3 Essential Things to Know about IEPs

If your child has special needs, he or she is entitled to extra support in school. Here's how to get it.

Liz Young September 16, 2015
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Your Child’s Right

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), public schools are required to meet the educational needs of students with disabilities. If you believe your child may have a disability that is negatively affecting their ability to learn, you have the right to request an evaluation from the school. Qualifying disabilities are divided into 13 categories. After the evaluation, the school will hold a meeting to discuss the findings and make plans for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), if needed. This all must be done within 60 days of the school’s consent to evaluate the child. Sometimes the school does not find adequate need, in which case, parents can request an independent evaluation for a second opinion, at no personal cost.

Once it has been determined that a child is in need of an IEP, the team from the school will develop the plan. It will include the student’s current academic abilities, their deficits, goals, and any accommodations they may need. Accommodations can be written for any issue a child has that negatively impacts their ability to learn, such as Anxiety or ADHD, and offer them alternative options for learning new things or displaying knowledge. These accommodations allow for support for the child’s specific needs, but will not change the information that the child needs to learn. The IEP may also include any other support services, such as speech therapy, behavioral support, or social work minutes.

Your child has the right to receive any accommodation or special service needed as a result of a disability.

Your Role

Parents play the essential role of advocate for their child in the school system. While it is the right of every child to receive an education appropriate for their ability, schools may not always be aware or have the resources to be proactive in evaluating students or arranging services. If you feel that your student may qualify for an IEP, it is your responsibility to request an evaluation, and second opinion if needed.

Once your child’s IEP is in place, you are an important member of the educational team and you must be active in your role. No one knows your child like you, so you bring an important perspective to the team meetings. Parents must sign off on IEPs before they are implemented, as well as any changes that are made throughout the year. If you feel like your child needs additional services or accommodations to help them learn, it is your responsibility to bring those concerns to the school and work toward a solution.

The School’s Responsibility

IDEA requires that public schools provide a free and appropriate education for students, in the least restrictive environment. An appropriate education may look different for a child with dyslexia than it does for a child with ADHD. Schools are required to provide any educational service or accommodation deemed necessary through evaluation.

While many schools will be cooperative in this, some may be hesitant to provide services or accommodations due to lack of resources. It is important to understand the requirement the law places on the schools so you are able to advocate for you child appropriately.

For more information on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, visit this website.

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Liz Young

Liz and her husband are foster parents in Illinois. They adopted their three boys through foster care. Liz shares personal experiences from her crazy journey of foster parenting at The Crazy House


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