Image via WikipediaA program is the key. When folks start out on the road to a special education, it's important to know what you can expect. Good programs should contain three things: data, flexibility and room to grow.
But the greatest of these is. . . Data. It should produce tangible statistics on a child's progress.
From a parent's prospective, a program without data leaves you out of the loop on your student. It's the river from which all educational decisions flow. Not knowing the results of a child's day to day activities is the same as sitting in a dark room and trying to describe the furniture from memory. You won't remember it all, and it's likely you missed something on your first look.
A program with wiggle room lets educators change the pieces without sending an autistic child into shock from too great a change at one time. Structure can help with that. Administrators can sometimes suggest programs that can be adapted to a student's changeable needs.
Long term thinking lets parents and professionals in the field look toward the future and plan for developmental milestones. Overall goals allow parents to choose a path most likely to get them where they want to go. Whatever your goal, you should think big, maybe bigger than you can expect. That's fine.
Thinking big and long term could get your child the next best thing to your ideal. A non-verbal child would have an ideal long term goal: communication. So verbalizing communication is the goal, but should they learn to sign to communicate you got the next best outcome. The learning disabled child with Aspberger's might want to go to college. That goal could get them the best high school GPA and result in excellent job training, even if the ultimate goal of college doesn't happen. It's easier to prioritize steps to these goals once you have them, rather than cobble together a step by step program one priority at a time. The overall goal gives you room to grow your student's program, to expand their abilities.