This is a question that doesn’t always have a quick answer. An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) provides specialized instruction so that a student can access the general education curriculum. Prior to beginning the IEP process a number of things need to be considered.
- If your school follows a standards-based curriculum, how is your child progressing? Is your child meeting the standards for their grade level with minimal support during and after the school day? If so, it is likely that beginning the IEP process is not warranted.
- Is your child accessing the general education instruction in their classroom with accommodations in place? Is he/she meeting standards with these accommodations in place? If so, then consideration of a 504 Plan is worthwhile.
- If your child is struggling academically, have you and your child’s classroom teacher(s) identified the specific areas of concern? Have concrete instructional strategies and interventions that can be implemented in the classroom and at home over a set period of time been identified (Response to Intervention [RTI])? What was the outcome? Did your child make the progress expected? If so, continue to identify effective strategies and implement them at school and at home. If your child did not make progress toward or achieve their goals, despite excellent instruction and on-target strategies, it may be time to begin the IEP process.
The Individualized Education Plan (IEP) Process
Prior to developing an IEP the student must be identified as having an educational disability. Parents are part of the team that addresses the question “does this student have an educational disability?” Other members of the team are usually comprised of a school-system psychologist, the child’s teacher(s), a special educator and often a school administrator. The team determines if they suspect the child has an educational disability and if further assessment is needed.
Generally, the team identifies questions that should be answered as part of the assessment process. Common questions might be:
- What is the current level of STUDENT’S intellectual functioning?
- What is the current level of STUDENT’S academic functioning?
- How does STUDENT’S current level of intellectual and academic functioning impact their ability to access the general education curriculum without specialized instruction?
If the assessments and answers to these questions indicated that an educational disability is present, then the disability will be identified and the next step will be to develop an IEP. The IEP includes the current intellectual functioning and academic data. This information drives the identification of the goals and objectives which make up the heart of the document. The intensity of the support/intervention needed to meet the goals and objectives will determine the amount of service a student requires. This can range from 5 minutes a day to a full-day of specialized instruction.
Parents are often concerned about the stigma of their child receiving special education instruction. However, depending upon the structure of your child’s school and program, this intervention can be delivered seamlessly. As a special education teacher, administrator and consultant, I often ask parents, “If your child had significant allergies and they impacted their ability to do well in school, wouldn’t you intervene? If your child needed glasses, wouldn’t you provide them?” Almost everyone responds, “Absolutely.” This same response should be strongly considered if your child legitimately qualifies for special education support.By Laurie Gross, Educational Consultant and Executive Director
My Learning Springboard, Inc.