What is an IEP?
(Arizona walking to school, August 2014)
As the school year starts to wind down and I’m starting to prepare for Arizona’s upcoming IEP meeting, I thought it would be the perfect time to explain what an IEP is and the various steps in the process.
An IEP stands for Individual Education Plan, a document put together by a team that details the special-education services the public school district will provide for your child.
Here’s what the process looks like :
1) The school district conducts an assessment in all areas of a child’s suspected disability.
2) The school district will evaluate and determine whether it recommends any therapeutic services for your child – this could include occupational therapy, speech & language therapy, psychological counseling, adaptive physical education, etc.
3) An IEP meeting is held. This is when the school district presents their recommendations for your child.
4) When the child’s parents and school district agree on an IEP, the document is signed and the plan is implemented.
5) When the child’s parent and school district cannot agree on an IEP, the next step is Due Process, which is the dispute-resolution part of the process. Typically, it is advised to seek the advice of an attorney who specializes in Special Education. (I highly recommend Valerie Vanaman and staff – http://www.navlaw.net).
Many parents, including myself, aren’t emotionally prepared for that first IEP meeting. In fact, I have participated in 6 IEP meetings for Arizona thus far and still have feelings of nervousness and anxiety from time to time. It’s hard not to get emotional and defensive when everyone is sitting around a table going over all of the things your child CAN’T do compared to their peers.
Next week, I will dive into my top 5 tips for ensuring a LOWER stress IEP experience.
In the meantime, what have your IEP experiences looked like? What have you learned in the process?