Classrooms require that teachers provide instruction to possibly dozens of children simultaneously. Some children will struggle more than their peers in a formal educational setting because of medical issues. Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may have a hard time remaining seated for lessons. Children with emotional regulation issues may have angry outbursts in class if they are unhappy about the lesson.
School districts help provide the appropriate level of support for children with health issues and disabilities by creating individualized educational plans (IEPs).
What is an IEP?
As the name implies, an IEP is an in-depth plan created by the professionals at a school to meet the unique needs of a child with medical or learning issues. An IEP typically starts with a diagnosis and then addresses specific supports that a student requires. It then moves on to a plan for how the different professionals that work with that child will help them function in a classroom with their peers.
What does an IEP do?
An IEP helps establish a very specific relationship between a child with special needs, their parents and the school providing them with a free public education. The school will need to adhere to the IEP during instruction and when dealing with disciplinary issues.
The family can enforce the IEP when the school does not meet its obligations to the student. For example, parents can request meetings and additional interventions when a child’s disciplinary issues or academic performance seem to indicate that professionals have not followed the IEP.
When students reduce their support needs or develop new issues, updates to the IEP may be necessary to ensure that staff members have a plan in place to properly support the student.
Getting an IEP is often just the first battle in the war. Ideally, parents raising children with special needs will have a collaborative relationship with the school providing their education. However, an adversarial approach sometimes becomes necessary when educational professionals do not meet a child’s needs and place the blame on the family or the students despite failing to uphold the IEP.
Parents dealing with compliance issues may need to secure professional help with negotiating with the school. If they cannot get the support their child requires and should have based on the current IEP, they may need to consider going to court in some cases.
Understanding your child with special need’s rights and the tools to help you protect your child, like an IEP, will make it easier for you to help your child continue their public education.