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IEPs – What are they, how do they help?

What Are They and How Can They Help With Academic Success?

It is hard to believe that school bells will soon be ringing again.

The start of a new academic year can bring lots of joy and excitement; however, it can also bring anxiety. These feelings of apprehension are especially true for children (and their parents) with learning differences.

What is an IEP
An Individualized Education Program (IEP) begins as a series of steps, ultimately leading to a legal document. This document allows your child to receive special education services, showing the support they need to succeed in school. IEPs include information such as; where your child is currently academically, their strengths, instruction and services tailored to them, special accommodations, and goals.

So, what is the process of obtaining an IEP? Let’s explore.

Steps of an IEP
Identifying A Possible Need:  Often, a teacher will recommend an evaluation for a child based on things they see in the classroom. Although this is the case, you do not have to wait for a teacher! If you have concerns, you can request an evaluation yourself!

Evaluation and Eligibility:  A team, usually comprised of individuals such as one of your children’s teachers and at least one person qualified to conduct examinations (i.e., a school psychologist), will complete an evaluation. They will look at past tests and classroom work. They will also administer different tests and observations. Based on this evaluation, they will determine if a child is eligible for an IEP. To qualify, a child must need services, have at least one of 13 conditions covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and be in the public school system.

Meeting and Creation of IEP:  If qualified, the IEP team will meet. This team includes YOU! Together you will discuss the evaluation, recommended supports and accommodations, and goals. Everyone at the meeting will sign and receive a copy of the IEP.

Services Provided:  Once the IEP is in place, services will begin immediately. You should receive routine progress reports and continuous opportunities to speak with your child’s IEP team.

Reviews and Reevaluations: The team will meet at least once a year to review the current IEP. This meeting is an opportunity to see what is working and provides the chance to revise the IEP as needed. Your child will also, at least every three years, be reevaluated. This reevaluation ensures your child still qualifies for an IEP based on the criteria reviewed above.

What Comes Next
It is helpful to remember a few things. First, you and your child have a voice – bring those voices to the table! Second, communication is crucial. Make sure to have an open line of communication with everyone involved in your child’s education. Finally, stay organized! There is a lot of paperwork that comes with an IEP. It may be helpful to create a file system or an IEP binder.


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