As your child goes back to school, it’s important to know his or her education options, especially if he or she has disabilities. Children with delayed skills or other disabilities might be eligible for special services that provide individualized education programs in public schools, free of charge to families. Understanding how to access these services can help you as a parent be an effective advocate for your child. But does your child qualify for an individualized education program (IEP)?
The passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) made parents of kids with special needs even more crucial members of their child's education team. As a parent, you can now work with educators to develop a plan — the individualized education program (IEP) — to help your child succeed in school. The IEP describes the goals the team sets for your child during the school year, as well as any special support needed to help achieve them.
IEPs were made possible in public schools by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1975. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the law says all children are “guaranteed access to a free, appropriate, public education … in the least restrictive environment to every child with a disability.”
To find out if she’s eligible, school officials have to do two things. First, they must find out if your child has a disability that is covered by the program. Second, they have to determine if her disability is severe enough for her to need special education services.
To qualify for an IEP, a child must exhibit at least one of the five special factors: behavior that hinders learning, limited English proficiency, blindness or visual impairment, communication issues, including deafness, and a need for assistive technology.
A public school must identify children with disabilities. If the school does not approach you about an IEP for your child, talk with his teacher and listen to his concern about your child’s academic progress. If the teacher believes his overall learning is being affected, your child will then go through evaluations to see whether he qualifies for services and in which of the five areas he needs help.
Although the timeline can fluctuate, children who need an IEP are usually identified in elementary school. Their IEP can then be revised and continued through high school. In some cases, children can get to a point during their education where the IEP no longer meets their needs, and you can request a meeting to review it and end services.
Every student who attends public school and who receives special education must have an IEP in place. Many things need to be thought out when creating an IEP, and so it is crucial that you as a parent, as well as teachers and school administrators are deeply involved in the formation and execution of the program. The child is also involved in the process, and if possible, his input in his own learning is an essential part in ensuring the IEP will be successful.
Once your IEP team is in place, a meeting is scheduled within 30 days of a child’s special education needs being identified. According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, the team will begin writing the IEP after the child has been tested to determine his eligibility. The team will look at how the student is doing in school and how that performance can be improved. It then sets annual goals to review and to determine how the IEP is helping the child.
The IEP should be written in so much detail that even someone who doesn’t know your child would be able to read it and understand the program.
If this process sounds overwhelming and you feel you need help, you can always reach out to us.
American Advocacy Group is on the front lines every day, making positive change happen for people diagnosed with Autism, Down syndrome, and a range of diagnoses across the continuum. As a leading advocate for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, and the premier provider of the support and services people want and need, we understand the system and know how to take action in regard to your best interests.
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