In New Jersey, as well as other states across the country, an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is a written document that outlines a child’s (with a special need or disability) education, ages 3-21. The plan is tailored specifically to the individual student, so they receive maximum educational benefit. The key word is individual. A program that is appropriate for one student, may not be right for another.
For a child with a disability, the IEP is the cornerstone for their education. It identifies the services that a child needs so that he/she can grow and learn during the school year in a manner that recognizes their disability and challenges. An IEP is also a legal document that outlines three key topics:
- The child’s special education plan that includes their goals for the school year
- Services needed to help the child reach those goals
- A strategy to evaluate the student’s success and progress
Who Qualifies For An IEP
Two conditions must be met in order for a child to be eligible for an IEP:
- An evaluation. Parents, teachers, school counselors, or anyone who suspects a student is struggling in school can request an evaluation of the student. A school psychologist or other professional may give your child various tests and evaluate them in the classroom. The evaluation must be comprehensive and must look at all of the following:
- Social and emotional development
- Learning potential
- Academic performance
- Communication skills
- Motor skills
- A decision. Upon completion of the evaluation the IEP team who evaluated your child will decide whether or not they need special education services in order to learn the curriculum. If your child is found eligible for an IEP, then the next step is to create the IEP specific to your child.
To develop an IEP for your child, your local education agency officials and others involved in your child’s educational program meet to discuss education related goals. According to law(s), the following individuals must be invited to the IEP meeting:
- You (the parent/guardian)
- Your child’s teacher
- A local education agency representative
- Your child
- Other individuals at your discretion (your child’s doctor, etc.)
Upon completion of your first IEP meeting, your school system and all attending parties of the meeting will work together to make sure the IEP rollout is smooth and followed each and every day throughout the academic year. Goals will be monitored to ensure they are met, and measurements and progress will be reported to you.
After some time, you may also be asked to partake in additional IEP meetings throughout the course of the academic year. Here the associated parties from the original IEP meeting will give you updates and recommendations to change certain factors of your child’s plan. This ensures that the goals continue to be met. During these meetings the team leader will write a statement about your child’s present level of academic and functional performance and goals. The statement is based on what you and the team have discussed in the meeting(s). All changes to the IEP will be documented, and noted that all parties have agreed to the changes.
In conclusion, an IEP is the cornerstone of your child’s special education program, and it should always reflect your child’s strengths, needs and progress as he/she moves through school. Always remember, as the parent/guardian, you are a very important member of your child’s IEP team, and bring valuable insights and concerns to the table.
Also remember it is also up to your IEP team and other school officials to help monitor your child to make sure that he/she is not being bullied in school because of their special need or disability. For tips to avoid school bullying for individuals with special needs and disabilities, click here.