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An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is the most important document that your child will have in their school career. This is why parents of special needs children need to have a full understanding on what an IEP is, how it is developed, what happens after it is implemented, and how this IEP will continue to function as the roadmap for their child’s academic, social and emotional development.
Here are a few IEP essentials that every parent should know.
1. The Purpose of an IEP
An IEP is a document developed by the IEP team that outlines the individualized accommodations, modifications, special education and related services to be provided to a student in order to meet his/her specific and unique academic and functional skills.
2. How to Request an Evaluation
First, to request an evaluation, you can write a letter to the Special Education Department stating that you would like to have your child evaluated for whatever concerns that you believe is impacting your child. This evaluation will include all areas of concern and will clarify the nature of possible processing deficits. Then, an IEP meeting is scheduled to determine if your child is eligible for special education and related services. It is important to note that other school professionals can also initiate an evaluation if they see your child is having difficulties in any academic or behavioral areas. It is your right as a parent that an evaluation cannot take place until you sign for consent.
3. What happens at an IEP Meeting
If this is your initial IEP meeting, you will develop an IEP with the IEP team to meet the needs of your child. After the IEP is developed, you will sign a consent for special education placement. If this is your annual IEP meeting, you will discuss with the IEP team how your child is progressing overall, the progress towards their goals and objectives, present accommodations and/or modifications and which placement meets their needs.
4. Who comes to the IEP Meeting
The following is a list of people that you would expect to see at an IEP meeting:
⇒ student (students are required during transition planning meetings)
⇒ special education teacher(s)
⇒ general educator(s) (IDEA requires that at least one of the child’s general educators be included on the IEP team)
⇒ related service providers (i.e., occupational therapist, physical therapist, speech and language pathologist)
⇒ school psychologist (during an initial or reevaluation)
⇒ LEA (i.e., special education representative, teacher, or anyone who can be sure the services in the IEP are provided to the child)
5. How Eligibility is Determined
The IEP team will meet and determine whether your child meets the definition of “a child with a disability” as described in IDEA and is, therefore, eligible for an IEP. Your child may qualify for a disability under 13 categories: autism, deafness, deaf-blindness, hearing impairment, mental retardation, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, serious emotional disturbance, specific learning disability, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury, and visual impairment, including blindness.
6. What is Included in an IEP
The IEP must include:
⇒ the strengths of the child
⇒ the concerns of the parents for improving their child’s education
⇒ the results of the initial or most recent evaluation of the child
⇒ the academic, developmental, and functional needs of the child.
IEPs also should contain statements about:
⇒ your child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance
⇒ how your child’s disability affects their involvement and progress in the general education curriculum
⇒ their measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals
⇒ how your child’s progress will be measured towards annual goals
⇒ supplementary aids and services that will be provided to your child
⇒ any program modifications or supports school personnel will provide to your child
⇒ an explanation of the extent to which the child will not participate with nondisabled children in a regular class and in extracurricular and nonacademic activities, if applicable
⇒ the use of accommodations for State and district-wide assessments
⇒ the date for the beginning of the services and modifications, and the frequency, location, and duration of those services and modifications.
7. What Happens After an IEP is Developed
After your child’s IEP is developed and you consent to placement, your child will begin to receive the services listed in the IEP. You will also receive a copy of the IEP. The IEP team will meet, at least annually, to review the progress of your child, their current achievements and level of performance, and whether services need to be amended. You always have the right to request a meeting prior to the annual date if you have a concern.
8. What to Do When You Disagree
It is important to remember that you have a right to disagree with anything in your child’s IEP. If you are in disagreement about your child’s goals and objectives, services that they are required to receive and/or placement, first talk it out with the IEP team. If you and the school district are not able to come to a mutual agreement, you always have the option of mediation or you can file a complaint.