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High School Annual IEP Meeting


Laura

Question

I’m looking for suggestions for my son’s annual IEP meeting coming up in February. Do I need to request testing? How are goals changed? I don’t know how to move forward. Maybe I need some encouragement as well.

My son is in 11th grade and has autism with executive functioning being his primary need. He also has communication and sensory issues. He receives services from the school SLP once a week and has an intervention specialist.

He has 3 goal areas on the IEP: EF, social communication, and social emotional (for anxiety). His EF goals/objectives are for prioritizing/planning, initiating, sequencing, and executing school tasks.

Regarding transition, he wants to go to college. Although this is stated as a goal in the transition area of the IEP, I don’t feel that his IEP is preparing him for college. It appears that the IEP allows him to be passed through, instead of teaching the EF skills of planning, executing tasks, and being organized. I question whether the curriculum is preparing him for college as well. He’s in a drama class that somehow counts as English for graduation. He has also been placed in a vocational program.

Outside of school he receives services from an OT, specifically he receives Therapeutic Listening (TL) for sensory integration. He started TL in August and it seems to relieve almost all symptoms of what looked like anxiety. He also receives services from an SLP that specializes in executive functioning 1x per week. His EF therapy takes a deep dive into planning and reflection.

We had a brief meeting with the school team before the holidays because he seems to be shutting down. Historically, when he becomes overwhelmed in his classes he puts his head down, sometimes for the duration of the class. During these periods, he also does not complete classwork or homework. The head down behavior is now occurring in a few classes - preferred and non-preferred. I believe he is dysregulated due to his EF needs and sensory needs. Once he starts to fall behind on assignments, he starts to shut down like this.

The school team is in unity that my son is choosing to put his head down and not complete work. I agree that his response may look like a choice for a neurotypical teen. However, I don’t think his behavior is neurotypical and I also do not think it is a choice. (When I’ve asked, he seems confused and says it is not a conscious choice). I believe he is dysregulated and don’t know how to communicate this to the team. They don’t seem to see it.

Last spring 2023, his progress reports indicated that he “mastered” his EF goals/objectives. He has not. The observations the team used as evidence for each goal being mastered were unrelated in many cases. It is my feeling that the school team does not know how to address EF. At times, I feel like we are talking about different things.

The present levels for the EF goal lists teacher observations and some data related to his BIP goals. (The BIP was created for work completion). The present levels do not contain any testing results.

Some additional background: In middle school, he was in advanced classes. Then, he failed several classes in 8th grade, went to summer school for one, repeated another in 9th grade, and is currently in what he calls an “alternative” English class and a vocational program at his high school. He was not identified by the school district until 9th grade at 15 under the ED category (due to complete shutdown behavior – staring at walls, space, computer, sitting on the floor in one class, etc). An IEE at the end of 9th grade determined his difficulties in school were due to autism. His category was changed to autism shortly after.

I have an advocate and she attends all the meetings with our family.

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Everything is driven by data - so yes, you need to request testing.  I would also request a FBA that can lead to a BIP that includes more than just "work completion."  Data (present levels) then determines goals.  You can't change goals until you know what the data is, and it doesn't sound like you have good data.

Chances are you will not like the results of the school evaluation (will likely not have any suggestions for how to address EF), so be prepared to request another IEE.  Make sure both the school eval and IEE are for ALL areas of concern, including transition.  A good IEE regarding transition should show what EF skills are missing and what should be taught.  A good IEE/FBA will also show that head down behavior is not a choice, is related to his dysregulation, and is something that needs to be addressed with goals and in the BIP.  In order to "communicate this to the team" and make them "see it," you need data.

You will not be able to accomplish this prior to the annual meeting, but IEP's can be amended at anytime and IEP meetings should be held after additional data is received (in the form of the school's eval and later the IEE).

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Thank you!

Another question I have is who initiates the scheduling of the meeting for the annual IEP review? The review date on the  IEP is early February, and I haven't received a request to meet. Am I the one that requests this meeting? Or, the school?

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It's on the school to initiate annual meetings.  If they miss timelines, they get slapped on the wrist for messing up - at least this is how it works where I am in PA.  Specifically, the case manager should be reaching out to you.  You can reach out to them if you want.

I wanted to talk about anxiety on an IEP.  There should be SDI - specially designed instruction - being taught to him so he has the tools to minimize how this affects him.  Is 'head on desk' something he's been taught to do when he's dysregulated & it helps him regulate/calms his anxiety?  If not, he should be doing what helps him - and what the SDI has helped him to figure out what works.  Talk to him and see what he's learned about managing his anxiety.  Find out if head on desk is helpful or if he needs another tool to help with anxiety.

Many of the colleges in my area, have summer programs for HS student which place them in a dorm & have them taking a college class to get a taste of what it's like.  This can also show if he has all the needed tools to go to college & be successful.  See if your area has these.  It can be part of the IEP for him to do this.

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