A closer look: The process of creating an IEP
Wednesday, September 21st, 2011
The process of developing an IEP (Individual Education Plan) can be highly complex and overwhelming. Listed below is a breakdown of the steps involved in the creation of an IEP.
Step 1: Identification
A student is identified as needing an evaluation by either a school professional or a parent. The referral can be in the form of a written or verbal request. Parental consent is required for an evaluation.
Step 2: Evaluation
The purpose of the evaluation is to determine whether the child has a disability according to IDEA, whether special education is required, and which services are needed for the child to succeed academically. Evaluations are conducted by a multidisciplinary team consisting of professionals who have expertise in each of the identified areas of concern. For example, if there are concerns regarding fine motor skills or sensory processing, an occupational therapist would be involved. If there were concerns about the child’s hearing, and audiologist would evaluate). Parents can submit an independent evaluation that was done privately by a professional with no relationship to the school system. In most cases, this would be paid for by the parents.
Results of the evaluation will determine the child’s eligibility for special education and related services according to IDEA. If the child’s parents disagree with the findings, they can request an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) and ask that the school system pay for it.
Step 3: Eligibility Meeting
Based on the results of the evaluation, a group of professionals, including those who evaluated the child, and the child’s parents attend a meeting to determine the child’s eligibility for services under the IDEA. If the child’s parents disagree with the outcome of the meeting they can request a hearing to challenge the results.
Step 4: Eligibility for Services
If the child is found to be a “child with a disability”, he/she becomes eligible for special education and related services, such as occupational, physical, and speech-language therapies. The IEP team has 30 calendar days (even during the summer months and vacations) from the date that eligibility was determined to meet regarding the writing of an IEP.
Step 5: Scheduling an IEP meeting
The school must contact the participants for the meeting. By law, the following people must be involved in the IEP team: (1) student, if appropriate (2) parents (3) regular education teacher (4) special education teacher/service provider (5) school system representative, often from the child study team (6) for students of transition age, a representative from the transition services agency (7) an individual to interpret results of the evaluation (8) individual(s) with additional knowledge/expertise about the child. A team member may fill more than one role (e.g the school representative can also be designated to interpret the evaluation results, if qualified to do so).
Everyone must be informed of the time, place, purpose of the meeting and attendees expected, with ample notice. Scheduling must take place at a time and place that is reasonable for both the school and parents. Parents may bring elct individuals to the meetings who have knowledge and expertise about their child. This can be highly beneficial in attaining a true understanding of the child’s capabilities and needs.
Step 6: IEP Meeting
The team, including the child (if appropriate) and parents, meet to formulate the IEP. If parents give their consent for special education and related services, the services are supposed to go into effect immediately. If the parents disagree, a discussion should be attempted to resolve the differences between the parents and the Board of Education (BOE). If the team cannot come to a consensus, mediation can be attempted. Parents have the option of filing a complaint with the state education agency and request a “due process hearing”, at which time mediation must be available.
A due process hearing is a legal proceeding conducted by a third party, independent of both the school system and the parent(s). Arguments are presented by both parties before the hearing officer, who writes a decision. Either party can appeal the decision to state or federal court. If the hearing officer finds in favor of the parent(s), it is possible (under certain conditions) to recover legal fees.
Step 7: Services are provided
The school is responsible for the implementation of the IEP. Parents, teachers, and service providers are all given copies of the IEP and it is the responsibility of the teachers and providers to address the treatment goals, and ensure that the accommodations and modifications specified in the document are in effect.
Step 8: Progress Measured
Parents are provided with progress reports at least as often as students in regular education, regarding their child’s progress toward the annual goals in the IEP.
Step 9: IEP Review
A meeting is conducted at least once a year to make any changes or revisions to the IEP. If necessary, the IEP can be reviewed and revised more frequently, based on the parents or school system request. Parents are included in this process. At an IEP review there may be a determination for additional testing or an independent evaluation. If the child’s parents disagree, mediation or a due process hearing can be requested.
Step 10: Re-evaluation
The child is re-evaluated at least every three years on a “triennial” basis. This is done to determine continued eligibility and educational needs.
Please note that this is a general guideline. Different states and school districts may have different policies. If you need additional guidance, consider discussing your concerns with your local child study team or an advocate or an attorney specializing in special education law.
Aviva Goldwasser, MS, OTR/L
Dr. Chaye Lamm Warburg, DPS, OTR/L