‘Decoding the IEP’
Individualized Education Program (IEP)
Parents who feel their child might benefit from special education services should request an IEP evaluation in writing or simply ask your pediatrician to help draft a letter of request.
You can begin this process when your child turns 2.
During the evaluation, current performance levels are established and documented.
To be eligible for special education services, your child must be identified with a recognized disability (there are 13 different disability categories under IDEA) and the disability must adversely affect her educational performance.
Every IEP should have several key pieces of information. It should include:
- Your child’s current levels of performance
- Measureable goals for the school year
- When reports about your child’s progress will be provided
- How well your child is able to function in school
- How your child will be included with peers with typical development
- How your child will be assessed on statewide and district-wide tests
In addition, should your child qualify for extended school year services, the IEP should lay out the kinds of interventions that your child should receive when school is not in session.
The IEP establishes dates and locations of when services will begin, where they will be held, and how long they will last.
The IEP should also discuss what will be done when your child’s needs change. In addition, the IEP may outline whether your child gets “related services” such as special transportation, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and counseling.
The IEP is written collaboratively by a group—often called an IEP team—made up of:
- Child’s parents
- Regular education teacher
- Special education teacher
- School administrator
- Possibly other school personnel
A meeting to discuss the IEP must be held within 30 days after a school determines that a child needs special education services.
Parents may invite anyone to this meeting, including personnel such as an advocate. The IEP is evaluated at least every year to determine whether goals are being met and may be adjusted if your child’s needs change.
Understanding Your Rights
When formulating your child’s IEP with your school district, it’s important to know exactly what your rights are and what to do if you are not happy with the resulting IEP. Before going to your first IEP meeting, do your research.
Become familiar with your state’s education laws, and know the types of interventions available to your child based on her needs.
A good book to start with is Educating Children with Autism, published by the Committee on Educational Interventions for Children with Autism of the National Research Council.
You may also want to visit the US Department of Education one-stop shop for resources related to IDEA and rules and regulations concerning the IEP process at http://idea.ed.gov.
- The AAP website August 2018
- Autism Spectrum Disorders: What Every Parent Needs to Know (Copyright © American Academy of Pediatrics 2012)