As parents of children with special needs, we constantly think about the future of our children. We hope they will grow into socially-adjusted and confident adults. We worry about how our precious children will fare in school when they have developmental delays or other disabilities. It can all be overwhelming, but it’s nice to know that there are educational resources designed to set them up for success. An Individualized Education Program is one resource that is extremely helpful for children with special needs.
What is an Individualized Education Program?
A federal law called the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) requires public schools to create an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for every child who receives special education services. The purpose of an IEP is to provide a blueprint, specific to the needs or your child, to make sure he or she has everything needed to perform to the best of his or her academic abilities. Sometimes this includes help in a small group, one-on-one instruction, help outside the classroom, etc. An IEP takes into consideration that not every child learns in the same way. For example, some children may have extreme difficulty understanding oral directions but may thrive when given written instructions. Or a child with a visual impairment may need to sit closer to the front of a classroom or be given additional time to take standardized tests in order to reach their full academic potential.
By law an IEP must include a statement of: your child’s present performance level, your child’s annual educational goals, special education supports and services the school will provide to help your child reach their academic goals, modifications and accommodations the school will provide for your child, accommodations your child will be allowed when taking standardized tests, how and when the school will measure your child’s progress with respect to annual goals, and a transition plan that prepares teens for life after high school.
It is important to note that private schools aren’t legally required to provide special education services, however IDEA requires that school districts set aside some funding for special education services for students in private schools. If your child is in private school you have the option of asking the public school district to evaluate your child for special education services at no cost to you. If your child’s private school agrees to work with the district, a “services plan” (often with fewer services than the child would receive in public school) can be developed to help your child academically. **
Who initiates an IEP?
Parents, teachers, a counselor, a doctor, or anyone else who suspects a child is struggling or may struggle to learn general education curriculum can request an evaluation. After the initial evaluation a determination is made about whether special services are needed.
Who creates an IEP? How often is it reviewed?
If it is determined that special services are needed, an IEP is created by a team of individuals including general education teachers, at least one special education teacher, a school administrator (i.e. principal or special education director), school psychologist or other specialist, and you (the parent). (You are an extremely important member of your child’s IEP team because of your valuable insight, observations, and concerns about your child.) When a child is 16, he or she is also expected to become a member of the IEP team. The team discusses your child’s strengths, necessary support from the school, and the progress he or she is expected to make along the school year. Since an IEP is a legally binding document, your child’s school must provide everything it promises in it.
The IEP team meets once a year to discuss your child’s progress. During the annual meeting you discuss: your child’s strengths, your concerns and suggestions to help in areas where they are struggling, whether modifications and accommodations are helping, and the results of your child’s most recent evaluation. Based on what the team discusses, the team leader will write a “statement about your child’s recent level of academic and functional performance and goals.” The team leader will also document changes to the IEP that the team agrees upon for the following academic school year.
What are some additional resources for parents?
We encourage you to visit the LAUSD website http://achieve.lausd.net/Page/2270 for more information about IEPs and the steps to take if you feel your child needs one.
Another wonderful resource is https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/special-services/ieps/understanding-individualized-education-programs#item8
If you are looking to hire an Educated Nanny who has experience with special needs and IEP’s, we are happy to help! Please give us a call at (310) 857–4985 so we can get started on a search for the perfect nanny for your family.