The writing of each student’s Individual Education Program (IEP) takes place within the larger picture of the special education process under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Before taking a detailed look at the IEP, it may be helpful to look briefly at how a student is identified as having a disability and needing special education and related services and, thus, an IEP.
Child Find (Screening)
Child is identified as possibly needing special education and related services. There are two primary ways in which children are identified as possibly needing special education and related services: 1) the system known as Child Find and by referral of a parent or school personnel. When Child Find identifies a child as possibly having a disability and as needing special education, parents may be asked for permission to evaluate their child. 2) A school professional or parent may ask that a child be evaluated to see if he or she has a disability. In the case of a parent request the parent may contact the child’s teacher or school to ask that their child be evaluated. This request may be verbal, but it’s best to put it in writing. Parental consent is needed before a child may be evaluated.
Evaluation is an essential early step in the special education process for a child. It’s intended to answer these questions:
• Does the child have a disability that requires the provision of special education and related services?
• What are the child’s specific educational needs?
• What special education services and related services, then, are appropriate for addressing those needs?
By law, the initial evaluation of the child must be “full and individual,” which is to say, focused on that child and that child alone. The parent must give permission in writing for an initial evaluation and for any tests that are completed as part of the comprehensive evaluation.
The evaluation results will be used to decide the child’s eligibility for special education and related services and to make decisions about an appropriate educational program for the child.
A team of qualified professionals and you will review the results of the evaluation, and determine if your child is eligible for special education services.
If your child is not eligible, you will be appropriately notified and the process stops. However, you have a right to disagree with the results of the evaluation or the eligibility decision. If the parents disagree with the evaluation, they have the right to take their child for an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE).
THE INDIVIDUAL EDUCATION PROGRAM (IEP)
The IEP team gathers to talk about the child’s needs and write the student’s IEP. Parents and the student (when appropriate) are full participating members of the team. The CDC or school makes sure that the child’s IEP is carried out as it was written. Parents are given a copy of the IEP. Each of the child’s teachers and service providers has access to the IEP and knows his or her specific responsibilities for carrying out the IEP. This includes the accommodations, modifications, and supports that must be provided to the child, in keeping with the IEP.
Before the school system may provide special education and related services to the child for the first time, the parents must give consent. The child begins to receive services as soon as possible after the IEP is written and this consent is given.
The child’s IEP is reviewed by the IEP team at least once a year, or more often if the parents or school ask for a review. If necessary, the IEP is revised. Parents, as team members, must be invited to participate in these meetings. Parents can make suggestions for changes, can agree or disagree with the IEP, and agree or disagree with the placement.
3 – YEAR REVIEW
At least every three years the child must be reevaluated. This evaluation is sometimes called a “triennial or reevaluation.” Its purpose is to find out if the child continues to be a child with a disability, as defined by IDEA, and what the child’s educational needs are. However, the child must be reevaluated more often if conditions warrant or if the child’s parent or teacher asks for a new evaluation.
If the parents do not agree with the IEP and placement, they may discuss their concerns with other members of the IEP team and try to work out an agreement with the special education coordinator or executive director.
This summary is taken from A Guide to the Individualized Education Program, published by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services U.S. Department of Education.
34 C.F.R. §300.17; 34 C.F.R. §300.22; 34 C.F.R. §300.101; 34 C.F.R. 300.320; 34 C.F.R. §300.322; 34 C.F.R. §300.323; 34 C.F.R. §324