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Individualized Education Program (IEP)


Updated January 24, 2014

Definition: An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a legal document that defines an autistic child's academic, social, and/or lifeskill goals, along with accomodations for achieving those goals and a setting in which those goals are met. It is put together by a team that includes a special education teacher, a regular education teacher, a child's therapists (or therapists-to-be), a representative of the local educational agency (usually your district) and the child's parents.

It's important to note that the IEP focuses only on the areas that are affected by the child's disability, so if, for example, a child is academically competent, academic goals may not be included in his IEP.

The question of what to include in an IEP for a child with autism is wide open, and depends not only upon a child's needs, but also on the parents' personal philosophy. For example, the question of whether an autistic child should be included in a typical classroom or in a specialized program or school is as much a question of philosophy as a question of what is "best" for the child. Similarly, while some schools and families want their child to receive behavioral intervention, others feel that developmental intervention is a better idea.

While, in theory, the content of an IEP is NOT dependent upon a district's resources, the fact is that a school can make it extremely difficult for parents to insist upon certain expensive accomodations (such as a 1:1 aide). Parents do have the option of taking a district to mediation, due process, and even court over the contents and implementation of an IEP - but that is often a difficult and expensive road to take.

Also Known As: Individualized Education Program, IEP

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