10 Questions Parents Should Ask at an IEP Meeting for Autism

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a parent or guardian of a student with autism. Your child is either in a self-contained setting, a general education classroom, or a combination of both. Whether this is your first meeting experience, or not, I’ll be sharing a list of questions you can use to gain a better understanding of what your child’s performance and day look like at school. 

An IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting is held annually, at minimum, but could be held more frequently depending on your child’s special education services, performance, and educational needs/specific goals. 

There will be anywhere from a few members of school personnel to many, depending on your child’s specific needs. 

A few of these members could be:

  • General education teacher
  • Special education teacher
  • Administrator
  • Parent/Guardian
  • School Psychologist
  • Related Service providers (Speech therapist, Occupational therapist, Physical therapist etc.)

You, as the parent/guardian , should be an active member of the IEP team and have a hand in helping create your child’s IEP (individual education plan). The information in this blog post will give you an outline of questions you can ask about the educational plan, services, behavioral support, support staff, behavior plan, etc. 

The IEP meeting is a great time to get a better look at what your child’s day looks like at school. If your child has autism spectrum disorder, they may also receive occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, as well as physical therapy. 

Your vital role as a member of the team is to bridge the gap between home and school. You’re able to give the IEP team members additional information and relevant information that will help the school target goals and services, leading your child to greater independence and success. 

The following questions will also guide you in discussing the most important things to you, as the parent or guardian. There are no wrong or right questions to ask and school staff should be able to answer anything you’d like to know. 

Of course, it’s important to take into consideration how much time the staff has known your child, as well as how often they are actively accessing services and curriculum. 

It’s important to remember that you are the advocate for your child, but also that the school environment is different than home and there will likely be various new behaviors and skills that are, or are not, present at school and vice versa. 

The best thing all members can do is listen carefully, share information, and be open to feedback. 

The special education process can sometimes feel stressful and confusing, but my hope is that these questions help relieve some of that stress.

1. Understanding Your Child’s Strengths

Question: What are the strengths you see in my child?

  • Importance: Focusing on strengths helps create a positive foundation for the IEP meeting. You’ll learn what skills your child has in the school environment.
  • Details to Seek: Specific examples of academic, social, behavioral, motor, creative strengths, etc.
  • Why Ask: Helps your child’s teachers shape the IEP to capitalize on these strengths to foster confidence and continued growth.

2. Supporting Goals at Home

Question: What can I do to support the goals at home?

  • Importance: This question helps create consistency between school and home. It’s so important to keep reinforcing skills in all environments. The team will be able to give you specific additional support activities you can weave into your day to day, so your child keeps practicing important skills.
  • Details to Seek: Specific strategies, resources, or activities you can use at home. Don’t think of these as “homework.” They may be activities that are fun for your child and can be weaved into play time.
  • Why Ask: Encourages collaboration between parents and educators and ensures we’re all on the same page.

3. Managing and Preventing Behaviors

Question: If your child has behaviors, what proactive strategies and interventions are being used?

  • Importance: Understanding how the school responds to challenging behaviors and how they try to limit them.
  • Details to Seek: Types of interventions, how they are implemented, and how they are working.
  • Why Ask: Ensures that your child is getting the right support and that you can use similar strategies at home.
  • If this is something you or the team need help with, check out this post that outlines the supports I can provide you and the school!

4. Daily Routine and Structure

Question: What does a typical day look like for my child?

  • Importance: Gives you insight into your child’s daily schedule and routine.
  • Details to Seek: Breakdown of academic periods, therapies, breaks, and social interactions.
  • Why Ask: Helps you understand the structure of your child’s day and identify any areas that need tweaking. Plus, you want to make sure your child has opportunities throughout their day for all kinds of activities. 

5. Inclusion with Neurotypical Peers

Question: If your child is in a self-contained setting, how are they being included with neurotypical peers?

  • Importance: Inclusion is so important for social development and reducing feelings of isolation.
  • Details to Seek: Specific opportunities for interaction, joint activities, and inclusive education practices.
  • Why Ask: Ensures that your child has opportunities to engage with all peers, fostering social skills and friendships. 

6. Progress Monitoring

Question: How will my child’s progress be monitored and communicated to me?

  • Importance: Regular updates on your child’s progress are crucial for seeing what’s working and what’s not.
  • Details to Seek: Frequency of reports, types of data collection used, and communication methods.
  • Why Ask: Keeps you informed and involved in your child’s education.

7. Transition Planning

Question: What are the plans for transitioning my child to the next grade or next school year?

  • Importance: Smooth transitions are essential for students with autism.
  • Details to Seek: Steps involved, support provided, and any preparatory activities.
  • Why Ask: It’s important to know what the school has planned so that transitions are as seamless as possible. We want students prepped and feeling confident through any big, or little, transitions.

8. Specialized Services and Supports

Question: What specialized services and supports is my child receiving?

  • Importance: This helps us make sure all necessary therapies and supports are included in the IEP.
  • Details to Seek: Types of services (e.g., speech therapy, occupational therapy), frequency, and goals.
  • Why Ask: You want to ensure your child is getting comprehensive support tailored to their unique needs. Not every child with autism will have all of these services, but knowing what services your child needs is important.

9. Accommodations and Modifications

Question: What accommodations and modifications are in place to support my child’s learning?

  • Importance: Necessary for providing an inclusive learning environment.
  • Details to Seek: Specific accommodations (e.g., extended time, sensory breaks), and there implementation.
  • Why Ask: We want to make sure your child has the necessary tools and environment needed to do their best in school. Accommodations and modifications will change throughout the child’s school career, and they should. As your child gains new skills and shows struggles in others, this section of the IEP will reflect that.

10. Social Skills Development

Question: How is my child being supported in developing social skills?

  • Importance: Social skills are critical for overall development and peer relationships.
  • Details to Seek: Programs or strategies used and opportunities for social interaction.
  • Why Ask: Ensures that your child is developing essential social skills alongside academic skills. In some ways, this area of focus is more important than any other. We want all children to feel connected to others and be able to enjoy friends. 

The questions in this article are a guide for you, as a parent, to use at your child’s IEP meeting. You don’t have to ask all of them, or go in order, but they are helpful in learning more about your child at school, and how the team is going to structure IEP goals for the next IEP cycle. 

Whether this is your first IEP meeting, or you’ve gone to a bunch, my hope is that these questions help you move through a difficult process with more ease. 

The most important thing you can do as a parent during this process, is stay involved and curious about your child’s performance in school. There will likely be tougher seasons than others, but keeping communication open and positive with all members of your child’s team is a great way to stay focused on progress. 

It’s important to remember that while this article gives you general information about the IEP process, each school district will do things slightly differently. Roles and duties for each member may vary. Knowing your role and what questions to ask should help ease your mind that you’re doing all you can to support your child. 

Don’t forget that you are the constant between your child’s school and home experience. Learning more about what school looks like and the goals that are being focused on, can help create more consistency for your child; ultimately leading to greater success!

Additional Resources

For more information about IEPs particularly, this website has a quick overview: https://www.parentcenterhub.org/iep-overview/

If you’re looking for more information about IDEA and your legal rights, check out this website: https://sites.ed.gov/idea/about-idea/

This website, https://ectacenter.org/, can help you learn more about resources specifically for early childhood development. The family resource page here, https://ectacenter.org/families.asp, has some good information, as well.

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