Legalese — IEPs (Individualized Educational Plans)

Photo credit: Morguefile
Photo credit: Morguefile

An IEP is an Individualized Educational Plan. When a child has a disability that affects his or her performance in school due to a learning disability, mental illness, consistent behavioral problem, or intellectual disability, this is the plan that is put together to help the child succeed in a public school setting.

Ideally the school will identify a child who needs an IEP and contact the parents to begin the procedure. Sometimes, however, this won’t happen, and a parent will need to take the lead. If you suspect your child falls into one of the categories that would require an IEP, the first step would be to contact the school counselor to discuss your concerns.

At some point, an evaluation needs to be performed by a psychologist or other professional with expertise in the area of your child’s disability. The school should provide this evaluation for your child. However, if the school does not believe that your child is in need of an IEP, you may have to get this evaluation yourself in order to prove to the school that action needs to be taken. A parent can request an evaluation from the school, but the school needs twelve weeks of data behind the official request for an evaluation, so don’t expect things to happen right away. Allow the school time to collect the data they need.

There are achievement, intellectual, behavioral, and adaptive skills, observations, IQ tests, and others. Any of these, or any combination of these may be performed as a part of the evaluation process.

Once the evaluation is performed, there will be an eligibility meeting to determine whether or not the child is qualified for an IEP. It isn’t enough for the child to have a disability – the disability must affect school performance. So if the child is making straight A’s, it doesn’t matter what is going on, they don’t need assistance to succeed in school. They already are.

If there is a determination at the eligibility meeting that the child qualifies for an IEP, then there is an IEP meeting of the special education team. This team must include a General Education teacher, a Special Education Teacher, and a parent. It may include an occupational therapist, a physical therapist, speech teachers, vision and hearing specialists, school counselors, and administrators. Some parents have educational advocates who can also participate in the meeting. At the IEP meeting, a plan is put in place. This plan includes a description of the disability, and specific measures to counter the disability to ensure success in school.

Some examples of what may be included in a plan are:

  1. Services (co-teaching, collaborative, or self-contained classes);
  2. Accommodations like Individual escorts to and from classes; extended time for tests and other assignments, a scribe to help with writing, and more, all of which help the student to be on a level playing field as their non-disabled peers;
  3. State testing accommodations such as extra time or having the test questions read to the student;
  4. A Behavioral Intervention Plan;
  5. Transition plans for students in high school as well as some middle school students;
  6. Strengths and weakness (so the IEP team can focus on the child’s individualities and write a well written plan);
  7. Parent concerns;
  8. Student concerns;
  9. Goals and Objectives for the student to achieve; and
  10. Communications and assistive technology needs.

Don’t be afraid to be an advocate for your child. I do believe that most teachers care for their students and want the best for them, but no one loves your child the way you do and has that kind of singular focus for his or her well being. And be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was an IEP.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not to be considered legal advice of any kind.  No attorney can advise you about your specific situation without hearing the individual details of your case.

About Lori Duff 352 Articles
Lori is the author of the bestselling collection of humor essays, "Mismatched Shoes and Upside Down Pizza" currently available exclusively on Amazon. In order to finance her writing habit, she is a practicing lawyer with Jones & Duff, LLC. She is married to Mike Duff, who is a retired DeKalb County Public Safety Officer, and has two amazing children who make cameo embarrassing appearances in her blog posts and who attend Walton County Public Schools. Her legal column, "Legalese", is meant to de-mystify and humanize the Court system. When asked about her writing, Lori says, "Life is too short not to laugh at every available opportunity. My goal is to make myself laugh -- and hopefully you will laugh along with me."

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