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IEPs – Gearing Up for the New School Year

back to school supplies

Written by: Ned Carlson

Back to School Information for Children with Autism

It’s that time of year again! As students head back to school and parents begin to participate in Individualized Education Programs (IEP) meetings, now is a great time to provide a refresher on navigating the special education process.

The Individual with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA)

This federal law was developed to ensure that children with disabilities receive the services necessary to access education. The two main components of IDEA that drive the IEP are Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE) and Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). FAPE is the part of the law that entitles children with disabilities to receive specially designed instruction to meet their individualized needs. It is the “Individual” part of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and is provided free of charge. LRE is the part of the law that entitles children to be educated in the general curriculum with their non-disabled peers to the maximum extent possible.

Additional information about FAPE can be found at
Additional information about LRE can be found at


Eligibility categories vary by state, but IDEA definitions guide how states define who is eligible. Additional information about categories of eligibility under IDEA can be found at the Center for Parent Information.

Related Services

Related services are not a category of eligibility; rather they must be “attached” to an eligibility category. These services are added when they are necessary in order for the child with autism to access the curriculum. The most common related services are OT, PT, Speech, and Transportation.

Extended School Year

Children are eligible for Extended School Year (ESY) if benefits accrued during the school year will be significantly jeopardized if an educational program is not provided during the summer. It is not intended to maximize progress. IDEA requires two factors to be considered when determining eligibility for ESY: Regression/Recoupment and Critical Stage of Development. For case law and additional information on ESY, check out Wrightslaw at Wrightslaw.

Behavior Issues

If a child with autism’s behavior impedes his learning or the learning of others, it must be addressed within the IEP. In certain circumstances, school districts are required to conduct a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA). Some school districts have people who are skilled in conducting these assessments but others require the assistance of experts. TBH can contract with school districts to have a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) conduct an FBA and develop a related Behavior Improvement Plan (BIP).

Learn more information on how TBH helps support schools.

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