Developing an IEP for autistic individuals can create a positive learning environment for the student and their entire classroom. These plans help students with autism access the support services they need, work on specific goals to minimize disruptions and achieve post-graduation success. They are legally mandated, so every school should be prepared to develop them. IEPs for autistic students benefit students, teachers and families.

What is an Individualized Education Program (IEP)?

Every student has unique needs. This is doubly true for autistic individuals or those with other disabilities. An IEP is a government-mandated plan for addressing the specific needs and learning goals for a disabled student. An IEP for an autistic individual will address academic, social and communication goals. It ensures that teachers and administrators are working to help autistic students develop the skills they’ll need for real world success. Because IEPs are a legal requirement for publicly funded schools, they are taken very seriously. School districts often have special education coordinators who enforce IEPs, provide resources to teachers and visit with students to make sure goals are being reached.

What Goals Can An IEP for an Autistic Person Include?

Families and teachers should work together to decide on the most important and realistic goals for students with autism. Some IEPs focus on social goals and include objectives like having the student raise their hand before speaking, wait their turn when playing with others or avoid interrupting other students. Other plans concentrate on academic skills like completing homework, not talking during tests or listening to lectures even when bored. The student should agree to the goals and be willing to follow them at least 80% of the time.

Can an IEP Help Autistic Students Access Special Services?

Students with autism have a legal right to the support services they need to benefit from their education. This includes school counselors, classroom aides, behavioral therapists and speech therapists. An IEP for autistic individuals can specify how often the student receives services, what levels of interventions will be deliver and what the long-term goals are. For parents of students with autism, an IEP may be the only way to afford specialist services.

How Often Is an IEP Updated?

IEPS for students with special needs are updated every year, ideally before classes start. An annual review lets parents and teachers evaluate which goals were met and which will need additional work in the coming year. As a child ages, the IEP can be modified for their developmental needs. Older students are entitled to a plan that includes the classes needed for graduation and occupational services for post-graduate success. Some families stop using an IEP for their student after a certain level of progress has been made. Others keep their child on an individualized plan for their entire educational career, even if the plan includes fewer objectives and services in later years. For autistic college students, having graduated high school with an IEP still active can make the transition to undergraduate life easier.

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Many students use IEPs throughout their school career. They are not stigmatizing or shameful. An IEP for autistic individuals enhances the experience of everyone involved with the students.