mom of an autistic child smiling with pencils in the background

Are IEPs for More than Just Academics? by Amanda DeLuca

iep coach iep goals iep questions iep resources for parents iep resources for teachers iep teams master iep coach Mar 16, 2022

When my son was first diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at the age of two, I quickly learned we were now navigating a world I knew nothing about. I knew his IEP needed to work on more than just math equations and reading readiness... what we needed was an IEP document for more than just academics.

If you’re reading this and just asked yourself “what is an IEP?”. Don’t worry. So did I ahead of our first meeting. An IEP, or Individualized Education Program, is a document that outlines the specifics of what your child will receive in special education services because they have been classified as a student with a disability. 

I needed the team who was sitting around this table with me to see my son for more than just “autism” and more than the brown-eyed little boy who ran around the room in silence during their observations and evaluations. I wanted them to know that there was so much more to my child than what standardized testing and fill in the blank team reports would ever show.

I had to get really comfortable sharing with the team who he was, what we knew he was capable of, and how we wanted to work with them to see our son succeed. Making the shift from "just a mom" at the IEP table to a Master IEP Coach® gave me the confidence to help my son, and other parents who felt lost like I did.

Here are three ways I learned how to get more than just academics into my child's IEP.


1.  Writing a strong parent input statement ahead of the meeting is a must! 

Your child's IEP team truly wants you to keep them “in the loop” for what is working for your family, what your priorities and expectations are, and how they can better help your child succeed at school. Learning how to write a very clear, concise, and informative parent input statement for the team is a game changer and very effective tool for both your child and those who are working with them.


2.  Thinking beyond just this school year, we need to look bigger picture for our priority list.

While you are sitting down to draft, edit, and submit your parent input letter to your team, start looking at your child through the lens of the bigger picture. Think beyond just this upcoming year. I didn’t know going into my first IEP meeting that we could look at adaptive skills, social skills, communication for conversation with peers, life skills like waiting and taking turns. The IEP should look at things that will make a difference in the real world.


3.  Discuss meaningful inclusion opportunities with the team.

Often at the end of the IEP document the team discusses a percentage of time that the student is spending "in inclusion" and what will be "pull-out service minutes". We want inclusion to be more than just this number for our children. Let's start looking at participation in peer conversations, meaningful academic time, how we can help them make and maintain meaningful relationships, and how to effectively communicate and regulate their emotions to self-advocate when experiences may become more than they are comfortable with.

This list isn't everything that is possible to include within your IEP, that list is truly full of unlimited possibilities, just like your child!  But, this list has helped me and my clients begin to think about what truly is possible for your child and their IEP team. 


About the Author: 

Amanda DeLuca lives in Ohio with her family, her older child is on the autism spectrum and is what inspired her to become a Master IEP Coach® to work with helping families feel more confident in their IEP decisions. Amanda is the board president for the More Than Foundation, teaches dance at her studio, and blogs about her experiences of being a special needs parent at Jackson's Journey, Jackson's Voice.

Connect with Amanda Here

Find Amanda in the Master IEP Coach® Directory Here

Looking for more ideas to boost your IEP goals for the real world?  Then you’ll love these episodes of the Special Education Inner Circle podcast: 


Write Better IEP Goals. Reduce IEP Conflict.

Learn More About Becoming a Master IEP Coach®