Parents who have recently had their child referred to special education services often have many questions about the process. They may wonder things like “What is an IEP?”, “Why does my child need an IEP?” and “Will an IEP hurt my child?” The process can be confusing for parents who have never interacted with this part of the educational system before. The Law Office of Paul A. Hefley Jr. can answer any questions you have about this process and advocate for your child's rights. Contact our experienced and compassionate child education attorneys at (619) 764-6168 today.
What Is an IEP?
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, students with qualifying disabilities have a right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). If a child has a qualifying disability, the public school where they attend must offer special education and related services to the child at no cost to the family. This is accomplished through developing an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP describes the education instruction, supports, and services a student needs to access his or her educational program.
What Is the Purpose of an IEP?
Under IDEA, students must be taught in the least restrictive environment, which, depending on the circumstances, may require a special needs student to learn side by side with peers who do not have disabilities. An IEP may provide additional support services for students inside and outside the classroom that can help make them successful in these environments. An IEP helps students with disabilities make appropriate progress in school.
Advantages of an IEP
There are several advantages of having an IEP, including:
An IEP is a concrete plan that established what additional support services must be provided to a student with a qualifying disability. If the school does not comply with the program, there can be consequences to the school.
An IEP is created by a team, which consists of:
- The parents
- One or more regular education teachers (if the student will be attending general education instruction)
- One or more special education teachers
- A representative of the school system who is qualified to provide or supervise special education services, knows the general education curriculum, and knows about the school's available resources
- An individual who can interpret evaluation results and discuss which types of instruction may be necessary for the student
- Other individuals invited by or consented to by the parent
One of the principal tenets behind an IEP is that parents have the right to participate in the development of their child's IEP. Parents are equal members of the IEP team. While that does not mean the parent can get everything they ask for, their input must be considered by school staff.
Many parents want an IEP to be put in place so that their child can receive additional assistance. An IEP may provide for significant assistance, which can include:
The Center for Parent Information & Resources says that related services provided under IDEA include:
- Counseling services
- Early identification and assessment of disabilities in children
- Interpreting services
- Medical services to diagnose or evaluate disabilities
- Occupational therapy
- Orientation and mobility services
- Parent counseling and training
- Physical therapy
- Psychological services
- Speech-language pathology services
- School health and nurse services
- Social work services
Supplementary Aids and Services
Supplementary aids and services can play a critical role in supporting a child's education and allow them to participate in various school activities. For example, supplementary aids and services that may be included in an IEP:
- Preferential seating
- Altered physical space
- Augmentative communication type
- Behavior specialist
- Instructional support assistant
- Frequent breaks
- More time
- Taped lectures
- Translated notes
- Shorter assignments
- Taped lessons
- Instructions broken down into steps
Assistive technology devices or services that might be included in an IEP:
- Adapted furniture, tools, and utensils to help with physical challenges
- Digital books
- Digital devices that read books out loud to children
Transition services are coordinated activities that are designed to help a student with a disability improve their academic and functional achievement and promote the student's movement to post-school activities. Once a child reaches the age of 16, the IEP team helps the student prepare for life after high school. The IEP may provide for transition services and courses of study to help the student reach their stated goals.
Disadvantages of an IEP
IEPs are sometimes the subject of criticism. Some of the most common complaints about IEPs are that they:
- Set unduly low expectations
- Misrepresent the child's educational potential
- Are formalistic
- Are computer-generated and no longer offer “individualized” service or plans
- Contain a low number of educational objectives and no clear path on how to achieve them
- Do not focus on a full year's curriculum and instead focus on just some fragmented goals
- Do not target specific deficits children with various disabilities may have
- Oversimplify the material so a child does not have the robust learning and understanding that students without disabilities have access to
- Do not encompass a meaningful individualized curriculum
- Set arbitrary criteria to assess skill mastery
- Do not allow a student to master skills to keep them on pace with the students in the general education classroom
- Disregard parental input and evaluations and recommendations of independent experts parents retain
- Do not offer adequate supplementary services
It is important for parents to know that an IEP is supposed to be a working document. If they believe that their child's IEP is not properly addressing their child's education needs, they can ask for changes, such as requesting additional assessments, modified instruction, and additional supports or services.
Contact a San Diego Special Education Lawyer for IEP Help
If you are concerned with the idea, “Will an IEP hurt my child?” you might consider reaching out to a San Diego special education lawyer for a free consultation. You can reach the Law Office of Paul A. Hefley, Jr. by calling (619) 764-6168.