Special Education and IEPs

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What IS an IEP?

Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is a federal and state mandated and protected document. An IEP is a document that outlines the student’s academic, socio-emotional, and cognitive strengths and weaknesses. A committee of different disciplines evaluate and discuss the level of intervention necessary for the student to access the general education curriculum and expectations. As caregivers of the student, you are a critical part of the committee.

Who is involved?

The committee comprises of the family, a district special education specialist, special education teacher or intervention specialist, general education teacher, school psychologist and any of the related services providers that have evaluated the student. Related service providers include speech-language therapists, occupational therapists, and physical therapists. Typically, the district special education specialist coordinates the whole process. They contact each member and set the meetings. During the meetings, they are responsible for leading the committee to make a comprehensive plan for the student to access the curriculum.

  • The intervention specialist is representing the student who is currently in a general education classroom and is transitioning into special education services.
  • Special education teacher assesses which educational setting is appropriate
  • General education teacher informs the academic expectations.
  • School psychologist evaluates the student’s cognitive function.
  • Speech-Language therapist examines the student’s receptive, expressive and pragmatic language skills
  • Occupational therapist outlines the student’s fine motor skills and sensory integration needs
  • Physical therapist assesses the student’s gross motor, balance, and coordination.

What is your role as a caregiver?

Your role is to be the voice of your child and to set the long-term vision, so that steps to reach that vision can be crafted into goals on the IEP. Those goals will then be broken into steps to master within the IEP period. You will provide the direction and advocate for your child, sharing insight into what motivates your child; what he likes and dislikes. Also discuss with the committee, the activities and skills (in and outside of school) that are important to the family dynamic.

The committee members are all advocates for the student in different ways but you are their lifetime advocates and your input is very valuable. During the process it is encouraged that you ask questions and pursue your long-term vision for your child. Monitor progress against not only the goal, but your vision, for your child.

Some questions you might want to consider prior to your child’s IEP meeting:

Q: Will the services be one on one or in a group?

A:  Some children so better in a group as they have a peer model to motivate them.

One-on-one services allow your child to receive all the time versus sharing time in a group.

Only you can decide which is best for your child.

Consider where the most progress is made.

Q: Will the services be provided in the classroom or in a therapy room?

A: Your child may perform differently in the classroom than in a therapy room. Ultimately, your child will have to perform the skills in a classroom where there are more distractions.

Q: Are the services direct or consultative?

A: Direct services are the therapist is treating your child.

Consultative services allow the therapist to communicate (consult) with an aide, teacher or other school staff member who would then carry out the services NOT a licensed therapist.

Ask what this would look like for your child.

Q: What will my child miss when receiving pull out services?

A: Pull out services occur when your child is removed from class to receive therapy.

Therapists at a school often have to serve your child when it is most convenient for them.  Therapists serve multiple schools and many children so they are unable to schedule around your child.

As a parent, you may decide that you do not want your child to miss out on class (for example, core academic courses) and choose to decline therapy services at school, to instead pursue outpatient therapy when it is convenient for you and your child.  

The IEP can and should still remain in place to allow for other considerations or accommodations that are available on the IEP to help your child at school.

Q: What rights does my child have to services?

A: Your child has the right to therapy services if the IEP team deems therapy is necessary.  The services have to improve your child’s function in the educational environment. Be sure to consider both academic and functional life-skills required to function at school.

Q: What if I do not agree with the recommendations?

A: You have the right to request an outside evaluation of your child that will be paid for by the school system.  The school has to approve the provider of the therapy evaluation.

You have the right to Due Process if you feel your child’s rights to a special education are being violated.  Here is a link to more information on Due Process:
https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/your-childs-rights/dispute-resolution/due-process-rights-what-you-need-to-know

Q: What if my child is not making enough progress?

A: Remember it is all about the progress!  Make sure you are checking in with your school team to ensure your child is making the progress you want to see or seek help outside of the school model.  The ABC therapy team is happy to help every family push their child’s potential.