Children who receive special education services will also receive an Individualized Education Program (IEP). An IEP is an important legal and academic document that defines the child’s learning needs, which services the school will provide and how individual progress will be measured. The process of creating an IEP will help teachers and parents better understand the child’s strengths and weaknesses as well as what it will take for them to successfully complete school.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that requires that public schools to create an IEP for every child enrolled in special education services. Children ages three through high school graduation, or the maximum age of 22, may qualify for an IEP. The purpose of an IEP is to understand and address each child’s individual learning challenges through specific educational goals. An IEP is a legally binding document that holds the school accountable for everything they promise to offer or accomplish. IEPs are often reviewed and revised in order to adjust the frequency, location and duration of assigned services and support.
Every IEP must include a statement of the child’s eligibility or disability category, their academic achievements and functional performance level. There must be a statement of measurable goals, which are usually academic and functional goals, which are renewed every year. There should be a statement of which special education, academic services and supplementary aids will be provided to the child. An IEP must have statements that explain the processes for making program modifications, what support will be provided for school personnel who help the child and what individual accommodations are needed for the child to complete state and district-wide assessments.
The IEP Process
IEPs begin when a student is identified as needing special assistance and services. This is sometimes delayed because learning difficulties do not become apparent until the child is older and more self-aware. School districts maintain their own standard procedures for identifying students who may be educationally disabled or needing special education services. Parents are encouraged to move this process forward by documenting and communicating that their child may have physical, sensory, emotional, cognitive and interpersonal difficulties. Parents can start the IEP process by submitting a written request to the school. Parents must maintain documentation of past interventions attempted in classroom settings.
If the school district rejects the request to evaluate the child, parents may pursue mediation or due process hearing. Once a request is received, school districts usually respond within two to three weeks to determine whether an evaluation will be conducted. If the evaluation is approved for an IEP, there will be a core team of people who are directly involved in the child’s daily educational program, such as parents, peers, teachers, administrators and d support staff. At the same time, a support team of contracted or consulting professionals will be formed. Support teams are usually made up of nurses, psychologists, audiologists and social workers.
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Every IEP requires an approved disability or education consultant to review the student’s educational history, interview the student’s teachers and analyze the student’s learning characteristics and academic performance. A psychologist must evaluate the student’s social, adaptive, thinking and learning skills and capabilities.