Back to school time is around the corner, and as your child starts in her new class, it's important to know her educational options, especially if she has a disability such as autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, or epilepsy. The Individualized Education Program (IEP) can help your child receive the special attention and opportunities she needs.
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.
IEPs were made possible in public schools by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1975 (IDEA). 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 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, 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 her 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.
A team of professionals does the evaluation. This team typically includes the school psychologist and other educators. They will give your child certain tests and review her school records. They also observe her in the classroom.
When the evaluation is done, a report will be written. It will include scores, a summary of the results and recommendations for how to help your child. You’ll meet with the team to go over the outcomes. The evaluation gives you and the school insight into your child’s challenges, strengths and needs.
A key finding will be whether your child has one or more of the disabilities listed among the thirteen disability categories outlined by IDEA. If the evaluation shows your child has a disability that could make her eligible for special education, you’ll move on to the next step.
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 developing it for your child.
Once your IEP team is in place, a meeting is scheduled within 30 days of your child's special education needs being identified. Here are some ways you can prepare:
If this process sounds overwhelming and you feel you need help, you can always reach out to us.
Go to http://www.americanadvocacygroup.com or call us directly at (877) 762-0702, and we will assist you in getting your child the funding he or she deserves.