An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is created for a child with a disability. It sets out a plan to identify and meet the unique needs of the child. The IEP does the following things:
- Lets parents and school personnel discuss and agree on the child’s special education program;
- Provides an opportunity for the parents and the district to resolve any differences;
- Sets out a commitment by the school district to provide resources;
- Provides both a management tool and a monitoring document; and
- Serves to evaluate a child's progress.
The IEP is created through a team effort that usually involves:
- The special education teacher (this is usually your case manager);
- The regular education teacher;
- A representative from the school (usually the principal);
- The special education director;
- An Occupational Therapist (OT);
- A Physical Therapist (PT);
- A School Social Worker;
- A School Psychologist;
- A Speech Therapist; and
- Any advocates or people of support you want to bring.
IEP meetings are held at different times throughout the year to discuss the plan and the child's progress.
The first meeting is about deciding if the child needs special education. This usually involves having the child take certain tests. The decision must be made within 60 school days of the date you give consent for these tests.
Tell the team members doing the testing that you will need a copy of the complete evaluation 5 days before the IEP meeting. This is so you have time to review the results and have questions ready. It is your right to have the results before the meeting, so do not be afraid to ask. This will also save time at the meeting.
Here are some other things for parents to remember about an IEP meeting:
- The meeting is about your child’s needs, not your wants.
- You have the right to read and approve, or disapprove, of the proposed IEP. Just because the meeting is done, does not mean the IEP is correct.
- Never let the school rush your IEP meeting because they have another meeting to go to. Find out how much time the school has allowed for this meeting so you can plan your time accordingly.
- If the proposed IEP, accommodations, or notes of the meeting are not correct, make the changes necessary and return these to the case manager for corrections. After the changes are made, and you receive the proposed copy back, make sure the changes have been done as requested.
- You can invite anyone you believe is knowledgeable or has special expertise about your child, as well as people for support. Make sure these people do not go in a direction not helpful to the child
- You as the parent can run the meeting if you have called it. Even if you have not called the meeting, you have the right to steer the meeting to make sure your child’s needs are addressed and you are not going in circles over an issue.
- When the school is scheduling the IEP meeting, they must consider your schedule. Likewise, if you call the meeting, you must remember there are multiple people’s schedules that need to be considered. The meeting may not take place as quickly as you would like.
- The school cannot say they are not able to do something without having a reason. They must consider all options.
- The school can never use lack of money as a reason not to do something to accommodate your child’s needs.
- You and the school professionals may see your child in different ways. Both have the same goal - the individual needs of the child. The way each thinks about it is different, but the goal is the same
- You have the right to have documents attached to the IEP that would be beneficial to the child’s needs.
- Make sure the goals of the IEP are measurable and obtainable
- Have the person taking notes for the meeting read back what was discussed to make sure all issues were covered and the result is correct.
- IEPs should be reviewed periodically. If the child is not meeting the goals or the child’s needs are not being met, you have every right to call an IEP meeting.
- Ask who will receive a copy of the IEP and what parts will each person receive. It is important that every person who will come in contact with your child has a copy of the IEP and any other information you have given the team to include.
- Talk to your child before a meeting to find out what they feel works or does not work if the child is able to tell you.
- Avoid blame. If there is a problem, the IEP can be modified or placement can be changed.
- If there is a problem, come to the meeting with solutions, do not expect the school to have all the answers.
- You have the right to call as many meetings as needed if your child’s needs are not being met, or there are other issues, such as behavior.
- Not all issues need a full IEP team meeting, some issues can be resolved with meeting of the parent and staff member. It is a place to start to see if a full team meeting is needed.
Updated: February 2017