What’s an IEP?

IEPIn New Jersey, as well as other states across the country, an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is a written document that outlines a child’s (with a special need or disability) education, ages 3-21.  The plan is tailored specifically to the individual student, so they receive maximum educational benefit.  The key word is individual.  A program that is appropriate for one student, may not be right for another.

For a child with a disability, the IEP is the cornerstone for their education.  It identifies the services that a child needs so that he/she can grow and learn during the school year in a manner that recognizes their disability and challenges.  An IEP is also a legal document that outlines three key topics:

  • The child’s special education plan that includes their goals for the school year
  • Services needed to help the child reach those goals
  • A strategy to evaluate the student’s success and progress

Who Qualifies For An IEP

Two conditions must be met in order for a child to be eligible for an IEP:

  1. An evaluation. Parents, teachers, school counselors, or anyone who suspects a student is struggling in school can request an evaluation of the student. A school psychologist or other professional may give your child various tests and evaluate them in the classroom.  The evaluation must be comprehensive and must look at all of the following:
  • Health
  • Vision
  • Social and emotional development
  • Learning potential
  • Academic performance
  • Communication skills
  • Motor skills
  1. A decision. Upon completion of the evaluation the IEP team who evaluated your child will decide whether or not they need special education services in order to learn the curriculum.  If your child is found eligible for an IEP, then the next step is to create the IEP specific to your child.

IEP Meeting    team work

To develop an IEP for your child, your local education agency officials and others involved in your child’s educational program meet to discuss education related goals.  According to law(s), the following individuals must be invited to the IEP meeting:

  • You (the parent/guardian)
  • Your child’s teacher
  • A local education agency representative
  • Your child
  • Other individuals at your discretion (your child’s doctor, etc.)

Takeaways

Upon completion of your first IEP meeting, your school system and all attending parties of the meeting will work together to make sure the IEP rollout is smooth and followed each and every day throughout the academic year.  Goals will be monitored to ensure they are met, and measurements and progress will be reported to you.

After some time, you may also be asked to partake in additional IEP meetings throughout the course of the academic year.  Here the associated parties from the original IEP meeting will give you updates and recommendations to change certain factors of your child’s plan.  This ensures that the goals continue to be met.  During these meetings the team leader will write a statement about your child’s present level of academic and functional performance and goals.  The statement is based on what you and the team have discussed in the meeting(s).  All changes to the IEP will be documented, and noted that all parties have agreed to the changes.

In conclusion, an IEP is the cornerstone of your child’s special education program, and it should always reflect your child’s strengths, needs and progress as he/she moves through school.  Always remember, as the parent/guardian, you are a very important member of your child’s IEP team, and bring valuable insights and concerns to the table.

Also remember it is also up to your IEP team and other school officials to help monitor your child to make sure that he/she is not being bullied in school because of their special need or disability.  For tips to avoid school bullying for individuals with special needs and disabilities

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IEP Tips: How to prepare for the IEP meeting

The following are IEP tips and strategies designed to help you prepare for the meeting while developing a collaborative relationship  with your school  district. As a parent, hearing the words “IEP Meeting” might cause you feel nervous, overwhelmed or even experience a feeling of dread. We know from life, that if we are prepared, our anxiety levels go down.

IEP TIPS for a SUCCESSFUL MEETING:

1. Respond to the meeting notification and let them know you will be attending.   If you plan on bringing an outside friend, specialist or advocate, let the district know ahead of time. If you cannot attend, ask to reschedule.  Let the school know the meeting is important to you.

2. Bring all important documents to the meeting.  If you received a negative report card, progress report or if your child is having behavioral problems, bring these documents.   If you’ve recently seen a medical doctor or psychologist, you might ask the doctor to write some type of summary report that can be shared at the meeting.

3. You have a right to receive a copy of the assessment results ahead of time so you can preview them before the meeting.   You may also request a copy of the proposed IEP and the actual goals in advance so you can preview them and jot down questions you have.

 

4. Write down your questions, concerns and suggestions.  IEP meetings tend to be slightly rushed so the more prepared and organized you are the better chance that all your concerns and questions will be addressed.

5. You may visit possible program options prior to the meeting.  Ask for a visit to be arranged before the IEP meeting takes place.

6. You may tape record the meeting. Notify the case manager or special education teacher at least 24 hours in advance if you plan on doing this.

7. Be an equal partner in the IEP process:  Don’t silently sit there.   Ask questions, offer suggestions and bring ideas to the table. Remember, you are the voice of your child.

8. Ask for a copy of your rights n advance so you feel comfortable signing them when asked.

9.  If you are uncomfortable with the IEP plan or do not feel you’ve had enough time, don’t be afraid to ask for a continuation meeting. You do not have to sign the IEP!

You can say something like, “I really like many of the things we discussed today. I don’t feel ready to sign this yet, but I’m sure if we can continue this meeting we will be able to work through the remaining issues.”

10. Remember, you can agree to parts of the plan without agreeing to the entire IEP. The parts you’ve agreed on will be implemented while you continue to work on the remaining issues.

11.  IDEA states that you can ask to take the IEP home for further review before you sign it. Some parents find it overwhelming or feel too rushed during the actual meeting to make a final decision.