5 Things Parents Should Know About IEPs

The educational system in our country is complex, to say the least. There are many stakeholders: children, parents, teachers, administrations, and specialists. Schools are run as businesses and are concerned with money. Assessments and resources can be very expensive. At times, it can seem like getting the help your child needs is an uphill battle. Parent concerns are dismissed and sometimes go unheard. There are loopholes, exemptions, timelines, and tracking that often prevent students from getting the services they need as soon as possible. It takes weeks, sometimes months, to get a child the support and assistance that they need. 

Do you have a child who could benefit from support and services? If you do, they may qualify for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The IEP was developed as a result of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IEPs are legal documents that outline your child’s educational goals and the services they will receive at school to help them reach those goals. 

Here are five tips that I think all parents should know about IEPs:

IEPs are expensive and students must “qualify” to get one.

In order to obtain an IEP, a team of teachers and specialists assess the needs of the child and determine if an IEP is appropriate. This process is tedious and expensive. Students are observed by a number of teachers, specialists, and the school psychologist. If it is determined that the student has a disability AND that they need special accommodations and services to be successful, then an IEP is pursued. A demonstrated need is imperative and data to support findings is mandatory. 

A medical diagnosis does not mean that your child will receive an IEP or in-school accommodations.

Often, parents seeking help for their child in school are asked to begin with their pediatrician. Many of the disabilities and conditions can be identified and treated by a physician. It is also helpful to see a doctor to rule out other factors that may be impacting a child’s education (hearing loss, limited sight, allergies, neurological conditions, etc.). 

Having a doctor identify conditions is helpful. However, a medical diagnosis indicating a disability does not automatically result in an IEP. If your child’s disability does not impede their learning, they will not qualify for an IEP. You may have a child with medical condition or disability but if it does not interfere with their learning, they will not qualify for an IEP. If you believe that your child has an impairment that requires accommodation but does not qualify for an IEP, you may want to pursue a 504 plan.

 Other support systems exist.

  • A 504 plan is also a legal document that outlines accommodations for students needing accommodation in a general education environment rather than a special education environment.
  • A Behavioral Plan helps to identify behaviors interfering with learning and establishes a written plan for addressing those behaviors. 
  • School social workers can support students through individual or small group sessions. 

You and your child have rights.

Regardless of what accommodations your child receives, it is important to know that you and your child have rights. The school will provide you with a copy of your rights, but it is your responsibility to know them and advocate on behalf of your child.  You can access information about your rights here

Advocate for your child and work with school professionals.

You must remember that schools are working with a number of students and families. This does not mean that your child will not receive a quality education. Schools are slow to issue IEPs because they cost time and money. Before considering an IEP, schools want to make sure that it is necessary. This means collecting data, information from various sources, and completing a variety of assessments. Schools will do their best to provide services and support that will help your child succeed. However, if you do not agree with the schools’ findings and decisions, it is imperative that you advocate for your child.

For more insight into ADHD from a parent’s perspective, read this post.


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