For children with special needs, including autism, an individualized education plan meeting should be set up explains Jennifer Kates, whose son, Harper, has autism.
“That’s just the plan every special education student has. It’s an individual plan for how that child needs to be educated,” she says. Kates suggests contacting the school’s special education teacher and assistant principal to set up the IEP.
When she first approached the school system regarding Harper’s autism diagnosis, she was armed with information and lots of paperwork, including a copy of the official diagnosis.
She attended orientation for Tennessee’s Support and Training for Exceptional Parents program (tnstep.org), which “basically educates parents of children with special needs.”
“If you’ve never been through the system and don’t know how laws work, you can get eaten alive,” says Kates, an English professor at Middle Tennessee State University. “You just have to know what your rights are, what you can ask for, and it’s your job to advocate. Sometimes people feel like you’re being rude. But really, educators and administrators don’t often know what your kids need… And every single child is different.”
Kates urges parents to visit autismspeaks.org and download the 100-day kit, which guides parents in the early stages of diagnosis. The kit includes a section on IEPs, too