Special Education is a difficult subject for most parents to broach. Suspecting that something is not “normal” with your own child is difficult to accept. Beginning the intervention process can seem like an insurmountable task. Here is a guide to get you started on the right foot.
What is an IEP?
Individualized Education Program (IEP) is special education plan written by a team of school district specialists as required by law when a child with a disability that is recognized under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), as defined by the U.S. Department of Education.
Overall, an IEP is a set of education-related goals for a disabled child. A team of teachers, specialists, therapists and the school administration determine the level of the child’s need, both physical and intellectual. A standardized scale will be used to measure your child’s functional skills.
Who qualifies for an IEP?
Any child with a significant deficit below the deviation set forth in IDEA in two areas of physical and/or educational aptitudes. The child’s skills must be below a federally mandated level of standard deviations for specific skills. A medical diagnosis is not required nor does is guarantee an IEP. Many children with a host of mental health and physical disabilities are above the low point of the skill set and do not qualify for special education services.
Case in point, my elder daughter with ADHD, who has above average reading skills with a deficit in comprehension and sequencing does not qualify. Whereas her kindergartner sister who is at the intellectual level of a toddler and has severe fine motor deficits qualifies for contained classroom care.
What is the purpose of an IEP?
An IEP is a legally binding contract to provide a special needs child with therapeutic and educational services. This may be simply having an Occupational Therapist visit the child’s classroom once a month to monitor progress and consult with the teacher about adapting the education experience. It is also the detailed plan for children with multiple disabilities to receive specialized care in a contained classroom.
Children who are not meeting benchmarks, ergo bad grades, do not meet the intent of special education. They fall under the heading of remedial learning. A child with learning disabilities and near typical social skills will receive assistance through the school’s learning resource or Title I teacher.
I think my child need Special Services. Where do I begin?
Every child is entitled to a special services evaluation. If your child is in school, you can put in a request for evaluation. It must be in writing. Give it directly to the school administrator in charge of your child’s teacher and get a signed copy showing receipt. Documentation is an important part of this process. Teachers can put in referrals for special education but the parent must sign off before any evaluation may be done.
Under the federal IDEA regulations, evaluation needs to be completed within 60 days after the parent gives consent. Watch your mail and check your child’s backpack daily for the consent form and return it immediately. Again be sure to get a signed receipt. Some states have modified their IDEA regulations to give a different timeline for completion of the evaluation. You should be given a booklet of the regulations when you sign the consent form. If not, request one.
If your child is over 3 years of age and not yet enrolled in your local school district, contact Child Find. This is an IDEA mandated intake service. Most school districts host monthly evaluations. Call the district’s special services department to schedule an appointment. Your child will meet with an Occupational Therapist, Physical Therapist and Speech/Language Pathologist. There will also be a vision and hearing screening. After going though all the stations, you will meet with an evaluator who will talk with you about the needs status of your child.
This is overwhelming. Help!
Don’t despair. There are “veteran” parents in your area ready to assist. Parent to Parent USA(P2PUSA) – P2PUSA is a national non-profit organization committed to promoting access, quality and leadership in parent to parent support across the country.
For More information, I recommend these sites:
- IEP Meeting Planner (PDF) from the National Center for Learning Disabilities
- Individualized Education Plan (IEP) Guide for Parents from the Special School District of St. Louis County
- Wrights Law IDEA 2004 Roadmap to the IEP;
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Written by Astacia Carter. Her younger daughter (6) has cerebral palsy with developmental delay and her older daughter (8) has ADHD with sensory dysfunctions. She blogs about their journey every chance she can get. Her story of going from the work force to home is published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Power Moms. She is also a web site designer and social media geek.
- The Los Angeles Times Education Series
- Connecting the home and school for our kids’ success
- The Principal’s Role in Education
- The Battles of Education
- Don’t Let Budget Woes Derail Education