A team of people are required to establish an IEP, and the law notes that this team should consist of at least one general education teacher, the special education teacher, a representative of the school district qualified to provide or supervise specially designed instruction, an individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results, the student (if appropriate), and other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise (20 U.S.C, 1414 (d) (1) (B)). An IEP must be written for every student with a disability who is receiving special education. The IEP must describe the child’s current performance and goals for the school year, the particular special education services to be delivered, and the procedures by which outcomes are evaluated. For children with autistic spectrum disorders, this is an important provision, because it requires the schools to develop a program, carried out by personnel who are skilled in working with children with these disorders, that fits the needs of each particular child and does not just routinely place a child in a program that already exists for other children with special needs. A child with autistic spectrum disorders should have the IEP team assembled in the school district, and it is their responsibility to chart strengths and needs of the child and family, as well as goals of the individual program, the means for carrying it out, and the means for determining if the plan is successful.

A companion bill for infants and toddlers with disabilities (P.L. 99– 457) had a similar provision to the IEP for an Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP). Providing services to address the needs of children under age 3 years with disabilities is a responsibility of states. How this responsibility is assigned varies from state to state, but it may fall to education or health or social service agencies. As local educational authorities are obligated to provide appropriate educational programs for children with disabilities who are 3 years and older, so states and local communities are obligated to provide appropriate services for children under age 3 years. However, as for older children, the gap between the intent of the law and its implementation is often large. The number of lawsuits brought by parents are one indication of dissatisfaction with the planning process. Similar to an IEP, an IFSP multidisciplinary team should be assembled that specifies the strengths and needs of children and their families, goals of the individualized program, how these goals will be addressed, and ways to measure the effectiveness of the plan. The appropriateness of an IFSP should be determined by the extent to which it meets the needs of children with autistic spectrum disorders and their families.

  1. Least Restrictive Environment. As much as possible, children with disabilities must be educated with children without disabilities. The educational philosophy is to move children with special needs as close to the normal setting (regular classroom) as feasible. For a child with an autistic spectrum disorder, this means that there is an expectation that the child



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