Skip to main content

What Parents Need to Know Before IEP Meetings

Over the past few years, I have endured countless meetings to help parents and teachers develop Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for clients. IEP meetings are used to determine the necessity of services, accommodations, and modifications for students who qualify. In these meetings I have learned a few things that are not common knowledge.

First, there is a significant difference between medical services and educational services. I believe that it is unfair to expect our public schools to provide the same services as medical professionals. No one expects the school nurse to be a neurologist, we need to stop expecting teachers to be psychologists. 

Second, if your child’s therapy is medically necessary, the missed school could be excused. The 3-5PM time slot in the medical field books out months in advance If you can only get speech from 8:00-8:30 AM once a week, and your pediatrician states that it is medically necessary, the weekly absence should be excused. 

Third, do not assume that a medical provider contracted by the school for an assessment equates to medical treatment.  Schools often hire Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) to perform observations on students with maladaptive behaviors. After the observation is over, the BCBA writes suggestions for teachers on how to encourage behavior change in the child. These suggestions would then be implemented by teachers, not necessarily the medical professional. 

Most of my clients are children diagnosed with special needs. It takes a team of people to help these children be the best that they can be. When parents, educators, and medical professionals work together, the likelihood of success increases. Every person involved must communicate well and fulfill their part in helping the child advance. Parents must help with homework and flashcards if their child is behind, teachers must add pictures and other tools to help prompt learning, and those of us in the medical field must accurately determine the child’s strengths and needs to increase opportunities for the attainment of skills. It is imperative that we all do our part to help these children learn as much as possible.

ABA Is Not Just For “Bad” Behavior

What is ABA?

Applied Behavior Analysis is often misunderstood because of the word BEHAVIOR. This article is to help educate parents, teachers, pediatricians, and school administrators on the differences between ABA and Behavioral Therapy. The main goal of ABA is skill acquisition. Examples of common skills acquired in ABA include waiting, sitting in a chair, attending to learning material, communicating, writing, reading, and how to perform necessary daily activities. 

Why does the title of ABA include the word behavior?

Everything we do is behavior. A common saying in ABA is, “If a dead man can do it, it is not a behavior.” Our learning, sitting, walking, talking, etc. are all behaviors. ABA specializes in all of these, not just “bad” behavior.

I believe that the misconception between ABA and “bad” behavior can be explained by exploring my tumultuous relationship with my computer. Learning for everyone is uncomfortable. Due to that, negative behavior often occurs when we are learning. I yell when I cannot make my computer do what I need it to do. My yelling behavior is simply a response to my ineffective computer skills. The more I learn about my computer, the less I yell. 

What is the difference between ABA and other therapies?

The biggest difference is that ABA is typically 20-40 hours a week of therapy versus 30-60 minutes a week. This is why ABA is the most effective treatment for children diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Delays and/or Autism Spectrum Disorder (Callahan, Shukla-Mehta, Magee, & Wie, 2010). 

We all learn through repetition, but children with these diagnoses require intense repetition. It often takes up to 2,000 times of practicing a skill before it is mastered by a child with developmental delays (Weiss, Fabrizio, & Bamond, 2008). “Bad” behavior often accompanies this learning process simply because of frustration. For example, a child that cannot tell you what he wants will often hit, kick, scream, or tantrum if he does not have the words to say, “I want milk right now.” Once we help the child acquire language skills, the “bad” behavior naturally goes away.


Those of us in the field of ABA are often approached by teachers, school administrators, parents, counselors, etc for our expertise in “bad” behavior”. However, that is not our actual specialty. Instead, we spend all of our days teaching and practicing new skills with our clients. A byproduct of this work is that the “bad” behavior naturally diminishes when a person has the appropriate skills. When the rest of the world sees “bad” behavior, we simply see new skills that need to be acquired and begin planning the best way to teach that individual. 


  • Callahan, K., Shukla-Mehta, S., Magee, S., & Wie, M. (2010). ABA versus TEACCH: The case for defining and validating comprehensive treatment models in autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders (40), 74-88.
  • Weiss, M.J., Fabrizio, M. & Bamond, M. (2008). Skill maintenance and frequency building: archival data from individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Precision Teaching and Celeration (24), 28-37.