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IEP's: What are they and why does my child need one?

IEP is an acronym for Individualized Education Program. Each student that qualifies for Special Education services is required to have a specialized educational plan that addresses the unique pattern of strengths and weaknesses. IEP’s consist of a student performance summary, in which each of the student’s teachers will identify strengths and weaknesses that affect their performance in each class.

Another component is the measurable annual goals that are designed to address these difficulties through a series of progressive objectives. In order to support the student’s progress in the classroom, the team can decide upon accommodations and modifications that will be applied to all classes. Finally, the team will determine the appropriate placement for the students in a mixture of resource classrooms, inclusion classrooms (if available) and general education classrooms.

The Pros of IEP’s (Cons and red flags to come next!!)

The IEP is a legally binding document.

The team is responsible for delivering services as specified in the IEP. If the parents are not confident that the child is getting educational services in line with the agreed upon program, there are steps that parents can take to ensure the school is sticking with the plan. These steps include requesting data from teachers, engaging in district level mediation with the help of a free advocate, and even taking legal action.

You, the parents, are encouraged to participate in the process.

Your feedback and concerns are actually very helpful to teachers developing a year-long educational plan. Teachers only see students in one setting, and only for short periods of time every day. Parents have been there throughout the student’s educational career, and it could be informative to share the historical struggles and victories won over the years. I tell my parents that I’m an educational expert, and they are the experts of their own kids. Your feedback should be welcomed and encouraged. Beware the team meeting that presumes to tell you about who your kid is. But that is a red flag for a later post.

Your child has learning differences, and this document gives teachers permission to teach your child what they need to learn at an appropriate pace. Every other kid in the general education setting is being rushed through a packed Common Core curriculum. There is very little time to go back and review a concept, especially if most of the other kids already have it. This is unfortunate, unpopular, and unfair, but it happens in every school. I am sure that there are some excellent teachers out there that consistently get all students up to 100% on every concept and cover all of the specified material over the course of one school year. But that is the exception, not the rule.

How has the IEP process helped your child/students? Did I miss some pros? Look for the cons and red flags to come!

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