What is an Individualized Education Plan?
An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is a document specially developed for children with disabilities or special needs. IEPs are designed to create a learning environment where a child with special needs can flourish without being removed from the company of non-disabled peers.
IEPs strive to keep children in the least restrictive environment possible, which means that they will be in the same classrooms as their non-disabled peers whenever possible. Surrounding special needs children with non-disabled peers is known to improve math and reading scores, lessen disruptive behavior, and results in fewer absences.
Who Qualifies for an Individualized Education Plan?
To qualify for an individualized education plan, your child must be eligible for special education. Under federal law, your child must either have a disability or demonstrate a need for special education and related services. Eligibility for special needs education is usually determined by a multidisciplinary team, including the child’s parents.
If your child is school-aged, they must meet the criteria of one of the 13 disability classifications outlined in the New York State Education Department’s Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. While special needs education requirements are comprehensive, a child cannot qualify based on a lack of English proficiency or appropriate math or reading instruction.
Disability classifications include:
- Emotional Disturbance
- Hearing Impairment
- Intellectual Disability
- Learning Disability
- Multiple Disabilities
- Orthopedic Impairment
- Other Health Impairment
- Speech or Language Impairment
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Visual Impairment
If your child does not qualify for special needs education, it is not the end of the road. Information from the IEP evaluation can be passed on to your child’s school principal to help staff develop strategies tailored to your child’s learning needs.
What Does an IEP Typically Include?
IEPs are tailored to your child based on their unique learning abilities, including strengths and areas of weakness. If your child requires an accessible school, it will be noted in the IEP. IEPs can vary, but the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires that certain information be included in the plan.
As a parent, you will receive regular reports of your child’s progress in school, which will include:
- Results of academic evaluations
- Academic achievements
- Social and physical development
- Management needs
An IEP will also outline a set of attainable goals to push your child towards better development of academic, social, and behavioral performance.
The IEP will provide a list of programs and services your child needs to succeed in the realm of the general education curriculum. The plan will detail when the services will begin and how and where they will be provided.
In addition, the plan will provide insights to help your child’s overall progress, including:
- Details of your child’s participation in the general curriculum and interactions with non-disabled peers
- Whether or not they will participate in state and district-wide assessments or whether they will participate in alternate assessments. The plan will also explain what accommodations will be made to allow your child to participate in assessments
- What type of diploma your child is working towards, or if they will work towards a commencement credential instead
- What transitional services are available to help prepare your child for further education and employment once they graduate school
- Whether your child requires bilingual services or English as a new language services
An IEP cannot be implemented without a parent or guardian’s written permission. A parent can also rescind their consent to special education services at any time. Likewise, they can reinstate the IEP later if they change their mind, but they must write a new referral letter to give to the school.
Review and Re-evaluation
A review of the IEP must be held once every year to discuss progress towards the child’s goals and evaluate which services are proving beneficial and which are not. In addition to mandatory review, parents can request a review of the IEP by writing to the school.
Mandated Three-year Re-evaluation
A full re-evaluation of the plan must occur at least once every three years unless otherwise stated in a written agreement with the Department of Education (DOE). Parents will be asked to provide consent for any assessments of the plan to be conducted.
Parents will receive written reports once the re-evaluation is complete, at which point they will be able to meet with the IEP team to review recommendations to the plan. As with the annual review, you may request a re-evaluation once each year by writing to the school or DOE.