How can I get an IEP for my child?
Real Mom Problem
“We are thinking our daughter might need an IEP. She is having a few issues and I know it will only get harder as she gets older. I'm so lost. How do I go about it?”
- 1. Speak with your child's teacher, principal, or school psychologist to determine the steps you should take to get an IEP
- 2. Consider getting an evaluation from your pediatrician or other outside source
- 3. Understand the differences between an IEP and a 504 plan; both of which are federal programs, available to all school districts
- 4. If you don't feel you're getting the results you need, seek additional opinions, and don't sign any plans until you're satisfied
- 5. Be prepared to reassess your child's needs over time
Real Mom Solutions
We all want to see our kids do well in school, but when there are special considerations, that can be a challenge. The moms of CafeMom have been through the IEP process and can help you understand all that's involved.
Some Moms Suggest Going Through School
Your child may qualify for special education services if the diagnosis is adversely affecting his academics or functioning in school. Do his teachers have concerns about his academic progress or behavior? If his academics are being adversely affected by his diagnosis, he will need to go through evaluations to determine qualification of services. I would recommend talking with the school psychologist first. Perhaps they may be able to offer behavioral suggestions to both you and the teacher. The other route would be determining if he qualifies for a 504. This is a program that supports those with a documented medical diagnosis or disability by allowing certain accommodations within the general education classroom setting without special education support. Remember that the goal of education is to educate in the least restrictive environment; and that would be with his general education peers.
I would go through the school system first as I believe a medical diagnosis would not automatically qualify your child for services through the school. The school system will need to do their educational evaluations. I am not 100% sure, but I'd check with them. The school will also do their assessments at no cost to you.
My daughter has an IEP. My suggestion would be to talk with your child's teacher first and ask what things she notices in school. Then I would talk to the school counselor and say " teacher is seeing this, I am seeing this, what can we do?" It's VERY hard to get an IEP and depending on your child's age it might be more difficult.
Make the request to the school to start the process. They will do an evaluation and provide their response. Be prepared with other supporting evidence that he would benefit from having an IEP and what accommodations/modifications you would like to see. He may only be able to get services through 504 and not an IEP. Go in armed with what works best at home and remember this is YOUR child you have lived with and know him very well. Don't back down if you feel that the IEP will provide him with the best educational program for him.
Others Recommend Outside Help
You can't believe the hoops you have to jump through to get any form of help from the school systems. If you don't stand up for your children, they will fall through the cracks, trust me I know. I was one of those children. There are many places to get testing for free, like the social security office, and if your child has a disability you can apply for Medicaid, and disability. Also a really great resource I have found, and can't speak highly enough of is NAMI. They will help you advocate. They are one of the greatest examples of true compassion I have found. They are great because they teach you about what you have, and how to understand it and help yourself. They are very empowering. I am amazed not everyone knows about them. They are all over the country. As sad as it is in a way, labeling your child, and what they have opens a lot of doors; doors that will get them the help they need to learn anything and everything. Stand tall, in between the tears, and go forward knowing it's a fight, but you can do it. Look at your child and know you, and your voice, will make a difference.
I'm currently in the process of getting a 504 plan in place for my son. To do that, I had to have a written diagnosis from his doctor. You can request an evaluation from the school, but it's faster to go through your own doctor, and then, if needed, contact the school system for an IEP or 504 plan. My son was diagnosed with his condition through a child psychologist. If you don't want to go that route, then request an IEP evaluation through the school. Be aware that getting him evaluated through the district may very well take longer than going through a child psychologist not affiliated with the school. Put the request in writing, so you have proof that you requested it and the date you requested it.
Can Kids Who Perform Well Get IEPs?
Contact the school psychologist as well as the special education office. Just because your child is on high honor roll doesn't mean she may not qualify for some help. My best friend in high school had resource room for organization issues, and extra time on tests because she had trouble interpreting questions, and she is brilliant. The school is there to help your child. It is worth trying.
My daughter has Asperger's. She is on the high honor roll every semester. She has had an IEP since she was four.
What if the School Resists?
I would get really familiar with IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). You have rights and so does your child. If you don't fight, and I mean REALLY FIGHT as your child's advocate and just let yourself be guided by what people tell you, they will just push you over. I've seen them do it to parents who were unaware of their rights under IDEA, and who believed that the people at the school were working on their child's best interest. They really are not. They care about their bottom line - $.
Have you asked for a fair hearing? Have you gotten your child evaluated by independent doctors, psychologists, speech pathologists and therapists? I know these things cost money, but the school district MUST reimburse you. I wouldn't leave it in the hands of the school - you have to get away from them and get him tested by independent evaluators and then request a hearing. There are even attorneys that will represent you in these cases. I used to let myself be led by them until I read IDEA, and became a parent member of the CPSE. They don't work in the child's best interest, but in theirs.