Kristen McNeely

consulting & family Counseling, INC.

Kristen McNeely

consulting & family Counseling, INC.

Does My Child Need an IEP?

Part 1

The IEP process is daunting for parents.  The piles of questionnaires, endless emails or phone calls with school staff, and probably a lot of meetings with news that doesn’t feel very good to hear.  If your child had a difficult school year last year or is already off to a tough start this year, you may be finding yourself asking “does my kid need an IEP?”  Let’s break it down…

What is an IEP?

An IEP is an Individualized Education Plan.  It is covered under federal law – the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.  An IEP outlines the goals, related services, and other information that a child who is eligible for special education will receive.  A few things to know about an IEP…

  1. An IEP is free – children who are eligible receive all related services at no cost
  2. Children must qualify in the school setting to receive an IEP.  A doctor’s note / prescription or documentation from a private psychologist or other provider is not sufficient for a child to receive an IEP. 
  3. Both a parent and a teacher (or other school staff) could initiate a concern about a child needing to be assessed for an IEP.  Staff are obligated to identify children they suspect having a disability through what is known as “child find.”

So how does a child get an IEP?

In order for a child to receive an IEP, they must first be evaluated.  A request for an evaluation can come from both a parent and a teacher.  Schools are not obligated to assess simply based on parent request; however, if a request is submitted in writing, specifically asking for an assessment and outlining the rationale, it is in the school’s best interest, legally speaking, to assess. If the school agrees to the assessment, the school will provide you with an Assessment Plan (AP).  The AP must be signed and returned in order for the assessment to proceed.  Once it is turned in, the district has 60 days to complete the assessment. 

A full psycho-educational evaluation is done by a school psychologist, special education teacher, and other providers in suspected areas of need.  For example, if there is concern about a child’s speech and language, a speech and language assessment is conducted by the Speech and Language Pathologist.  If there is concern about motor skills – both gross motor and fine motor, a Physical Therapist or an Occupational Therapist would be part of the assessment.

How does a child qualify for an IEP?

  1. The assessment must demonstrate eligibility in at least 1 of 13 different eligibility categories – this “eligibility” is different from a medical diagnosis.
  2. There must be adverse educational impact (this can include grades as well as social-emotional and behavioral functioning)
  3. The child must require specialized instruction to make progress in school

What are the eligibility categories?

A child can qualify under 1 or more of the following categories – Autism, Deafness, Deaf-Blindness, Emotional Disturbance, Hearing Impairment, Intellectual Disabilities, Multiple Disabilities, Other Health Impairment, Speech and Language Impairment, Specific Learning Disability, Traumatic Brain Injury, Vision Impairment.

It’s important to note that a student can access ANY related services by qualifying in 1 category – a specific eligibility category does not preclude them from accessing any particular service.  

What if my child qualifies?

After an assessment is completed, an IEP meeting will be held to review the outcome of the report and a proposal of an IEP if the child has qualified.  The IEP team is typically made up of the teacher, school psychologist, a district administrator (e.g. the Principal), special education teacher, related service providers, and most importantly, the parents! When a child qualifies for an IEP, they will be provided with goals, services, and accommodations and/or modifications to support them.  These are documented in their IEP and require parent consent before implementation.  Once the parent consents, the IEP can be implemented. 

What are the benefits of having an IEP? 

The primary benefit of an IEP is that it is a “road map” for helping a child make progress in school.  Additionally, it will give your child certain legal protections, as well as allow you to have input in certain aspects of their educational program.  

Will an IEP follow my child forever?

An IEP can follow a child if they leave their current school.  Simply provide a new school with a copy of their IEP, and staff will be alerted; however, if you are to leave the state, a new assessment may need to be completed.

Once a student graduates high school, their IEP no longer applies; however they may receive accommodations in college.  Seeking out these supports is the student’s responsibility, and may vary from school to school.  A college will not know that a student has an IEP unless the student indicates so on their application. 

Was this helpful?  Be sure to follow me on Instagram at @child.empowered for more IEP-related tips, and stay tuned for Part 2!

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