You may have heard of an IEP, heard parents or teachers talking about it, or maybe your child has one/is in the process of getting one. They can sometimes be confusing and even a bit overwhelming to understand. But it is best to go into this meeting prepared and knowledgeable so you can be your child’s best advocate.
IEP stands for Individualized Education Program. A student/child may receive an IEP when additional services, provided within the school, are determined to be needed to better support a student with a disability or who is having trouble learning. This may be a diagnosed learning disability (dyslexia, auditory processing disorder, etc.), emotional disability (anxiety, depression, ADHD, etc.), a child on the autism spectrum, or a child struggle in certain areas of learning such as math, reading, etc.
Normally (and I can speak on my own experiences), a team of teachers, administrators, and related service providers (physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, social workers, counselors, etc.) collaborate to develop the best possible learning plan for the student so they can be successful in the school setting. The most important aspect of this plan development is both parent and student involvement.
Normally, a full IEP can be quite lengthy. So here are just a FEW things you should expect to be discussed during an IEP meeting and noted in a child's plan:
-A review of classroom accommodations for the student (i.e. use of calculator or tablet, extended time on tests, alternate location for tests, tests read aloud to student, bathroom accommodations, and many, many more).
-A social emotional history and therapeutic update from the social worker/counselor at school.
-Academic updates and reports from the student’s teachers.
-Academic and/or social emotional goals for the student (they will only be mandated to have an academic goal if the student has a learning disability).
-Independent living goals, career goals, and post-secondary education goals.
-Any testing or assessments that were done, such as a psychological assessment, speech evaluation, etc. (with the parent’s permission of course).
-Disciplinary write-ups, if any.
Some final tips to make the most of your child's IEP:
-Never hesitate to ask questions! This is your child’s education we are talking about!
-Don’t be scared to speak up and ask for services that you feel they may need (such as the services listed above). Worst case scenario, they say no. But in my experience, when a parent advocates for a specific service, schools rarely turn them down.
-You always have the right to schedule a meeting at any time. Meetings must occur on a yearly basis, but don’t feel you have to wait until that year mark comes around to make a change to your child’s IEP.
You know your child best and you are your child's advocate. Be their voice too.
Posted by Shawna Paplaski, LCPC