I receive questions regarding Individual Education Plans (IEP) and have noticed this to be a trending topic of conversation online. Parents seeking information about the necessity of an IEP collide with opinions from those parents who are all too familiar with IEP’s and the process. Before I start listing the pros and cons of the IEP process, let me start by saying that I firmly believe that each child on the Autism Spectrum should have an IEP of their own. In simple terms, an IEP is a tool that is intended to help a child succeed by addressing limitations and concerns specific to an individual child’s needs. A well written IEP is most often the product of a collaborative relationship between parents and school faculty. In these cases, the IEP will contain detailed information whether it be areas of strength or weakness and will clearly state what resources and/or accommodations that will be needed to help the student succeed. While there are many positive aspects of the IEP process, perhaps the most important is the fact that the IEP can be modified as your child develops and it can be updated at any time during the school year. Even though the formal IEP review process is a yearly process, a parent can advocate for modification if they feel that their child’s needs are not addressed by the current plan. My wife and I have met with school administrators on several occasions to modify my son’s IEP over the years when it became clear that the current version wasn’t meeting his needs.

Now that I have relayed some of the good qualities of an IEP, there are certain pitfalls to watch out for as well. As I stated, the IEP is the result of a collaborative effort between parents and administrators. The net outcome will only be as good as the input from those involved in the process. In my travels, I have met many different types of teachers and school administrators and the large percentage of them have been overwhelmingly positive and helpful. Should you decide to dip your foot in this pool, I am certain that you will eventually cross paths with some school officials who lack empathy and who may appear to be less than enthusiastic about assisting in this process. Experience has taught me to trust those that are invested in this process and to work with them to create a plan that meets your child’s needs   . Many of the negative comments that I see regarding the IEP process center around specific schools and/or districts and their handling of IEP’s. There is no doubt in my mind that some schools and districts are better at this process than others, I would still strongly recommend and IEP for a qualified student. For a child with a disability, an IEP is just as important as a backpack, pencils or notebooks. Sending a child in need to school without an IEP will only disadvantage them further. A good IEP can help level the playing field and the importance of this document cannot be overstated.

For those looking for more information on the IEP process, I would suggest starting with the guides listed below for additional reference. An IEP is very broad in scope and it is not necessarily tied strictly to academics although that is the focus of most documents. An IEP can be updated to allow additional testing time for children that may require more time and it can also allow them to take tests in smaller groups by making special accommodations. The existence of an IEP will also ensure that each teacher is aware of a child’s specific needs and it will identify them as a student who may need assistance. Teachers can better understand how a student with an IEP learns and they can use the IEP to understand how to help your child succeed in their classroom.