CT FEAT: Families Helping
Children Achieve Their Full Potential
How To Approach A PPT
By Richard Irwin (Parent of a Child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder)
In 1975, the United States Congress passed the Education for Handicapped
Children Act to ensure that each child with special needs had the right
to free public education. With this Act and subsequent amendments, such
as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the federal
government set out guidelines for government funded educational programs
for children with special needs. These guidelines state:
Schools must provide free and appropriate public education to all
disabled children between the ages of 3 and 21.
The educational program must be in the "least restrictive environment."
This implies a setting that provides the most integration with
non-handicapped children. But services may be offered in separate
settings if the child’s disability prevents satisfactory progress in a
normal classroom setting.
Each child must receive an evaluation designed to identify the child’s
specific needs before receiving any services. This evaluation is at the
Each child must receive the additional recommended services necessary
Each child’s rights are guarded by ensuring that their parents, or
guardians, are equal participants in the process. The parents can
challenge any portion of the program they feel is incompatible with
their child’s goals.
Each child must receive services based on a written individualized
educational program (IEP). The IEP very specifically describes the
educational services, program goals and other supports that a child will
receive from their school system in the coming school year.
An IEP must be reviewed regularly and updated based on the child’s
In Connecticut, the development, approval and oversight of an IEP is the
responsibility of an entity called the Planning and Placement Team. This
team consists of you, the child’s parents, and representatives from the
school district. They may include a school administrator, usually the
director of special education, the teacher(s), a school psychologist and
a speech/language pathologist. A meeting of the Planning and Placement
Team is commonly referred to as a PPT.
Either you or the school district can request a PPT. The school must
take steps to schedule PPTs at a time and place that is agreeable to
everyone involved. A meeting notice must be sent out in advance by the
school district and should state the purpose of the meeting, the place
and time, and a list of the participants. If you are unable to attend,
the school must determine another method of securing your participation
such as the use of a conference call. The only way the school can
proceed with the meeting without you is if they have made a good faith
attempt to secure your participation and have had no response in return.
A PPT is often your first exposure to the school district’s views on the
education of your child with an autism spectrum disorder (e.g., Autistic
Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome or other Pervasive Developmental Disorder)
and the services they are willing to offer. It is also your first chance
to present your views on what you feel your child’s educational program
should look like. Unfortunately, these two views are often quite
different. It is in the PPT that these differences are debated,
negotiated and, hopefully, ironed out.
If the differences between you and the school district can not be
settled through the PPT process, then the next recourse to settle these
differences is through a procedure called Due Process. The law mandates
an appeals process that you can pursue on your child’s behalf and each
state must provide procedures for the appeal process. In Due Process,
you and the school district agree to present your cases to an impartial
hearing officer appointed by the state. The hearing officer listens to
both opinions, weighs the evidence and drafts a decision. If you do not
agree with this decision, then further legal action in state or federal
court is your final recourse.
The vast majority of Connecticut families requesting intensive
intervention based on the principles of Applied Behavioral Analysis
(ABA) have met with resistance from their school districts. An ABA
program is costly, time consuming to set-up and administer properly, and
requires expertise usually outside the realm of the school district.
However, a number of Connecticut families have managed to secure these
services without having to resort to Due Process or further legal
action. The following are some guidelines drawn from these experiences
to help you in the PPT process and in the pursuit of an ABA program for
your child. While following these guidelines does not guarantee success,
they will hopefully maximize your chances of a positive outcome.
Get a diagnosis. As much as some parents are reluctant to attach a label
to their child, a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder (e.g.,
Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome or other Pervasive Developmental
Disorder) from a qualified professional makes your child eligible for
more intensive intervention services. The recommendations for treatment
that usually accompany any diagnosis can be critical in your dealings
with your school system. They can carry a good deal of weight with the
school system in a PPT or with a state hearing officer in the event of
Due Process. Before having your child assessed by a diagnostician, it is
wise to research what type of treatment recommendations they generally
make for children with autism and if they are willing to tailor these to
the families needs or wishes.
