensory issues, the typical Aspie social issues... they're not willing to make adjustments to his needs - extra time, smaller groups, 'down time' if needed, more OT
** I'm a mama tiger and when I have my information gathered I would like to return for another meeting - the last meeting I had to BRING THEM information on Aspergers to educate THEM! Amazing public schools....

Anonymous said...

We live in a small town just North of Kansas City and our school district's way of dealing with my son is through strict discipline. You see, they don't think that my son has an actual disability. They all think that he is just a trouble maker. Basically, any time he annoys someone he gets sent to the office or is suspended. He was suspended this last time around the 3rd week of January and as of today he is still not back in class. He will be home schooled for the rest of the year. They have suggested sending my son to schools that are for kids who have physically harmed people or threatened to physically harm someone. My son has done none of these things. He has ADHD which is not unusual. In 4th grade he had a teacher who was so awful to him that he actually suffered form PTSD! Our school district does not know how to deal with a person like my son and I need to educate them because I know that he isn't the only one out there who is like this. They had a person working within the district who helped my son recognize the escalation process of a melt down and how to deal with it so he hasn't had one since 7th grade (his current grade is 10th but I am pretty sure that he will fail most of his classes this year). He is a good kid, very high functioning and extremely smart. His teachers assume that because he's smart then he should know better than to say something inappropriate. His last offence was an insensitive comment to another student who is pregnant. He told her "I hate babies, you should get an abortion" when another student said they think they are illegal in Missouri he said "Well, you can always push her down the stairs". The school suspended him saying that he threatened that student. When I pointed out that she wasn't threatened they said "Well, she perceived it to be a threat therefore it was a threat". I sent a copy of his discipline records to a state advocate and she suggested that I file a formal complaint with the state of MO. Since that won't help my son I am not willing to go that route. I think that it is more important to educate the district. After a 6 year battle the school has finally agreed to put him on an IEP.

Anonymous said...

I have a 7yr old grandson who just began 2nd grade this year. I don't know where to begin because all the issues combined seem insurmountable. He was evaluated in Kindergarten for Aspergers at my and his mother's request. His Kindergarten teacher never submitted her evaluation form. The therapist gave the form to the mother to give to the teacher and I don't think she ever even received it. The next thing I know the therapist is handing me a Psychoeducational Evaluation paper which had been completed without the input of his school teacher, which I personally thought was ridiculous. The diagnosis Axis 1; 299.8; Pervasive Developmental Disorder,NOS. I did not and do not understand why persistent effort was not made to contact her in order to get a definitive diagnosis. An exceptional resource teacher who is working with him some that he is practically a textbookcase of Aspergers. Because he doesn't have a definite diagnosis a lot of teachers, professionals, develop their own opinions,will not utilize techniques in dealing with Aspergers behaviors,etc.etc.

His father, my son, is in total denial about him having any issues at all. If I, his mother, ANYONE, tries to speak with him about concerning behaviors, he dismisses it as things he will outgrow, he doesn't want his son labeled, he doesn't need therapy to learn social skills-he'll learn them as he grows up like everyone else, etc. He deals with him in a very authoritative way, hollering, yelling, making him sit in his room all night for punishment. J T(my grandson) recently was sitting in the backseat of my car, was opening his 3DS player showing me where his Daddy had snatched it from him and threw it on top of his chest of drawers, causing some damage to it. He began crying and asked me " Why does my Daddy have to be so mean?" Jason, my son, also always says, " He doesn't do that around me" or I've never seen him act that way." If there is ever a problem with J T, he places blame on the person that is watching him, the teacher. I enrolled JT in 3 different programs during the summer. The first was swimming lessons which went quite well, with the exception of the last day when he thought another boy had intentionally splashed water in his face and would not accept the idea that it could have been an accident, JT kept following the boy for several minutes asking him " why he had done that to him". He couldn't let it go for a while. The other 2 programs I got a call asking me to come pick him up because he was hitting and upset. This summer is the first time I've ever known him to hit anyone. He has also hit me once and his cousin(22)whom he spends time with in the past few weeks. He says disturbing things sometimes, for example, " Why don't you just take a knife and kill me. I know you want to. I know you hate me. " I want to die. Just kill me." " Just shoot me." Yesterday while driving, he got upset and said, " Why don't you just put me out on the road so a car can run over me and kill me."

Last year I was able to speak with JT's teacher and others about things at school if I wanted information. Jason, my son, is very hypersensitive and defensive about JT and other issues. This year he sent a letter to school stating that he wanted to be the only one to receive information about JT. I have never been controlling or undermining. I have only tried to be an advocate for both of them. Jason doesn't think he needs an IEP although he's had one since Kindergarten and does not want a new evaluation through the school. He's just in denial and I don't know what to do. I feel desperate.

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