The time immediately after a diagnosis of autism can be frustrating for parents. It might seem simultaneous as if life is changing too quickly, and as if the process to get special needs services is taking too long. One of the first steps in this process is the initial IEP eligibility meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to determine whether your child needs special education in order to receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) as mandated by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Enlist the help of a school advocate.
Perhaps the most effective thing you can do to help your child and be well-prepared for the meeting is to speak with a professional special needs advocate. Find out if your child’s autism treatment center offers school advocacy services. These therapists would be well-positioned to inform the IEP process since they work directly with your child. A professional advocate can help you determine if your child is or isn’t receiving the services he or she needs at school.
Bring a support person.
If your child isn’t yet receiving ABA therapy, you should at the very least bring a support person to the meeting, such as your spouse, partner, or a close family friend. The law entitles you to bring anyone who is acquainted with your child and familiar with his or her needs. Ask your support person to take detailed notes during the meeting. Do inform the rest of the IEP team ahead of time if you plan to bring another person to the meeting.
Document everything that happens at the meeting.
Don’t assume that everything said and done at the meeting will automatically be documented by the school. You’ll need to keep your own meticulously detailed records. If you’ve noticed something from your child’s evaluation that needs to be considered by the rest of the IEP team, read it out loud and ask it to be included in the school’s file. Additionally, document every time you make a request and how the team responded to the request.
The experts at The Behavior Exchange provide a full continuum of supportive services to families affected by autism, including ABA therapy and school advocacy services. You can get in touch at (888) 716-8084. One of our ABA therapists near Plano will be happy to offer guidance as you navigate the tricky process of IEP development.