What is an IEP and when is it needed?

What is an IEP plan?

An Individual Education Program (IEP) is a written legal document or plan that includes specific goals and guidelines designed to help a child with a disability overcome obstacles and assisting students in making progress and succeeding in school. Since this was designed under a federal law, eligible children in public schools and charter school may be given an IEP plan Private schools have another similar plan, also known as the Individual services Plan.

The program usually takes place in the school but may also include visits to a specialist. If a child is determined to be eligible for an IEP plan, services are provided free to the child's family. Parents and educators will work together to build a plan suited to the child's individual needs.

How to determine if a child needs an IEP plan

If a child isn't performing to grade-level standards in their classes, the child may need an IEP plan. It's important to find out why they are having trouble to see if they qualify for the plan. A variety of things can impact a child's performance in school. The federal law can allow students as early 3 years of age (pre-schoolers) to receive an IEP. You do not need a referral and can request a free evaluation of your child from your state's early intervention program. Believe it or not, you can request this from infancy to age 3.

If a child is challenged physically or intellectually, they may qualify for an IEP plan. This can include children with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, autism spectrum disorder, developmental delays or physical impairment.

Children with behavioral issues that impede their ability to learn may also qualify.

Parents' and children's legal rights under IDEA

A child's and their parents' rights are federally protected under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) in the Procedural Safeguards. These rights include the right for parents to access their child's educational records, attend meetings and to decide if they want to move forward with an IEP plan.

How it works

When a parent, teacher or a professional brings it to the school's attention that a child is struggling in class, the child can be referred to the program. A team of professionals will then evaluate the child's situation and academic skills to determine if they are eligible for the plan.

Meetings to determine the child's eligibility for the program will be held between an evaluation team and the parents. If there is a determination that the child is eligible for the program, a comprehensive evaluation report (CER) will be created based on the team's evaluation. This report will help the team, and the parents work together to develop the IEP plan.

Creating the right IEP plan for your child

The evaluation team and parents will meet to discuss the IEP's goals. Measurable goals embodying academic standards will be set for every area the child is struggling in. Short term, as well as annual goals, will be made.

Goals will be tailored to the child's individual needs and will focus on any reading areas the child is having trouble mastering, such as reading comprehension, fluency or vocabulary. Services under the IEP plan might include specialized attention in the classroom or one-on-one tutoring.

If the child has a disability, the IEP plan might include support services for the child, such as seeing a therapist or making special accommodations.

Steps to take if you feel your child is needing IEP services at an early age.

  1. Watch your child and make notes of observations or concerns that may lead you to think your child has a developmental delay or attention issue.
  2. Bring up these concerns to your child's pediatrician or current pre-school teacher to see if these observations are common for other children at your child's age.
  3. If your doctor feels your concerns are valid get a referral to your State's "Child Find" program for a free evaluation.
  4. Submit all paperwork, tests, doctor's notes, and concerns to your school district's special education director or administrator (the title of this individual will vary between districts and schools)
At Tutor Doctor of Keller, we are always here to help with in-home, specialized, one-on-one instruction. Together, we can help your child achieve all of their academic goals.
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