If you suspect that your child’s 504 Plan is not accommodating their needs within their educational environment, it might be time to seek an Individualized Education Plan. Children with 504 Plans do not require specialized instruction, however a child with an IEP does. An Individualized Education Plan is “a document under United States law that is developed for each public school child in the U.S who needs special education.” For further information regarding the difference between a 504 Plan and an IEP, click here.
Special thanks to Collaborative Corner and their help in providing this resource.
What is the purpose of the IEP?
“The IEP creates an opportunity for teachers, parents, school administrators, related services personnel, and students (when appropriate) to work together to improve educational results for children with disabilities. The IEP is the cornerstone of a quality education for each child with a disability.” Per the U.S Department of Education, “the IEP process is considered to be one of the most critical elements to ensure effective teaching learning and better results for all children with disabilities.” – Department of Education
The IEP process can be long and daunting for children and their families. However, when the process is executed correctly and the IEP document is accurately built to assist the child, the child’s individual needs will (should) be met and will allow them to access a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Here is additional information for your review.
The process itself is detailed and tailored to your child, but in general the IEP process can be summarized in ten steps. – Department of Education IEP Guideline
1.) The child is identified as possibly needing special education services
There are several ways that a child can be identified as possibly needing education services. Whether it be through “Child Find,” the child’s parents/guardian, a medical professional or a school professional, evaluations within the school system must be completed. It is important to note that although your child has a medical diagnosis, their medical diagnosis does NOT “automatically” qualify them for an IEP.
2.) The child is evaluated
“The evaluation must assess the child in all areas related to the child’s suspected disability.” The results of the evaluation(s) will determine the child’s eligibility (or ineligibility) for special education and services. There are many types of evaluations that you can request for your child and that the school/school district can conduct for your child. The need for each of the specific evaluation is determined by the student’s “team.” The school/school district does NOT have to evaluate your student just because it has been requested. In general, the student’s disability must be negatively affecting them within their learning environment for the school to agree upon conducting a requested evaluation. Evaluations are one of the most detailed components of the IEP process. This process is so detailed that we will be covering this topic in a later blog.
3.) Eligibility is decided
A group of related and qualified professionals, along with the child’s parents, will review the results of each evaluation that was conducted. Together, they will decide if the child is a child “with a disability” as defined by IDEA.
4.) The child is found eligible (or ineligible) for services
“If the child is found to be a ‘child with a disability,’ as defined by IDEA, he or she is eligible for special education and related services. Within 30 calendar days after a child is determined eligible, the IEP team must meet to write an IEP for the child.” – Department of Education. What defines a “child with a disability?” Per IDEA, “Child with a disability means a child evaluated in accordance with 300.304 through 300.311 as having an intellectual disability, a hearing impairment (including deafness), a speech or language impairment, a visual impairment (including blindness), a serious emotional disturbance (referred to in this part as “emotional disturbance”), an orthopedic impairment, autism, traumatic brain injury, an other health impairment, a specific learning disability, deaf-blindness, or multiple disabilities, and who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services.” For further information about a “child with a disability” under IDEA, click here.
5.) The IEP meeting is scheduled
Your child’s school will schedule and conduct the IEP meeting. The school system will provide the parent/guardian with a meeting invitation with detailed information regarding the IEP meeting. The school system is also responsible to contact all IEP meeting participants (including the parents) and notify parents early enough to ensure that they can attend the meeting. The IEP meeting notice will list the meeting’s date, time, location of meeting, purpose of meeting, and a list of attendees from the school and/or school district. The school must also ensure that the parents are aware that they can invite people to the IEP meeting who have knowledge or special expertise about their child.
6.) The IEP meeting is held and the IEP is written
After a mutual meeting date has been scheduled, the IEP team (including the Parent/Guardian), will be held to write the child’s Individualized Education Plan. The IEP is a detailed, personalized document that takes a great deal of time, thought and input by the IEP team. This process might not be completed in one meeting. However, the child will begin receiving services immediately after the parent/guardian signs consent in this meeting. Because the IEP document is extremely detailed, we will be covering the “IEP document” in a later blog.
7.) Services are provided
When the IEP has been finalized and consent has been signed, the Parent/Guardian will receive a final copy of document. The school will begin providing services that are listed for your child on the IEP and will be responsible for ensuring that the individualized education plan is being carried out as it is written. It is important that each member of the child’s “team” has access to their IEP to ensure that they are each providing the proper services and accommodations for the child. The child’s classroom teacher, service providers (Speech-Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, etc), ESE Coordinators and all members of the IEP team should know their specific roles as it pertains to the child’s IEP.
8.) Progress is measured and reported to parents
Annual goals are the heart of the child’s IEP. Annual goals are specific to the child’s needs and address both academic and behavioral needs, as well as their needs in their related services. These goals should be measurable and data toward the goals should be provided in reports to the Parent/Guardian. Parents should be regularly informed about their child’s progress toward these annual goals in order to determine if the child is on track to meet these goals by the end of the year.
9.) IEP is reviewed
Your child’s IEP is reviewed by the IEP team at least once a year. However, Parents/Guardians can request a meeting to review their child’s IEP at any time. In these meetings, the IEP can be reviewed, parents can make suggestions and ask questions, can request changes and discuss the written goals and placement. Reviewing the IEP is very important to ensure that the child is receiving the proper accommodations and services as they are listed on the IEP. It is also important to review the IEP to discuss any changes in the child’s needs, any goals that have been mastered, etc.
10.) Child is reevaluated
Per IDEA, a child must be reevaluated every three years to determine if the child continues to qualify as a “child with a disability” that impacts him/her within their educational environment. However, children can be reevaluated more often than once every three years if the Parent/Guardian and/or school staff believes that there has been a change in the child’s condition that is impacting them within the school setting.
Although the IEP process can be outlined in these ten steps; each step is detailed and personalized to the child and holds great value to the overall success of your child with exceptional needs. In later blogs, we will go deeper into these 10 steps and provide further assistance in how you can advocate for your child within their educational environment.
If you need further information or support, please do not hesitate to contact Collaborative Corner.
Jessica Barisano, IEP and Parent Advocate, Parent of an Exceptional Child
Founder of Collaborative Corner for Exceptional Children