The IEP Team
From audiologists to ophthalmologists to educators at your child’s school, you’ll want to have access to a variety of professionals that will not only support your child but provide a sense of support for you as a parent. Seek providers who will patiently address your concerns, and who will aid you in advocating for what’s best for your child and his or her needs.
The IEP team is made up of:
- The student, when age-appropriate (14)
- Advocate, if invited by parent/guardian
- Regular ed teacher(s)
- Special ed teacher
- Administrator from the school
- Related services, as appropriate, such as occupational therapist (OT), physical therapist (PT), speech and language pathologist (SLP), teacher of the visually impaired (TVI), orientation and mobility (O&M), teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing (ToD/HH), assistive technology teacher, sign language interpreter, audiologist
- Other professionals as needed, including the school psychologist, guidance counselor, mental health therapist
The IEP Process
Each public-school child who receives special education and related services must have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Each IEP must be designed for one student and must be a truly individualized document. The IEP creates an opportunity for teachers, parents, school administrators, related services personnel, and students (when age-appropriate, typically age 14) to work together to improve educational results for children with disabilities. The IEP is the cornerstone of a quality education for each child with a disability.
To create an effective IEP, the team--must come together to look closely at the student's unique needs. These individuals pool knowledge, experience, and commitment to design an educational program that will help the student be involved in, and progress in, the general curriculum. The IEP guides the delivery of special education supports and services for the student with a disability. Without a doubt, writing--and implementing--an effective IEP requires teamwork.
Step 1. Child is identified as possibly needing special education and related services.
"Child Find." The state must identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities in the state who need special education and related services. To do so, states conduct "Child Find" activities. A child may be identified by "Child Find," and parents may be asked if the "Child Find" system can evaluate their child. Parents can also call the "Child Find" system and ask that their child be evaluated. Or —
Referral or request for evaluation. A school professional may ask that a child be evaluated to see if he or she has a disability. Parents may also contact the child's teacher or other school professional to ask that their child be evaluated. This request may be verbal or in writing. Parental consent is needed before the child may be evaluated. Evaluation needs to be completed within a reasonable time after the parent gives consent.
Step 2. Child is evaluated.
The evaluation must assess the child in all areas related to the child's suspected disability. The evaluation results will be used to decide the child's eligibility for special education and related services and to make decisions about an appropriate educational program for the child. If the parents disagree with the evaluation, they have the right to take their child for an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE). They can ask that the school system pay for this IEE.
Step 3. Eligibility is decided.
A group of qualified professionals and the parents look at the child's evaluation results. Together, they decide if the child is a "child with a disability," as defined by IDEA. Parents may ask for a hearing to challenge the eligibility decision if they disagree with the results.
Step 4. Child is found eligible for services.
If the child is found to be a "child with a disability," as defined by IDEA, he or she is eligible for special education and related services. Within 30 calendar days after a child is determined eligible, the IEP team must meet to write an IEP for the child.
Step 5. IEP meeting is scheduled.
The school system schedules and conducts the IEP meeting. School staff must:
contact the participants, including the parents;
notify parents early enough to make sure they have an opportunity to attend;
schedule the meeting at a time and place agreeable to parents and the school;
tell the parents the purpose, time, and location of the meeting;
tell the parents who will be attending; and
tell the parents that they may invite people to the meeting who have knowledge or special expertise about the child.
Step 6. IEP meeting is held and the IEP is written.
The IEP team gathers to talk about the child's needs and write the student's IEP. Parents and the student (when appropriate) are part of the team. If the child's placement is decided by a different group, the parents must be part of that group as well.
Before the school system may provide special education and related services to the child for the first time, the parents must give consent. The child begins to receive services as soon as possible after the meeting.
If the parents do not agree with the IEP and placement, they may discuss their concerns with other members of the IEP team and try to work out an agreement. If they still disagree, parents can ask for mediation, or the school may offer mediation. Parents may file a complaint with the state education agency and may request a due process hearing, at which time mediation must be available.
Step 7. Services are provided.
The school makes sure that the child's IEP is being carried out as it was written. Parents are given a copy of the IEP. Each of the child's teachers and service providers has access to the IEP and knows his or her specific responsibilities for carrying out the IEP. This includes the accommodations, modifications, and supports that must be provided to the child, in keeping with the IEP.
Step 8. Progress is measured and reported to parents.
The child's progress toward the annual goals is measured, as stated in the IEP. His or her parents are regularly informed of their child's progress and whether that progress is enough for the child to achieve the goals by the end of the year. These progress reports must be given to parents at least as often as parents are informed of their nondisabled children's progress.
Step 9. IEP is reviewed.
The child's IEP is reviewed by the IEP team at least once a year, or more often if the parents or school ask for a review. If necessary, the IEP is revised. Parents, as team members, must be invited to attend these meetings. Parents can make suggestions for changes, can agree or disagree with the IEP goals, and agree or disagree with the placement.
If parents do not agree with the IEP and placement, they may discuss their concerns with other members of the IEP team and try to work out an agreement. There are several options, including additional testing, an independent evaluation, or asking for mediation (if available) or a due process hearing. They may also file a complaint with the state education agency.
Step 10. Child is re-evaluated.
At least every three years the child must be re-evaluated. This evaluation is often called a "triennial." Its purpose is to find out if the child continues to be a "child with a disability," as defined by IDEA, and what the child's educational needs are. However, the child must be re-evaluated more often if the disability warrants (intellectual disability is every 2 years) or if the child's parent or teacher asks for a new evaluation.
Part 1 - the presenters give an overview of Usher syndrome, knowing what that means for your child, and first steps in creating an educational program. In Part 2 - a deeper discussion about individualized education plans (IEPs), accommodations, and modifications.
Articles about IEPs and Self Advocacy
Downloadable forms that show examples of documents that Ava uses to advocate for herself in school.
Lanya (Lane) McKittrick is the Chair of the Board of the Usher Syndrome Coalition, founder of the Hear See Hope Foundation, and deafblind education researcher and founder of Lane of Inquiry. Lane received her Ph.D. in Special Education at the University of Northern Colorado. Her research, advocacy, and family support work are rooted in her personal experience as a mom to four sons, including two who have Usher syndrome, the leading genetic cause of deafblindness.