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Autism Spectrum Disorders Health Center

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Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for Autism

What is the process for creating an IEP? continued...

You should also come prepared with questions for the team, such as how their recommendations will benefit your child and which services will likely be the most effective. 

After it's written, the IEP will include information about your child's current performance in school. It will also contain a series of annual goals, and each goal will have a set of measurable objectives. Those objectives will be used to determine whether your child has moved toward or reached a particular goal. That way, your child's progress can be assessed each year.

The IEP will also identify the special education and services your child will receive. For instance, it could list and describe the assistive-technology devices your child will be able to use. The IEP document will also describe in detail how your child will interact with children who don't have disabilities. In addition, it will specify whether your child needs any modifications to standardized tests.

According to the law, the IEP needs to be reviewed annually. The purpose of the review is to assess your child's progress and make any needed modifications in the educational program.

How does an IEP work for a child with autism?

How autism hinders a child's educational progress depends on each child. By carefully designing an IEP for autism, it is possible to create a plan that will help your child develop in many ways -- academically, socially and behaviorally.

An IEP for a child with autism might contain goals like the following:

  • Academic: The child will learn new skills, such as adding or subtracting.
  • Social: The child will develop appropriate play skills, such as interacting with classmates during group activities.
  • Behavioral: The child will acquire new coping mechanisms, such as asking for help and replacing problem behaviors, such as yelling or hitting, with socially acceptable ones.
  • Motor: The child will work on ADL skills or handwriting to assist his or her academic progression.

In the IEP, each of these goals should be broken down into measurable objectives so that the IEP team will be able to assess your child's progress. For instance, a goal for a child to learn addition and subtraction might contain the following objective: "The child will correctly subtract two-digit numbers 90% of the time in a one-on-one situation with a special education teacher."

Many children with autism find it difficult to develop the skills they need. Engaging a child or teen in the IEP process provides an opportunity to teach a child with autism to advocate for himsel or herself. For some children, involvement may be limited to attending the IEP meeting. Over time, and depending upon the degree of the disability, some children may be able to take more ownership. When they do, they will more actively participate in designing their IEP for autism. They may be able to identify their own problem areas and help create reasonable goals for themselves. And they may be able to determine which special education services would help them meet their educational potential.

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