IEP for Autism: Goals and Objectives

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) for children with autism is a crucial tool in ensuring they receive the specialized education and support they need to thrive. This article will explore what an IEP is, how it is created, and the specific goals and objectives that can be included to support a child with autism. 

iep for autism

Understanding the IEP

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates that all children in the U.S. are entitled to a “free appropriate public education.” For children with autism and other disabilities, this means developing an IEP. Each IEP is uniquely tailored to meet a child’s specific educational needs, outlining goals and the special services they will receive.

Developing the IEP

Before an IEP can be developed, a child must be evaluated to determine their eligibility for special education services. This evaluation can be requested by either the parents or an educational professional from the school district. 

Parental consent is required before the evaluation can proceed. Evaluations are typically conducted by professionals within the school district but can also be performed by external specialists like developmental pediatricians or psychologists. If parents disagree with the results of the school’s evaluation, they can request an independent evaluation at the district’s expense.

If the evaluation confirms that a child needs special education services, the next step is to create an IEP. This involves an IEP meeting, which includes parents, teachers, special education professionals, and other relevant personnel. 

Components of an IEP

Creating an effective IEP for a child with autism involves several essential components. This section breaks down the critical elements of an IEP, which are listed below:

  • Current Performance: A detailed description of the child’s current academic and functional performance.
  • Annual Goals: Specific, measurable goals that the child is expected to achieve within a year. These goals are broken down into short-term objectives.
  • Special Education Services: A list of the special education and related services the child will receive.
  • Participation with Non-Disabled Children: Details on how the child will participate in general education settings and activities with peers who do not have disabilities.
  • Modifications and Accommodations: Any changes to the curriculum or testing methods to accommodate the child’s needs.
  • Transition Services: For children aged 16 and older, the IEP includes plans for transitioning from school to post-school activities.
iep for autism

Goals and Objectives for Children with Autism

The goals and objectives of an IEP are tailored to the child’s specific needs. Here are examples of common goals in various areas:

Academic Goals

Academic goals in an IEP for autistic children are designed to enhance specific skills. For example, a math goal might be for the child to solve two-digit subtraction problems with 90% accuracy in one-on-one sessions with a special education teacher. A reading comprehension goal could involve the child reading a grade-level passage and answering comprehension questions with 80% accuracy.

Social Goals

Social goals in IEPs for autistic children focus on enhancing peer interaction and communication skills. These may include engaging in appropriate play with classmates during recess, aiming for participation in at least one group activity per week, and initiating and responding to greetings from peers and teachers four times daily.

Behavioral Goals

Behavioral goals in an IEP for autistic children focus on developing effective coping mechanisms and promoting positive behavior. For instance, a goal might be for the child to use a designated ‘calm down’ space and tools to manage frustration instead of yelling, aiming for success 75% of the time. Another goal could be for the child to replace hitting with asking for help in 90% of conflict situations.

Motor Skills Goals

Motor skills goals in an IEP for autistic children focus on enhancing fine motor skills and daily living abilities. For example, a goal might be for the child to improve handwriting to legibly write their name and simple sentences. Another goal could be for the child to independently button and unbutton their shirt during morning routines.

Involving Your Child in the IEP Process

Involving your child in the IEP process can be empowering and educational. Depending on their abilities, children can provide valuable insights into their preferences and challenges. Encouraging your child to articulate their strengths and areas of difficulty helps them develop self-advocacy skills.

To optimize the results, IEP is reviewed annually to assess the child’s progress. This review ensures that the educational plan evolves to meet the child’s changing needs and abilities. As children approach adulthood, the IEP also includes transition planning to prepare them for life after school.

Tips for Parents and Caregivers

As a parent or caregiver of a child with autism, your role in advocating for their needs and ensuring they receive proper educational support is vital. Here are some practical tips for parents and caregivers when developing an IEP for a child with autism.

Determine Specific Goals and Objectives

When creating your child’s IEP, it’s crucial to establish clear, specific goals and objectives tailored to their strengths and areas of improvement. Identify their strengths, weaknesses, and interests, and focus on specific developmental areas. Consider any additional therapies, like speech or occupational therapy, that could support their progress as well. 

Request Appropriate Accommodations and Modifications

Children with autism often need accommodations and modifications to access the curriculum effectively. Noise-canceling headphones or quiet spaces can help manage sensory overload. Assistive technology tools or devices can also support communication and academic tasks. By including these accommodations in the IEP, you create an inclusive learning environment.

Discuss Individualized Instructional Strategies

Consider past teaching methodologies that have worked well and look into evidence-based programs or interventions effective for students with autism. Ensure the school adapts its instructional methods to match your child’s learning style, ensuring the educational experience is tailored to their unique strengths and needs.

Explore Additional Supports and Services

Consider if your child would benefit from a paraprofessional or instructional aide in the classroom. Explore opportunities for additional therapies, such as speech or occupational therapy, or social skills training. A behavior support plan may also be necessary to address challenging behaviors and promote positive social-emotional development.

Consider the Importance of Transition Planning

Transition planning is a critical aspect of the IEP. Discuss post-secondary options, vocational training programs, or community resources with the IEP team. Identify transition services available within the school or community to support a successful transition. Emphasizing transition planning helps your child navigate this significant phase in their life.

Social Skills Training and Peer Interaction

Social skills training and peer interaction are crucial for children with autism. Advocate for structured opportunities for peer interaction, such as social groups or inclusion in regular education settings with appropriate support. This helps your child build meaningful relationships and develop important social competencies.

Evaluate Communication Supports and Assistive Technology

Ensure your child has appropriate communication support and access to assistive technology. Advocate for augmentative and alternative communication systems, like picture exchange communication systems (PECS) or speech-generating devices, if necessary. Discuss the use of assistive technology tools and applications to support communication and academic tasks.

Decision-Making Process and Collaborative Approach

Actively participate in IEP meetings, share your insights and concerns, and review your child’s progress regularly. Familiarize yourself with research and evidence-based practices related to autism education. Engage in open communication with the IEP team and schedule periodic reviews to update the IEP based on your child’s changing needs.

iep for autism

The Takeaway

Creating an effective IEP for autistic students requires collaboration, preparation, and ongoing communication between stakeholders. By understanding the process and actively participating, parents and caregivers can ensure their child receives the support they need to succeed academically, socially, and behaviorally.


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