Special education can be overwhelming and there’s so much to know. It can often feel like you have entered into a foreign land with a language you don’t speak or understand. Here are just a few IEP facts you might not know to help you better navigate this adventure.
Fact 1: An IEP is a Legal Document
As a legally binding document, the public school your child attends is responsible for providing each service or modification noted within the IEP and can be held accountable if they don’t do so.
Fact 2: An IEP is Individualized
Your child has unique needs, which means that the IEP written for him and her needs to be tailored to fit those specific needs.
Fact 3: Creating an IEP is Meant to be a Collaborative Process
The IEP team consists of you, as the parent or guardian, your child’s general education teacher, your child’s special education teacher, and a school district representative (such as a principal or administrator). In some cases, a school psychologist or other professional that can speak to your child’s needs will be included in the process and, if your child is 16 or older, he or she will be included as well. When the entire team collaborates to create an effective IEP, students see the greatest results.
Fact 4: An IEP Should Look Different For Each Student
Even if your child has similar education struggles as another student, no two IEPs should ever look the same. Specific areas of focus should be outlined to help your child be most successful educationally.
Fact 5: An IEP Should Be Different from Year to Year
A correctly written IEP will be tailored to specific (and measurable) goals and outcomes for the student. That means that each year, as the student meets those goals, the IEP should then be changed or adjusted to accommodate new goals. IEPs should never look the exact same as they did the year prior.
Fact 6: An IEP is not a “Cure”
An IEP is strictly a plan to achieve a goal, but is never the cure for the problem.
Fact 7: An IEP is not “Better” or “Worse” Than a 504 Plan
Both IEPs and 504 Plans are in place to help students achieve educational success. As all students are different and have differing needs, there is no “better” or “worse” when it comes to these plans. Each one is tailored to the student’s needs and ensure they get the learning environment and support that best serves them.
Fact 8: Every Section of an IEP is Critical
When it comes to developing a meaningful IEP – one that will make a difference in a child’s education – there is no one section of the IEP that is more important than another. Each part of the IEP is critical for long-term success.
Fact 9: An IEP Needs to be Held Annually (At Least)
By law, an IEP must be reviewed annually but any member of the team can call for a review of the IEP before that time.
Fact 10: There are Legal Requirements for IEP Attendance
According to IDEA, everyone on the IEP team needs to be given adequate notice of an upcoming IEP. Requirements for attendance can change, depending on the necessary involvement of the individual or parent’s consent to the excusal of a member.