My child has been found eligible for special education. What next?
The next step is to write what is known as an Individualized Education Program-usually called an IEP. After a parent signs a consent to assess, a meeting must be held within 60 days to develop the IEP.
What is an Individualized Education Program?
An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a written statement of the educational program designed to meet a child's individual needs. Every child who receives special education services must have an IEP.The IEP has two general purposes:
- to set reasonable learning goals for your child
- to state the services that the school district will provide for your child
Who develops my child's IEP?
Many people come together to develop your child's IEP. This group is called the IEP team and includes most of the same types of individuals who were involved in your child's evaluation. Team members will include:
- you, the parents;
- at least one regular education teacher, if your child is (or may be) participating in the regular education environment;
- at least one of your child's special education teachers or special education providers;
- a representative of the public agency (school system) who (a) is qualified to provide or supervise the provision of special education, (b) knows about the general curriculum; and/or (c) knows about the resources the school system has available;
- an individual who can interpret the evaluation results and talk about what instruction may be necessary for your child;
- your child, when appropriate;
- representatives from any other agencies that may be responsible for paying for providing transition services (if your child is 16 years or, if appropriate, younger);
- other individuals (invited by you or the school) who have knowledge or special expertise about your child. For example, you may wish to invite a relative who is close to the child or a child care provider.
What happens during an IEP meeting?
During the IEP meeting, the different members of the IEP team share their thoughts and suggestions. If this is the first IEP meeting after your child's evaluation, the team may go over the evaluation results, so your child's strengths and needs will be clear. These results will help the team decide what special help your child needs in school.
Remember that you are a very important part of the IEP team. You know your child better than anyone. Don't be shy about speaking up, even though there may be a lot of other people at the meeting. Share what you know about your child and what you wish others to know.
Special education instruction must also be provided to students with disabilities in what is known as the Least Restrictive Environment, or LRE. Both the IDEA and its regulations have provisions that ensure that children with disabilities are educated with non-disabled children, to the maximum extent appropriate.
The IDEA's LRE requirements apply to students in public or private institutions or other care facilities as well. Each state must further ensure that special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.
Can my child's IEP be changed?
Yes. At least once a year a meeting must be scheduled with you to review your child's progress and develop your child's next IEP. The meeting will be similar to the IEP meeting described above. The team will talk about:
- your child's progress toward the goals in the current IEP,
- what new goals should be added, and
- whether any changes need to be made to the special education and related services your child receives.
This annual IEP meeting allows you and the school to review your child's educational program and change it as necessary. But you don't have to wait for this annual review. You (or any other team member) may ask to have your child's IEP reviewed or revised at any time.