How to get a great IEP for Children with Autism

What are common challenges for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders?

The five autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, Rett Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise specified.  Common characteristics of these disorders include: impairments with social interaction,  not responding to their parents’ voices when called.  Not acknowledging other children playing around them, having difficulty with joint attention or difficulty having a simultaneous interest in the same topic as a friend or caregiver.

Another common autism characteristic is difficulty with communication skills.  Some children with autism have difficulty with speaking and have delayed language expression.  Echolalia is a term used to describe when a child with autism repeats a phrase or word back to you.  Since the primary use of language is to communicate with others, this explains why individuals with autism are often viewed as loners.  They may become obsessed with a certain topic or interest and only like to talk about that subject.  They will go on and on and not even notice you are not interested or closely listening.

Behavioral characteristics of ASD include repetitive behaviors, difficulty with sensory integration, and the need for a routine.  The repetitive behaviors may include hand flapping, walking in circles, opening and closing things, or spinning objects.  Sensory difficulties appear with extreme sensitivity to loud noises such as fire alarms or movie theaters, types of fabrics, tags, or clothes.  Other difficulties may be with fine and gross motor skills including writing, gasping a writing or eating utensil, core or  hand strength, catching and throwing a ball, etc… Most children with autism like routines or sameness.  When their routine is changed it usually creates a huge behavior problem, tantrum, or outburst.

Frequent types of services or accommodations provided on the IEP for students with autism include: minimize transitions, offer consistent daily routines, use a buddy system, provide assignments that link student’s interest, break assignments into smaller units, preferential seating, provide expanded explanations with simplified instructions,  provide a safe-place or safe-person for highly stressful events, frequent home communication, use of a picture schedule, use of a timer, reduced homework or assignments, positive reinforcement schedule or plan, pairing reinforcers with unpreferred to new material, use of a sensory box or toy to replace repetitive or distracting behavior and social stories.

10 Questions to Ask at an Autism IEP Meeting
  1. What type of behavior treatment is available and what is the frequency of this treatment?
  2. How do you use applied behavior analysis in the classroom?
  3. Will and can behavior therapy be provided at our home?
  4. What type of functional communication language therapy is available?
  5. Will my child be taught in a regular education classroom?  What types of supports are available?
  6. What is your criterion for providing a one-on-one teacher’s assistant for my child?
  7. How can you incorporate social skills into their IEP?
  8. Do teachers use social stories?
  9. What types of transition planning will take place?
  10. What type of assisted technology will my child receive?  Request an assistive technology evaluation.
  1. For your child to make progress, family involvement is very important.
  2. The IEP should have academic, communication/ language, and social goals and objectives.
  3. If you have concerns about your preschool child, early intervention is critical so get an assessment right away.