Once a child has been found eligible for special education services, he or she will receive an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), which is a plan of action that has been individualized to assist in the child’s education. It outlines what the specific special education services will be for the child. The IEP is a legal document that schools are required by law to follow that is intended to protect the child with a disability to ensure that he or she is getting access to appropriate educational services. Additionally, it unites all individuals that work with the child to ensure that everyone is working together. Parents and specific school staff must sign the IEP before it can be implemented. Schools are required to follow all aspects of the IEP.
An IEP consists of several parts
Present Level of Performance: This section outlines the student’s strengths and weaknesses. Current academic performance should be reported as well as his or her behavioral performance. Information from the most recent special education evaluations as well as classroom assessments are typically included in this section.
Goals: An IEP should consist of specific and measurable goals for the student in the areas of need. There could be specific behavioral goals, reading comprehension goals, speech goals, etc. The means of determining how it is to be evaluated should also be included. Goals should be related to the student’s disability. For example, a student with a Specific Learning Disability would not typically have physical therapy goals.Least
Restrictive Environment: The IEP will have a section to indicate that the student is in the environment that is the least restrictive. This means that the student is to be educated with his or her peers to the greatest extent possible. If the student can succeed in an inclusion classroom, then he or she will not be placed in a special education classroom.
- Services: The services section identifies what services the student needs to address the disability area. They could include academic supports, behavioral supports, speech and language therapy, occupational or physical therapy, and other services related to the disability.
- Accommodations: If the student requires specific accommodations to the general education environment, they will be listed in this section. Accommodations could include the use of a calculator, or having a test read aloud, or being seated in proximity to the teacher, as well as many other possible accommodations relevant to the student’s disability.
- Testing: A student may need specific accommodations on standardized assessments. If a student qualifies for those accommodations they will be included in the IEP in this section.
- Prior Written Notice: Prior Written Notice is a document the school system is required to provide for a child with a disability prior to any changes to special education services. Schools are required to provide this document if a change is made or if a change was proposed. The Prior Written Notice indicates what action was proposed or refused and why.
Often the case manager will have written a draft which he or she will present to the IEP committee. The committee members (including the parents) will offer opinions and have discussions about the proposed plan. The IEP committee is charged with coming together for the best interest of the child and to determine appropriate services. Sometimes there can be in-depth discussions about what the most appropriate services will be. Once a decision is made, the case manager will finalize the IEP and all committee members must sign if they are in agreement.
You can expect that several people will be in attendance. Possible participants from the school include:
- The special education teacher or case manager. This person has written the draft of the IEP and will create the final copy. The case manager is in charge of making sure it is being followed. If your child is receiving services as a child with a Speech and Language Impairment, the Speech Language Therapist will likely be the case manager rather than a special education teacher.
- School administrator or designee (usually a School Principal, Special Education administrator or someone designated by the administrator)
- General education teacher
- Therapists providing services if applicable (Speech Language Therapist, Occupational Therapist, Physical Therapist)
- School Psychologist (not required generally)
A parent does not have to sign an IEP. Services will not begin without a signed IEP. However, coming to an agreement is very important for the child, even if this takes several meetings and compromise. Usually, when all parties stop and listen to each other, an agreement can be made that is in the best interest of the child.
An IEP is generally updated annually. However, if any member of the committee feels that a change should be made, the IEP team should reconvene and discuss making changes.