What is an IEP?
IEP stands for Individual Education Program. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (the IDEA) provides that children "with a disability" are entitled to an individualized education program, designed to meet their unique education needs in the least restrictive environment.
How Does My Child Get an IEP?
If you believe your child has special education needs, you may ask your school to evaluate your child. The school may also identify your child as needing services and ask for your permission to perform an evaluation. The school is required by law to consult with you about the choice of evaluations, and evaluators.
If you disagree with the results of the evaluation, you may ask for an Independent Educational Evaluation and ask the school district to pay for it.
A group of school professionals will have a meeting to address the evaluations decide whether your child is entitled to an IEP. If you disagree with the decision of the school, you may ask for a due process hearing.
How is the IEP created?
The school system schedules a meeting to talk about the student and create the IEP. You are invited to the meeting and you may bring others with you to assist you (such as a health care professional who knows your child, or an attorney or advocate). There will be a number of people from the school at the meeting. If your child is 14 years old or older, he or she may (and probably should) attend and participate.
Your consent is required before your child can receive any special education services. The law requires that the IEP process is collaborative, which means you all work together to develop the IEP. Come to the IEP meeting with a positive attitude, but be prepared to speak up because you know your child best
The IEP form is detailed and it can be reviewed abefore the meeting. Here is the IEP Form in PDF format: IEP Blank.pdf. Think about your child, and his or her strengths and weaknesses. What are your goals for him or her? How would you like to have those goals measured? The best IEP meetings have a free and cooperative exchange of information, ideas and plans to provide your child with the right educational services.
How should I prepare for the IEP meeting?
Preparation is important. You may ask advice from an attorney or advocate on how to prepare best for your child's circumstances.
Organize yourself. It is a good idea to have a three ring binder with your child's assessments (state and district-wide tests) and evaluations.
If you have another parent or guardian in your child's life – whether you are married or not – it can be helpful to spend some time together preparing for the meeting (with your child if appropriate).
It can help to make a checklist for yourself of all the concerns you want addressed at the meeting, and all the information you want shared.
Be prepared to talk about all of the following:
your child's strengths
your child's challenges
your opinion about your child's educational needs
the significance of recent evaluations, and
your child's test scores.
What if the school and I can't agree on an IEP for my child?
If you and the school disagree about the best services for your child, and you can't work out the agreement, you may ask for mediation. You may also ask for a due process hearing. Again, you may bring an attorney or advocate with you to the mediation or hearing. You can also file a complaint with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The Department has a comprehensive guide to your rights entitled "Parent's Notice of Procedural Safeguards." Here is a copy of the guide in PDF format: Parent Notice.pdf.
How does the IEP work?
You are given a copy of the IEP, and it is provided to your child's teachers and others who provide services to your child at the school. All personnel at the school are required to know their responsibilities in following the IEP, including modifications to educational materials and procedures, accommodations and supports to meet your child's needs.
The IEP contains measurable goals, and progress towards those goals must be measured and reported to you, at least as often as you would receive progress reports for a nondisabled child.
When is the IEP reviewed?
The IEP is reviewed at least once a year, although you or the school may ask for an earlier review. This means another IEP meeting will be held and the IEP will be revised if warranted. Again, if you don't agree with the proposed revisions, you can ask for mediation or a due process hearing.
When will my child be re-evaluated by the school?
Your child must be re-evaluated at least every three years, to determine if he or she continues to qualify for special education services. You or the school can ask for an earlier evaluation. You can always have independent evaluations performed, to help you in determining whether your child's IEP should be amended.