Selection Process

Before reading this page, make sure to read about the types of educational placement options

Which Educational Placement Is Right for My Child?

This is the final question faced by the educational team, and there are several considerations that are critical to making the best decision for your child. These include:

  • In which educational placements can my child access the educational supports, modifications, and services required for them to meet the annual goals/objectives set forth in the IEP?
  • Of these educational placements, in which placements will my child have the most access to the general education setting?
  • In which of these settings will my child find the “just right challenge”? Meaning, which setting will provide enough of a challenge to help propel my child’s development but not so much challenge that their development is either stunted or, worse yet, set back?

It is typically the third question that presents the educational team with the greatest challenge. For example, a child may have the academic skills to participate in the general education setting, but that child becomes so overwhelmed by the social and physical context that they are unable to learn. Some students have been the victims of severe bullying and can no longer participate in the general education setting. This varies significantly from student to student.

Additional Considerations

  • In what setting does my child learn best, and in what setting is my child the least productive?
  • Does my child have friends and/or a meaningful social support network in the general education setting?
  • Has the general education setting been dangerous or unfriendly for my child?
  • Where will my child be most comfortable?
  • How much will my child be integrated into the general education setting?
  • How is a child who is having a “meltdown” or significant behavioral difficulty supported?
  • How does the classroom setting comport with any sensory issues my child may have?
  • Will my child be taught explicitly and allowed to practice the skills needed for living productively in the community and coping with its complex demands?

There should be an open dialogue at the IEP meeting about possible placements. If you are concerned with the proposed educational placement, you can ask to have the meeting rescheduled to give you time to evaluate the proposed educational placement. In the meantime, you can speak to your child’s teachers, other parents, special education personnel, advocates in your area, and most importantly to your child, and try to gauge what setting would be the most productive, most beneficial, most stimulating and least threatening place for your child to learn.

Although IDEA sets forth a process by which the general education setting must be ruled out before considering other educational placements, ultimately, your child needs to be in an educational placement that will allow them to access a FAPE. In addition, your child may require a “more restrictive” setting now, but there may come a time in the future when a less restrictive setting is a better match. The IEP team will discuss educational placement every year when conducting the annual IEP review. Once your child has an educational placement, monitor it closely. Your child’s placement is not set in stone, and you can always request an IEP meeting to review your child’s placement if you become concerned that it is no longer a match.

Regardless of your child’s educational placement, IDEA mandates that students receive qualified instruction from a well trained professional. However, there are still many teachers and therapists who do not have specialized training in autism.

Ideally, your child’s educational placement understands autism and has methods in place for teaching children with autism. They carry a positive attitude about autism and place expectations on your child for progress, in whatever way it occurs, in the school setting.

Once the IEP team has made a determination for educational placement, it is only really the beginning, as you then need to work closely with the teachers to ensure that they know all about your child. They may well know about autism spectrum disorder, but they won’t know about your individual child. It is your job to be an advocate for your child and teach the school what they need to know.

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