The IEP Process can be confusing and overwhelming, especially considering stay at home orders, virtual meetings, hybrid attendance and various school requirements such as MTSS or RTI. Here is a quick guide to help you process the initial first steps.
Formal Request for Evaluation: If you notice your child is struggling at school, be it academically or socially, your first step is to request an evaluation in writing. A good place to start with this letter can be found on the Center for Parent Information and Resources website. If the school expresses concern to the parent first, the school should conduct something called a “Child Study”. The name varies state by state, but the purpose is to avoid over-identification for Special Education services. The team will collect and analyze data on the child and determine if they think it’s in the best interest of the child to move forward with an evaluation.
You have the right to deny the request for evaluation from the school.
You have the right to submit any and all important pieces of data, such as a medical diagnosis, therapy notes, pieces of evidence from home such as handwriting samples, etc.
The school can not deny a parent’s formal request for evaluation (must be in writing).
Evaluation: An evaluation is performed by the School Psychiatrist. This evaluation can include speech therapy, occupational therapy, and/or physical therapy evaluations, cognitive testing (such as an IQ test) and academic testing (such as the Woodcock Johnson). Academic assessments may be given by another professional such as a Special Education teacher. It’s important to note that often parents will receive a diagnosis from their primary care provider, such as autism, ADHD, depression/anxiety or other medical needs. This medical diagnosis is separate from an educational evaluation. A diagnosis from a doctor DOES NOT automatically qualify a child for Special Education services, but it is a great starting point and should be included in the formal request for evaluation.
You have the right to review the evaluation once it is complete, ahead of the evaluation meeting.
You have the right to request specific evaluations.
You have the right to submit any relevant data.
Eligibility Determination: Once the evaluations are complete (this time table varies state to state, but usually is an average of 30-60 days after the request has been). The school will send the family a copy of the evaluation prior to the meeting. This is usually sent the day before. Schools do this to avoid any confrontation with parents prior to the meeting so the meeting can serve as a formal explanation of the evaluation. The School Psychiatrist will make recommendations on the report and will make a recommendation for eligibility, including a disability classification. Once the student is determined eligible, the team will move on to writing the IEP.
You have the right to disagree with the evaluation.
You have the right to request additional assessments.
You have the right to get an outside evaluation done by a Psychiatrist (this will most likely be done at the parent’s expense and may not be reimbursed by the school or by insurance). Here are some resources to get a low-cost evaluation completed.
You have the right to schedule a second meeting after you’ve had enough time to digest the information presented at the meeting and in the report.
IEP Meeting: Once eligibility has been determined, the Special Education teacher will begin to write the IEP. An IEP meeting will be scheduled (this usually takes about 30 days) and the entire team will be invited to attend the meeting. It’s important that you try to keep your schedule open and be communicative about what days and times are best for you. You can also have this meeting by phone or be present via video if your schedule does not allow an in person meeting. The school is legally allowed to move forward without the parent present if they have attempted to schedule at least 3 times with no response from the parent. The IEP is a legal document containing between 30 and 50 pages of IEP goals, accommodations, service hours and other important academic information. While the meeting may seem like a presentation of what has already been decided, remember the IEP is simply a proposed solution.
You have the right to say no to anything proposed in the IEP. You also have the right to ask for whatever you think your child might need to be successful. (Keep in mind that the school also has the right to deny your request).
You have the right to ask for accommodations you think your child might need to be successful.
You have the right to question IEP goals (they will be lengthy and can be confusing. Ask them to explain the goals in plain language and give examples of what your child will be working on in order to meet these goals).
You have the right to ask for specialized instruction in any subject.
The entire IEP process can take several months, but it’s important that you start the process as soon as you notice your child is struggling. The school may say they want to wait to see if your child is able to increase their performance on their own, but you always have the right to say you want to start the process immediately. Make sure you put all of your requests in writing and you keep a dated copy for your records.
IEP&Me is here to help you! If you have any questions or concerns. Please reach out to [email protected] if you want to chat!