In our inaugural blog post, we focused on a subject to which we are deeply dedicated – helping parents pursuing Individualized Education Program (IEP) plans. Our objective in that post was to highlight the steps involved in applying for an IEP and what a basic plan should include.

That was a good introduction to the issue, but as we observed, every IEP is different because it needs to be based on the specific abilities of the child it serves. Promoting steady educational achievement and advancement are certainly main goals, but school is about more than learning reading, writing and arithmetic. It’s about achieving goals in the context of overall child development.

If you have a child with a disability, whether it is a disorder on the autism spectrum, Down syndrome, or perhaps a combination of the two, his or her IEP needs to be more holistic to deliver optimal value.

Besides the standard academic requirements, many experts agree that these should include work on:

  • Motor skills: These might include focusing on developing the coordination needed for hand writing. But it might also include some attention to teaching daily life skills such as managing personal hygiene.
  • Social skills: Every child needs them. They can be taught and so included in an IEP. But experts note the importance of framing the goal in the proper contexts of measurable, developmental benchmarks. Elements of the plan might thus target development of cognition, sensory integration or language.
  • Behavioral skills: This might involve teaching the child coping strategies for dealing with frustration and anger. Perhaps the goal is to improve what it takes to get class work and homework done.

Providing services places demands on limited school resources. Administrators feel pressure to control such spending despite legal obligations to provide a free and appropriate public education to every child. If that tension leads to disputes, parents should be ready to consult with a skilled attorney to understand what they can do to best advocate for the rights of their child.