FAQ Regarding IEPs

What is an IEP?

IEP stands for Individualized Education Program. It’s a legal document, which is a written agreement between the parent and the school. Think of it as a “map of the student’s education services.” The IEP defines the specially designed instruction (special education) and related services that the district will provide. 

Who receives an IEP?

If a student has been served through the GEIT process and/or 504 process and the team still thinks the student may be eligible for special education, then the student is referred for an evaluation. If the process finds that the student is eligible for special education and needs special education services, then an IEP is written to develop goals and services (map of the student’s education services). 

Who are the members of an IEP team?

Members of an IEP team include the student (required to be invited at age 16), parents/guardians of student, general education teacher, special education teacher (service coordinator), someone qualified to explain assessments and evaluations such as a school or district administrative representative such as the principal or their designee, and anyone else that may provide valuable input or expertise such as a grandparent, babysitter, friend, private therapist and so forth. 

Do parents/guardians influence the IEP?

Yes! They are equal partners in the IEP process and are critical members of the decision-making team. Parents should be actively involved with developing, reviewing, and revising the IEP. Parental input and attendance is one of your rights! 

Does a general education teacher have to be present at an IEP meeting?

Yes. At least one must be present, and it has to be someone who works with your child. 

Does a special education teacher (service coordinator) have to be present at IEP meeting?

Yes. At least one must be present. 

Can the student attend IEP meetings?

Yes! When appropriate, a student is encouraged to be an active participant in developing his/her own IEP. The process requires us to invite students to the IEP meetings by the age 16. 

How often is the IEP reviewed?

A review must take place a minimum of once a year, or more often if we need to make revisions. Parents/guardians/team can request a formal IEP meeting as they see the need. A full evaluation takes place at least every three years (triennial review). 

Can changes be made on the IEP without permission?

No! The process does not permit changes to the IEP unless parents/guardians have participated in the decision-making process and have received prior written notice of the team’s decision. All changes must be supported by current data. 

When parents/guardians sign the IEP form does this make it official?

By signing the IEP, parents/guardians are only indicating that they were present and participated in the IEP meeting. If concerns about the IEP have not been fully addressed or agreed upon, parents/guardians need to request that we document concerns in the meeting notes with a plan for follow-up resolution.

What are some effective communication tips?

Throughout the year, keep track of your student’s strengths and challenges. Be proactive! Create a list of goals that you would like your student to achieve. Consider your student’s learning style and what motivates him/her. Do not let one’s emotions take over but stay calm and focus on the needs of the student! Document concerns in writing, send an e-mail, or telephone the teacher. Schedule an informal meeting in person to brainstorm ideas and be an integral part of the team. Try to be realistic and think “outside of the box.” Ask, “What can I do to help you?” When things are going well, tell your team members! 

What are key components of an IEP?

Key components of an IEP include:

  • Descriptions of student’s abilities (academic strengths/challenges & emotional-social strengths/challenges)
  • Present level of performance (PLEP)
  • Goals
  • Related services
  • Description of how student’s progress will be measured and by whom, and how this data will be reported back to parents/guardians at regular intervals (as often as any other student, description of how much time student will spend in general classroom (inclusive practices or least restrictive environment) and/or special education classroom (learning center)
  • Accommodations
  • Modifications
  • Behavioral plan (if needed)
  • Health plan (if needed)
  • Transition plan (after high school)
  • Extended School Year (ESY)
  • Special transportation
  • Assistive technology
  • What should an IEP goal contain?
  • Goals must be specific and measurable. Goals should be meaningful to all people working with the child and to the child. The goals should be tied to the general education curriculum and should be done in a natural part of the day to have it make sense to the child. If the student is not making progress, the IEP team may need to review and revise goals.

What is the difference between accommodations and modifications?

Accommodations do not change curriculum. They only change the way we teach a student or how we allow a student to respond. Modifications do change the type and/or amount of curriculum taught, and we use them when a student is expected to learn less or learn different content.

What are related services?

Audiology, Speech-Language, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Vision, Orientation and Mobility, Hearing, Interpreter, Nursing, Psychological, Counseling, and Transportation

What is assistive technology?

Devices, equipment, materials used to increase, maintain, improve functional capabilities (speaker box, pencil grip, word processor etc.)

What is the difference between occupational therapy and physical therapy?

Occupational therapy focuses on fine motor skills such as writing, eating, dressing, and toileting. Physical therapy focuses on gross motor skills such as sitting, standing, walking, and balancing.

What is a service coordinator?

A service coordinator is the special education teacher licensed/certified to use various techniques to teach students with disabilities who learn or respond differently. He/she helps general educators adapt curriculum materials and teaching techniques to meet the needs of students with disabilities. They may also co- teach with general educators. They are responsible for making sure the student receives specially designed instruction. 

How can I communicate concerns or disagreements regarding the IEP?

If concerns about the IEP have not been fully addressed or agreed upon, parents/guardians need to request that we document the concerns in the annual IEP meeting notes with a plan for follow-up resolution. 

For other general concerns, always use the proper communication tree. Begin with the student’s general education teacher and/or the special education teacher (Service Coordinator). Contact the principal/assistant principal if you do not see progress. It is encouraged that one keep his/her emotions “in check” and focus on the student. Please document concerns, who you have spoken to, and what attempts you have made to remedy the situation. Always put in writing any requests and responses. This keeps it from being “he said, she said” and be sure to document everything. 

As a last resort, you may contact the district office to address formal disputes through a grievance procedure. Please make sure you have followed the communication tree. It will determine what the dispute is as the district office may refer you back to the campus as the IEP team is the only group that can change any service, etc. We strive to work with you as a team in order to avoid getting to this point!

What is a 504 Plan?

A 504 plan is a written plan created for students with disabilities who require accommodations to be successful in the classroom. A 504 plan is not an IEP. We design a 504 plan to ensure that a student with a 504 disability is able to receive a free and appropriate public education under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. 

Can a student have both an IEP and 504 Plan?

No. The IEP is more in-depth and already covers things that would be on a 504 plan such as 504 plan accommodations. These are two separate processes and two different teams so you will want to make sure you ask for the right team. The 504 plan has an accommodation plan where special education has an IEP.

How long will Union Elementary School District hold onto IEP and pertinent school records once the student graduates or leaves the district?

UESD keeps student records for five years once the student exits the district. If you need any of these records, you can request a copy within five (5) years. 

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