What should teachers consider when working with students with autism spectrum disorder?
Page 4: The Multidisciplinary Team
Once it has been determined that a child has ASD and is eligible for individualized early intervention or special education services, the multidisciplinary team needs to write a plan outlining these services. The plan outlines individualized goals (which should be tied to the assessment results and parent concerns), the amount of time the child or student is to be educated with typically developing peers, and more. For children from birth to three years of age, these plans are called Individualized Family Service Plans (IFSPs). Children and youth ages 3–21 have individualized education programs (IEPs).
Required Multidisciplinary Team Members
Children and students with disabilities have a variety of needs, which require the expertise of a number of individuals. Although many individuals might be involved, IDEA ’04 requires the participation of key team members in the development and implementation of IFSPs and IEPs. These team members are described in the boxes below.
|IFSP Team Members: Children ages birth to three years|
IDEA ’04 requires that, at a minimum, multidisciplinary IFSP teams include a parent and at least two professionals from different disciplines, one of whom must be the service coordinator.
Additional team members are determined based on the individual needs of the infant or toddler or are requested by the parent (see “Additional Team Members” below).
|IEP Team Members: Students age 3–21|
IDEA ’04 requires that, at a minimum, multidisciplinary IEP teams include a parent, general education teacher, special education provider, a representative of the school district, and an educational professional who can interpret assessment results.
Additional team members are determined based on the individual needs of the student (see “Additional Team Members” below).
Parent of a child with ASD
Ideally, the multidisciplinary team members (including the family) work together to develop a plan that addresses the child’s individual needs. As with any type of team, it can be challenging at times for the members to come to consensus. There are times when professionals and family members disagree about supports and services that the child will receive. Listen as Andy and Becky, the parents of a child with ASD, describe their experiences as members of their son’s IEP team (time: 2:54).
Parent of a child with ASD
Additional Team Members
In addition to the required multidisciplinary team members listed above, other personnel are often needed to address the individualized needs of the child or student. Related services personnel—each with discipline-specific expertise beyond that of the classroom or special education teachers—are frequently part of the multidisciplinary team and provide these supports. Depending on the intensity of the needed services, related services personnel might work directly with family members or caregivers of infants or toddlers, work directly with an individual child or student, or consult with team members who then provide the supports during naturally occurring activities. Some of the more common related services personnel—many of whom are on the IFSP and IEP teams for students with ASD—are listed below.
Related Service Providers
Applied behavior analysis (ABA) has long been recognized as the most effective overall strategy for educating students with ASD. Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) or other well-trained behavioral specialists can assist school teams with assessment, training, and direct intervention at school, in community settings, and at home.
Paraprofessionals can work with young children and students with ASD on a variety of activities (e.g., implement behavioral plans, facilitate peer interactions). Often the paraprofessional spends more time with the student than either the special education or general education teacher and can provide valuable insight into the student’s strengths, areas of needs, interests, and other issues that can help build a strong educational program.
OTs support a student’s participation in school-related routines and activities. For a student with ASD, that can include activities such as dressing independently, coping with tactile or sensory issues, participating in social activities, or managing transitions across school and community settings.
PTs can assess and provide intervention for issues of strength and stamina, postural control, functional mobility, coordination, and general motor behavior. They can help young children learn how to use playground equipment or negotiate steps and stairways in the school. PTs might help arrange the classroom and home environments to make sure that the work spaces (e.g., desks, computer stations) are arranged to facilitate independence and success.
SLPs help students who have trouble with communication skills perform important learning and school-related activities. For many students with ASD, this includes work on social communication, which is one of the core deficits of ASD.
In addition to their role in the assessment and evaluation of students with ASD, school psychologists develop behavior plans, conduct social groups, and provide or recommend other specialized interventions for students with ASD.
A nutritionist develops and monitors appropriate feeding plans to address the nutritional needs of the child, as well as other feeding issues such as food preferences, food habits, and sensory issues, among others.
School social workers support students with disabilities whose academic, behavioral, or social-emotional issues interfere with their education. Depending on their age, children and youth with disabilities might receive services such as social skills training, transition planning, conflict-resolution training, individual counseling, family counseling, or job-placement training.
Vocational specialists have expertise in post-secondary education and employment options and focus on career development and preparing students for independence and for integration into a post-secondary school, work, or community environment.
School personnel can also request others to participate as members of the multidisciplinary team. These additional team members can include a range of individuals, such as child/family advocates, community members (e.g., clergy, tribal elder), and language interpreters.
Listen as Nancy Rosenberg discusses her son Brian’s IEP team and highlights non-required professionals that she invited.
Nancy Rosenberg, PhD
Parent of a young adult with ASD
Director of Distance Learning ABA Program
University of Washington
Review Michelle’s vignette from the Challenge movie and answer the questions below.
Michelle is a fifteen-year-old tenth grader diagnosed with high-functioning ASD. Michelle is bright and funny and often outspoken with adults and her peers. She has a good memory and the ability to recall details about all things related to outer space. Although this can lead to interesting conversation, Michelle has a hard time taking cues from her audience when they are tired of a particular subject. She perseverates when the other kids would prefer her to stop. Michelle also displays behaviors that the other students consider strange, such as rocking back and forth in her chair and violating others’ personal space by standing too close when talking to them. All these behaviors present challenges when Michelle is trying to make friends at school. Even so, she loves to be around her peers and would like to participate in a school club or team. However, because she lacks organizational skills, she often misses the deadlines for signing up or trying out.
- Would this child or student have an IFSP team or an IEP team? Explain.
- Who are the required members for this team?
- Identify at least two additional members that might be on this team and explain why you would include them.
- Michelle would have an IEP team because she is in high school.
- The required members of the IEP team are the general education teacher, special education teacher, parent(s), representative of the school district, and a school psychologist or other assessment professional.
- Any of the following can be members of Michelle’s IEP team:
- Vocational specialist to help Michelle identify strengths and explore post-secondary options
- Social worker/school psychologist /occupational therapist to help Michelle understand personal space and boundaries during social interactions
- Speech/language pathologist to work on social communication skills