For any parent, dealing with the IEP (Individual Education Plan) is a sensitive and intimidating task. The biggest challenge that parents face is making sure they are building an IEP that fits with their child – in terms of comfort level, abilities, and age.
To make sure you are well prepared, start asking yourself these questions:
What’s an IEP (Individual Education Plan)?
Though it may sound simple, understanding what an IEP is and why your child needs it is a vital first step. An IEP is a plan developed by parents, educators, and other team members (discussed later) that set outs educational goals set for a child with special needs during the school year, as well as any special support your child is expected to require to achieve them.
Has My Child Been Assessed?
After parents decide that their child may need special education, the next step is to get assessed by the school district to confirm the student is qualified and where they should be placed. Once the assessment is completed a parent can meet with the person who administered the assessment to provide a copy of the comprehensive evaluation report (CER) and discuss their child’s goals days before the actual IEP meeting. If a parent disagrees with the placement of their child, they can request Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) at the test center’s expense under 34 CFR 300.352.
Now it’s Time to Develop the IEP, What Should I Expect?
Once your child has been tested and the comprehensive evaluation report has been made available to your child’s evaluation team – a team that can consist of psychologists, speech therapists, and/or special educators (can very depending on school district) – the first IEP meeting is now ready to take place. At the IEP meeting, parents should expect to collaborate with the evaluation team and regular teachers to come up with specific, measurable short-term and annual goals for each of the special needs identified. The cover page of the IEP outlines the support services your child will receive and how often they will be provided (for example, occupational therapy twice a week).
How Do I Schedule Future IEP Meetings?
The IEP should be reviewed annually to update the goals and make sure the levels of service meet your child’s needs. However, IEPs can be changed at any time on an as-needed basis. It’s important for you to know that if you want to meet with the school district or members of the assessment team, parents must make a written request. Also a written request provides a valuable paper trail that details that your child’s needs have been clearly communicated to everyone involved in helping make the IEP a reality for your child. The IEP team can deny your request to meet and discuss your child’s situation but must provide a reason why such a meeting is not warranted.
I Think My Child Needs an Additional Therapy Service – How Do I Take Action?
Often times when parents believe their child needs additional services such as physical therapy, they request it in the IEP meeting. However, the IEP team will just as often deny the request. It’s a good idea to follow up on your request in the meeting by submitting a written proposal with reasons that supports your case for the service for your child. Please know only a certified or licensed professional can determine if a child needs a service. Submit your written request to the IEP team, that way it will be become part of the official minutes.