Parents with school-age children have undoubtedly come across the acronym “IEP.” The acronym means “individualized education plan.” That is, the process that must be followed to establish an education program that has been adapted to a child with special needs. The outlines of the program are established by federal law, but the administration of the plan is left to the state of New York.
The process: an overview
Most IEP plans begin with the parents of the child developing a concern about their child’s abilities to learn in the normal school environment. Determining a child’s need for an IEP is complicated by a number of factors, including the home language spoken by the child and the parents, the different languages present in a single school, the fact that different children learn at different speeds and whether an interpreter would provide sufficient support.
The parents must talk to the child’s teachers and other care providers. The main object is determining the child’s strengths and weaknesses as a learner. Teachers provide the best answer to this question. This information should be used for presentation to anyone participating in an IEP assessment for the child.
At almost any stage in the evaluation process, the child can be referred for assistance under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This law requires school districts to offer accommodations for eligible students with a disability that limits one or more major life activities.
Referral for evaluation
Any parent whose child is undergoing an IEP evaluation can request referral to a neutral third party. The parents will receive written material concerning the referral, and they may accept or reject the proposed referral. The parents are responsible for paying the cost of this referral.
After the parents give their consent to an IEP evaluation, the Department of Education has 60 days to conduct and complete the evaluations. The evaluation will cover all areas of the child that relate to the suspected disability. The evaluation will include an extensive social history, a psychoeducational test that helps measure how the child learns, observation of the child in the classroom, and a physical examination to measure the child’s vision, hearing and general health. The child’s language ability will be evaluated if the home language is not English.
After the evaluation has been completed, the evaluator and the evaluation teem will meet to review the child’s status.
The need for legal assistance
The written procedures for the IEP process are meant to establish rights for both the child and its parents. If a parent (or the student) feels that the process has been unfair or inadequate in some way, an attorney who is experienced in education law can often help get the process back on track.