How do I know if my child needs an IEP?
Real Mom Problem
“I have been wondering if I should try to get my daughter an IEP. I just really don't know. Any advice or opinions would be appreciated.”
- 1. An IEP (Individualized Education Plan) can help identify and address any special learning needs your child may have
- 2. You can speak with your child's teacher to determine whether an IEP would be beneficial
- 3. If an IEP isn't right for your child, your school or doctor might recommend a 504 plan instead
- 4. IEPs can be assessed and updated as your child grows
Real Mom Solutions
It can be hard to know if your child needs extra intervention to help them succeed in school. Let the experienced moms of CafeMom explain the ins and outs of Individualized Education Plans.
Moms Explain: What's an IEP?
I'm a general education teacher. I receive IEPs for my students. On that document, I look to find the accommodations that student needs in order to be successful in my class. For students with dyslexia, oftentimes those modifications are things like delivering tests orally or allowing the student to use a computer with spell check to complete an assignment. If a student is classified "learning disabled," most often those modifications are things like extended time for tests/assignments, preferential seating, and breaking down assignments into smaller parts (to help the student not become overwhelmed). I think the idea of the IEP is wonderful. It has really helped as a teacher find ways that I can help my students be successful at learning what I need to teach them.
An IEP is in Individualized Education Plan and should address and provide services for a child with a disability. That said, it is not some magic cure. The IEP should have goals written in it and those IEP goals are to be reviewed annually, and if a child is struggling it will be addressed.
Moms Explain: How an IEP Helps
An IEP gives you the power and control to make sure your children are being properly educated. It lists the school's responsibility and burdens. It's you who can call a meeting any time when you feel the school is not living up to the IEP. The school can suggest a meeting, but the parent has to consult to the meeting.
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 evaluation to determine qualification of services. I would recommend talking with the school psychologist first; perhaps they maybe 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.
IEP or 504 -- Learn the Differences
It really depends on the degree of help that your child needs. Does he need special classes? An assistant to help him during the day? Or does he just need special consideration in normal classes (extra time to get work done, reduced assignments, tests taken orally, etc.)? If he needs more extensive assistance and/or special classes, he will need an IEP. If he just needs special consideration to get his school work done, he only needs a 504. My son was put on a 504 plan in elementary school. He is ADHD, but cannot be medicated. It was pretty easy to get him approved for the 504, we just had to have his doctor and therapist fill out a 504 Plan Form. His 504 plan is revised at least once a year. He is now 16 and I have never had any real issue getting the school to work with us. As he gets older his needs change. It has allowed him to be such a successful student that he is taking AP (advance placement) classes in high school. The nice thing about a 504 plan is that it is often more "parent driven." Other than having the paperwork signed by medical professionals, the meetings, ideas, brain storming, etc. will be centered around you, your observations about your son, and the things you think will benefit him. As you are all adjusting to his school career, don't forget that you can request a meeting if you think things need to be adjusted; if some things are working more than others, or new ideas come to light for you and/or his teachers. When my son first began his 504 plan we actually met at the start of each semester. It wasn't until he was in junior high that we went to only meeting once a year. IEPs and 504 plans are federal programs. Every school district in the country is under the same program rules/regulations.
My son has no developmental delays but he is deaf in one ear. He has a 504 which gives his teachers guidelines for teaching him. My school guided me as to whether he needed a 504 or and IEP. An IEP would have provided him an aide if needed, or a sign language teacher. He didn't need that - just a few adjustments - so a 504 works for him.
The IEP and 504 are similar but the 504 is usually basic accommodations. The IEP is the entire education plan that guides the general education and special education team to best help your child. While the 504 plan will say things like, work with small groups on test or extra time for tests, the IEP has accommodations for your child to have the test read to them or for a different test altogether. The IEP also includes all of the test scores so that you know where your child is, and what goal they are working towards. The IEP should also include a behavioral modification plan if your child has impulse control or anger management issues. As far as the IEP/504 plan you need to first get the paperwork from the doctor to inform the school of his diagnosis. Once the school has his medical information they CAN NOT deny your child a 504 plan. He will still need to be evaluated and approved for the IEP but he does qualify under "other health impairment" or "emotional impairment." After you turn in the paperwork you should immediately request in writing that the school begin the procedures and evaluations for the IEP. The school will perform a multitude of tests which include, but are not limited to, CARS, IQ, vision, hearing and to find out what grade level he is at. After all that testing is done they will either approve him or deny him. If they deny him you have a specific amount of time to appeal. If you don't agree with ANYTHING that is on paperwork DO NOT SIGN IT. Take it home review it, organize your thoughts, then address your concerns as soon as you can because there are time limits on everything. If you are starting at ground zero and you don't know your district's policies and procedures, get into contact with a parent advocate in your area. They are an invaluable resource and little to no cost.
My daughter has a 504. She had testing done and has no developmental delays. It simply states that she will be in the AIS (Academic Intervention Services) math group. The AIS teacher explains how to do the math problems instead of a do-it-yourself approach. She went from no mastery to a B+ this year.
A 504 is for medical problems and an IEP is an individual education plan for kids who test as learning disabled (LD). Kids may or may not have a medical condition that coincides with this diagnosis. They are also the "learn differently crew." A child can be LD and really intelligent, just different.
If you can get an IEP, get it. IEP's HAVE to be followed... schools can use 504s as a "suggestion." Contact your district's school psychologist and discuss this concern - they'll help pull the team together to have your child assessed.
IEPs are for learning difficulties such as speech therapy. My friend has a son with ADHD and he has an IEP. 504s are for medical things such as Type 1 Diabetes, etc.
An IEP is an Individual Education Plan. My daughter has one and it's done wonders for her. She didn't get hers until sixth grade. She can also carry that to college with her which is awesome. Only thing is she will have to advocate for her self where as a whole bunch of people do that for her now. A 504 is generally behavior related. For kids with ADD, it gives them extra time on tests and exams, etc. You'll have to call your school psychologist and ask for an evaluation. Good Luck.
Plus: How to Make an IEP Work for Your Child
An IEP is a joint effort - the parents and teachers need to work together. The IEP is also there to protect the student (if the child has wicked meltdowns, it helps the teacher to know how to handle them, etc.). Not every child is placed in a special class. My child will be in regular kindergarten next year, IEP and all. He will have 45 minutes or more of outside help from a special teacher. The parents have to help, and if the child does have a problem and the IEP is not in place, it opens up a whole other problem.
If the case manager and the parents are dedicated to assisting a child, there most absolutely will be improvements. But if they don't consistently follow up with the child (more than once a year), it will fail. If no one checks my class to see if a student is in fact receiving appropriate modifications, the child may or may not be getting them. If no one calls me back when I call home to let them know how their child is doing in my class, I can't communicate with anyone to give my own suggestions or voice my own concerns. And I can also tell you...as a teacher...I am constantly pressured to "just pass" the kids with IEPs because it's just so much of a headache to have to deal with the failures. Because really, no one complains if everyone in the class gets a 100. If I fail a kid, especially one with an IEP, I have to show extensive documentation to explain why that child failed. Some people are scared of paperwork/lazy.
It takes a lot to help a child with educational needs. A whole lot. You can't force a child to learn above their learning level and you can't blame a teacher because the child isn't learning fast enough. An IEP means the child works on their level and thus is able to learn. It's not a miracle program.