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An Overview of Individualized Education Programs

  • By:sierraedlaw

Children who receive special education services must participate in a school-drafted Individual Education Program (IEP). Created under the Individual with Disabilities Act (IDEA), an IEP represents the most important legal document produced to help your child overcome learning obstacles at school.

What Parents Need to Know about an IEP

An IEP must clearly define the learning needs of your child, as well as the services the school will provide and how the school plans to measure your child’s education progress. Parents are strongly encouraged to work on creating an IEP with school administrators. The process of drafting an IEP represents a highly effective way to list the education strengths and weaknesses of your child. It takes considerable time to produce the final draft of an IEP, but the time it takes is well worth the effort because parents contribute to generating a legally sanctioned document that helps their children succeed at school.

Legal Mandates under IDEA

IDEA requires public schools to create an IEP for every child that qualifies for special education services. Children that range in age from three through high school graduation or the age of 21 (whichever comes first) qualify for an individual education program. The school or school district must deliver everything that it promises under the language clearly spelled out within an IEP.

Under IDEA, an IEP must include specifics that cover the following:

  • Your child’s education goals before the start of each school year
  • A legally binding statement that presents your child’s current level of academic performance
  • The special education service and support systems that the school must provide to help your child reach his or her education goals
  • Any special accommodations required t help your child make academic progress
  • Accommodations your child needs to take standardized tests
  • How the school plans to measure your child’s education progress
  • When the school plans to measure your child’s annual academic progress goals
  • Developing a transition plan that prepares your child for life after high school graduation

Most IEPs undergo modification to adapt to the rapidly changing education environment. This is especially true for students that participate in Individual Education Programs that  start at an early age.

Student Eligibility for an IEP

Two factors play a role in determining a student’s eligibility to participate in an IEP. First, a parent, teacher, doctor, or school counselor has the legal right to request a special education evaluation. The evaluation, which is performed by at least two education professionals, includes several tests and prolonged observation of a child’s performance in the classroom. Remember that only licensed medical practitioners can diagnose medical disabilities.

The second factor for establishing student IEP eligibility involves the IEP team, which typically comprises the parents of special needs children and the school administrators responsible for implementing IEPs. Special education evaluations determine whether your child requires special education services to learn basic education curriculum. IDEA lists 13 disabilities that may qualify a child for enrollment in an IEP. However, the key word here is “May,” as the severity of a disability also plays a role in determining IEP eligibility.

If the IEP team determines that your child requires special education services to learn in a standard classroom, then the IEP team works to create an IEP tailored made for your child. If your child does not qualify for special education services, he or she might be eligible for special education services covered under a 504 plan. If you feel your child deserves special education services that a school has denied, contact a licensed special education attorney today to discover how you can help your child thrive in the classroom.

Posted in: IEP's, Special Education, Student Advocacy, Student Disabilities