Parenting Matters: The ABC's of IEP’s

Need help navigating the complicated Special Ed system? Arm yourself with info so that you’re ready for those IEP meetings. Join us for FREE at The Theraplay Institute on Thursday, 4/19 at 6-8PM.

All parents want what’s best for their child.  If your child is having difficulty learning in school, getting help can be complicated, confusing, and frustrating.  The legal standards for special education and the process for meeting those standards is complex.  Trying to decipher the acronyms in the special education world is overwhelming.  IEP?  504?  IDEA?  RTI?  Tackling this task while caring for your child with special needs and managing all of your other responsibilities is nearly impossible, right?

Having accurate information about special education laws and processes is the first step.  Arm yourself with information and resources from an expert, so that you’re ready for those school meetings to begin.  Based on parents’ most frequently asked questions, here is some information to get you started: 


What is an IEP?

An IEP is an Individualized Education Program.  Special education students need to meet criteria to qualify for an IEP.  If a student has a disability, but does not require specialized instruction, they do not have an IEP.  An IEP includes a student’s present levels of performance, goals, services and supports, progress reports, related services, and supplementary aides.  A team of school professionals and the child’s parents review it at least annually. 


How does my child get an IEP?

It is a multi-step process:

1)    A parent, state agency, or the school initiates a written request to the school principal or the Special Education Case Manager for an initial Case Study Evaluation. 

2)    The parent consents for the evaluation. 

3)    The evaluation is completed. 

4)    A team of professionals and parents have an eligibility meeting to decide if the child has one of the listed disabilities to qualify for an IEP. 

5)    If the child qualifies, there is an IEP meeting to write the child’s IEP.


How do I help make sure my child gets what s/he needs in the IEP meeting?

1)    Bring a family member, friend, or professional advocate with you to help you take notes, remember what was said, and ask appropriate questions.  It’s easy for parents to get intimidated at IEP meetings, since there are many school professionals present and they are often communicating in unfamiliar special education lingo. 

2)    Ensure that any service, support, modification, or accommodation your child needs is written into his or her IEP.  If it’s not written down, it’s not mandated. 

3)    Make sure your child’s current performance levels are written clearly so that you can more easily see if progress is being made. 

For more information about navigating the complicated special education system in schools, join us for The ABC’s of IEP’s at The Theraplay Institute on Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 6-8PM.  Debra Wysong, Intake Manager and Senior Attorney in the Special Education Clinic at Equip For Equality will be presenting. 

This workshop is FREE, but PRE-REGISTRATION is required.  To register, call 847.256.7334, email Janet Koestring at janet@theraplay.org, or register online at http://www.theraplay.org/8427.html

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

victoria smith April 11, 2012 at 12:15 PM
Another process to this is talk to the schools social worker and she can set up an appointment to have your child tested, but there has to be sufficent evidence that your child is having difficulties, which the teachers will also be able to confirm if they are paying attention. If your child is in H.S., go to the Special Ed office and set up an appointment with them. You know your child better than anyone, so keep at it until you get the results you are looking for. It is not as easy as 123.
Sully April 11, 2012 at 12:56 PM
The school psychologist should actually know more about the process than the social worker. The psychologist would be the one performing the overall assessment should it be warranted.
Theraplay April 17, 2012 at 05:03 PM
While the school social worker won't be performing the assessment, he or she should certainly know about the process. As a parent, contact whichever staff member you're comfortable approaching and he or she can hopefully help you take it from there. It is certainly not as easy as 123, as previous poster pointed out; however, the more you know about the process, the easier it should be to navigate.


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