The families of CT FEAT have gone through the process of having their
children diagnosed. If you do not know where to turn and would like to
learn from their experiences, please feel free to contact CT FEAT by
phone at 860-571-3888 or by E-mail at
Start Early. Although the school district is not responsible for your
child’s education until they turn three, the earlier you begin the PPT
process the better. Some parents have started the process when their
children are as young as two years old. Starting the process before your
child turns three has several advantages. Most important of these is
that you want your child’s program to be in place when they turn three
and not delayed while an IEP is under debate. Even in the best cases,
the PPT process can be lengthy. It is widely recognized that for
intervention in autism the maxim "the earlier the better" applies and
time lost after your child turns three only hurts the child.
Another advantage of starting the PPT process early is that the school
district has time to prepare. As was mentioned previously, an ABA
program can be costly and will require special expertise not typically
found in the school system. Starting early gives you and the school time
to find an ABA consultant, hire tutors and manage the logistics of the
Parents Are Equal Partners. It is important to realize that under the
law you are expected to participate in the PPT process and are equal
participants in the process. The PPT is not a forum for the school
district to mandate an educational program for your child. Instead the
PPT is a forum where both you and the school district representatives
must agree to an educational program for your child. As parents, you can
challenge any portion of the program that you feel is incompatible with
your child’s goals. An IEP can not be implemented without your consent.
Your active participation in the PPT process is critical in protecting
the rights of your child with autism. The school system must balance
your child’s needs with budget and resource considerations. Therefore,
parents are generally the first and best advocate for their children
with special needs. Your willingness to advocate strongly on your
child’s behalf can make a difference in the services they obtain.
Be Prepared. Your first PPT can have the same feeling as two boxers
feeling each other out in the first round of a fight. In effect, you are
assessing the school district representatives and they are assessing
you. These first impressions can influence future dealings greatly.
Therefore, how you handle yourself and present your case are important
in building respect and letting the school system know that you are
taking the process seriously. One of the keys to handling yourself well
in your first PPT is to be prepared.
You’ve made an informed decision in choosing to request an ABA program
for your child and this should be made evident in your PPT. Know your
subject and be prepared to discuss why you made the choice you did, what
data supports your choice and why other programs are not suitable.
Prepare handouts that outline specifically what you are requesting for
your child or that help to illustrate any point you want to make. In
addition, draft a list of realistic goals that you want your child to
work toward in the coming school year.
Share Information. Many school districts know very little about ABA and
often what they do know about it is incorrect or outdated. You may need
to help educate your fellow PPT members. Share all information with the
school district that was useful in your choosing to request an ABA
program. Give them copies of pertinent articles, research papers or book
chapters that illustrate your case. Summarize and share the reasons for
your decision. If possible, arrange for the school district
representatives to view an existing ABA program. In addition to
educating them, this reinforces that you have done your homework and
made an informed decision.
It is also helpful to share information about your child. In addition to
the diagnosis, share your views on your child’s strengths and
weaknesses. If you child has been receiving services from the State of
Connecticut Birth to Three, share information on the progress, or lack
of progress, your child has made while receiving these services. If you
are fortunate enough to have an ABA program in place already, share your
data showing your child’s progress to help support your request. In
general, the more information you can present to help the school
district understand your child’s needs and your position on what
constitutes an appropriate educational program the better.
Ask Questions. Ask questions about anything you do not understand or is
not completely clear to you, whether this be about the PPT process,
terminology or proposals from the school district. Never be afraid to
challenge a proposal from the school or disagree if you understand the
facts differently. As you have provided data to support your choices,
ask the school representatives for supporting data and information to
back their proposals.
Bring a Friend. You have the right to bring an advocate to a PPT. An
advocate can be anyone, including a supportive friend, your child’s
diagnostician, a trained advocate from a parent or government
organization or a lawyer. Oftentimes parents only secure the help of an
advocate, generally a lawyer, when the PPT process has failed and the
case is going to Due Process. Many families have found bringing an
advocate to the very first PPT to be very effective and helpful.
Where can I turn for more information?
The families of CT FEAT have each gone through the PPT process. If you
would like to learn from their experiences, please feel free to contact
CT FEAT by phone at 860-571-3888 or by E-mail at
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