A Primer for Parents on Individual Education Plans

One of the major concerns that parents face when they have a child with special needs or neurodevelopmental concerns is working with the school system in order to ensure that the child receives the best accommodations and interventions to help him or her perform to the ultimate potential.  There is legislation created that provides parents and children support and services in the school system.  The main piece of legislation that guarantees certain provisions for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities is the Individual Disability Education Act (IDEA), which had its most recent revision in 2004.  This act creates special education services as known today.

The Individual Disability Education Act has a few main components that provide children and families safeguards in the school system:

  • Concept of Zero Reject:  this states that every child, regardless of disability must be educated.
  • Nondiscriminatory Evaluation:  this requires an unbiased assessment of the child be conducted in order to help determine what special education services are most appropriate.
  • Free and Public Education:  this concept ensures the appropriateness of academic placement as well as the provision of services at no additional charges to the parent or guardian.
  • Least Restrictive Environment:  the child should be placed within the mainstream classroom as much as possible with accommodations and support.

There are two main aspects that must be met in order for a child to qualify for an Individual Education Plan in the academic setting:

  1. The child must have a medical or psychological diagnosis.
  2. The symptoms that are present with the diagnosis must have an educational impact.  What this means is that just because a child meets clinical criteria for a diagnosis, he or she is not automatically eligible for academic services and accommodations.

Once a child qualifies for an IEP, the academic team, parents, and any outside representative meet together to help discuss appropriate interventions and accommodations.  No two IEPs are the same since the focus of the accommodations and interventions are on the child’s individual needs.  What the IEP provides are interventions in which an academic specialist (e.g. special education teacher, speech/language pathologist) provide specific one-on-one or small group instruction to help improve the child’s areas of concern.  In addition, the IEP provides classroom based accommodations and accommodations on standardized examinations that help address the specific areas of learning that are found to be areas of weakness for that child.

For more IEP information, click here to watch From Assessment to Accommodations | Getting the most out of an IEP.