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IDEA is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Until 1975 parents had few options if their child was autistic. The options were home training or an institution.

IDEA changed that. It mandates that public schools must provide FAPE, - a free appropriate public education.

IDEA provides some funding and requires every school system to educate disabled children, or pay to have it done.

Like all government regulations, IDEA is complex, but it is very important to parents. The 266 page March 12, 1999 release (Number EHI0003P) and can be yours free by calling 1-877-4-ED-PUBS.

There is something called "Idea Talk." Jargon and abbreviations that can confuse someone new to world of special education. IDEA lists 27 different Acronyms and defines 83 different terms. Doctors and other professionals have another set, you will learn them all.  There is only one that is really important to your child.

The IEP is the key that unlocks to door to your child's future!

The IEP is the key to your child's education. It is the cornerstone, the foundation on which to build your child's future.  It is also a legal contract between you and the school system to provide specific services to your child. 

The key word is "Individualized" which means, to give individuality to, to consider or treat individually; particularize or to modify to suit the wishes or needs of a particular individual. This is not easy to do.

An IEP is a written statement for a child with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised in a meeting.  One must be prepared for each student. Each IEP must be reviewed and or revised yearly by the IEP Team.  In it are the current performance levels of the student, Goals and Short-Term Objectives, Related Services, Transportation, and all the other stuff the IEP Team agrees the school will provide.

Note: An IFSP, Individualized Family Service Plan may be written for children under three.

Who is on the IEP Team, well to start with YOU the parent. By law YOU share equally with the school in developing the IEP. By law the other members of the team are:

Regular education teacher
Special education teacher
Representative of the LEA per policy
An individual who can interpret assessment results
Others at the discretion of the parent or LEA -anyone
The student whenever appropriate

A child is short changed if a parent is not a participating member of the IEP Team. By law, you have has much power as other team members.  Please download or call 1-877-4-ED-PUBS and order copies of "A Guide to the Individualized Education Program," there is no charge for this US Dept of Education 36-page publication.

Team work is paramount. To get the best for your child every member must work as a team. That does not mean that everyone agrees on every issue, but the common goal must be meeting the student's needs.

Talk to the teacher well in advance of the IEP meeting, advise them that you will prepare a draft IEP that details your expectations for your child. 

Take some time. Look at last year's IEP. Document what your child does at home, the good, the bad and the ugly. 

Think about what skills can be improved and what you believe can enhance those skills. What skills are lacking and what might be done to foster them. Be creative, if you believe a service is needed that cost money, write it down, all they can tell you is "No."

Please read "A Guide to the Individualized Education Program" it will help you. Visit your state's Board of Education Internet site. Do a search for "IEP" see what you can find. Maybe there is a form, regulation or instruction you can download.

After completing your IEP homework, make a copy. Give it to the teacher. Discuss it and ask to have the final IEP based on the goals and objectives you identified in your draft IEP. Let the teacher know you want your "Draft IEP" included in the IEP. Memorialized is the way lawyers say this.

Home and Private Schooling

As a parent, you need to know that there are several educational or delivery models used to train and educate autistic children. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is probably the best known. Find out the type or types of methods/models used by your school. Learn as much as you can.

Home and private schooling are options provided by IDEA. The law requires the local school system to prepare the IEP, but there is no law forcing your child to attend a public school. Bare in mind, schools like the systems they have in place and usually do not have the money to change them.

If you ask for something different, like having the school pay for Applied Behavior Analysis at home, prepare yourself for a protracted negotiation. Get ready for disappointment. Many school system experts remain locked in the past. They are not aware of recent developments. You may have to train them.

Do not give up, do what is best for your child.

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