IEPs, IDEA and Special Education Services

To get special education services a
student needs an IEP. IEPs are legal documents that spell out the
individualized instruction services and supports a child will get at school.
They’re like a blueprint for how the school will help the student make
progress and meet educational goals. IEPs are covered by the federal special
education law IDEA. The law is very specific about how
the plans should be written and what they need to include. For instance, every
IEP must include annual goals for a student to work toward, based on
specific needs. And it has to include a plan for measuring a student’s progress
and reporting it to parents or guardians. One of the most important parts of an
IEP is called the present levels of academic performance. This section
describes in detail a child’s abilities and weaknesses. It also explains how
individual challenges impact a student’s ability to keep up with grade-level
instruction. The whole point of special education is to help students with
disabilities learn the same content students without disabilities are
learning. IEPs are designed to meet each student’s needs. For example, a student
with dyslexia might get multisensory reading instruction twice a week to
improve decoding skills. A student with dyspraxia might receive occupational
therapy. To get an IEP, a student has to be evaluated for special education and
found to be eligible. Next, the IEP team meets to create the plan. The team
includes the child’s general education teacher, a special education teacher, a
school psychologist or someone else who can interpret the results, and someone
from the district that can authorize the services of the IEP. It also includes the
child’s parents. Parents don’t always realize it, but they play a very
important role in the IEP process. In addition to giving input on the program,
they can help monitor it to make sure their child is getting the services
listed in the IEP, and making progress toward the goals. The best IEP goals are
S-M-A-R-T goals. That means they’re specific, measurable, attainable, results-oriented,
and time-bound. Goals need to name precise skills and targets, and be
ambitious but realistic. Students are reevaluated every three years to see if their needs
have changed, and if their IEP needs to change too. By the time they reach 16,
their IEP must include a transition plan that will help them prepare for life
after high school. It’s so important for parents to be involved in the entire IEP
process. They can work together with the school to develop a strong special
education program, and they can advocate every step of the way to make sure their
child is getting the best possible help and support.

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