While the specifics of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) can be different depending on the state that you live in, All IEPs contain similar information and serve the same function; to make a plan to get children who have been identified with a disability closer to grade level standards.
What is an IEP?
An IEP is a legal document that is born from federal law, specifically the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensures services to children with disabilities throughout the nation. Children with disabilities may receive services as an infant, preschooler, or school-aged (K-21 years) person. An IEP is a document that is specific to special education for school-aged children who are educated in a public school setting.
One of the most common questions that parents have is whether their child, who is struggling in school, may be eligible for special education services and an IEP.
Who is eligible for an IEP?
Parents or school districts may make a referral to their school district’s Committee on Special Education (CSE). Through the CSE, your child will participate in an evaluation process. Results of these evaluations will help to determine your child’s eligibility for special education services.
There are 13 educational classifications under which children may be found eligible for special education services:
- Intellectual disability
- Hearing impairment
- Speech or language impairment
- Visual impairment
- Emotional disturbance
- Orthopedic impairment
- Traumatic brain injury
- Other health impairment
- Specific learning disability
- Multiple disabilities
To read more about each of these disability areas, click here.
While many of the educational classifications are straightforward, the area of a Specific Learning Disability is one that comes up most frequently for parents of school aged children. It’s important to note that not all children who struggle or have to work hard in school have a specific learning disability. While eligibility for services may vary from state to state, most often the CSE is looking for students who have not responded to evidence based interventions or who show a large discrepancy between their cognitive ability and academic performance that cannot be accounted for by other factors such as lack of exposure to academic content, poor attendance, or other health factors.
Special Education is about closing the gap, not optimizing performance. The good news is that even if your child is not eligible under the CSE for Special Education, there are often many services available through your child’s school or privately that can help your student build their skills and keep up with grade level content!.
If my child is found to have a disability, what can I expect to see in their IEP?
- Present Levels of Performance – Describe where the student is currently functioning in the areas of academic, social, and physical development as well as their management (human, material, and environmental) needs.
- Areas of Need – Areas where your child is not meeting grade level standards.
- Measurable Annual Goals – Your child’s educational team will identify key areas to monitor their progress. While your child may have many needs, the goals that are monitored are those that are though to have the biggest impact on your child’s ability to meet grade level standards.
- Programs and Related Services – these are the programs (special education) and related service areas (OT, PT, Counseling, Speech) that are needed to help your child meet their annual goals.
- Program Accommodations – Changes in the environment that your child needs to learn.
- Testing Accommodations – Changes in the testing environment that your child needs to show what he or she understands.
- Extended School Year/Transportation Needs – Children with more significant needs may need year round services to prevent significant regression in skills. Likewise, children who have special needs with transportation can be provided with those supports.
Special education can be a tricky thing to understand. While your child’s teacher can give you an idea of whether they have concerns about their progress, a good place to get more information is from the special education administrator or school psychologist in your child’s school. They are the experts in special education and can walk you through this process.
Natalie Mangrum is the founder and CEO of Maryland Teacher Tutors. She is a reading specialist with a bachelors in elementary education and masters in education. As a parent to two young adults, and prior teacher, Natalie knows all too well the benefits of one-on-one tutoring and coaching for students. Her mission is to ensure that every aspect of MTT is done in a spirit of excellence! She enjoys alleviating the concerns of parents so they can breathe easy knowing their children are in good hands!
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