How to Get an IEP for Your Child

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If your child is facing developmental or learning challenges in school, they may need an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Learn more about who qualifies, the evaluation process, and how an IEP can help your child succeed.

No two children are exactly alike. So, it’s no surprise that the “one-size-fits-all approach” to education isn’t suitable for everyone, especially children with physical, developmental, or specific learning disabilities. 

That’s why the special education accommodations outlined in a student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) ensure they have the same opportunities to learn, grow, and succeed as their peers. 

If your child has a disability, it’s crucial for you as a parent to understand how to get an IEP, navigate the testing and evaluation process, and work together with your child’s school to enhance their academic and developmental progress. 

So, what exactly is an IEP? 

An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is a personalized plan for students with disabilities that details the specific education, services, and supplementary support that will be provided for your child. 

At Education Alternatives, we specialize in providing expert IEP school programs in Ohio that offer personalized support for students with advanced behavioral and academic challenges. For over 20 years, we have been helping students with IEPs get the education they need and deserve. 

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about IEPs and how they can help your child reach their full potential in the classroom and beyond!

What qualifies a child for an IEP?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates that schools receiving public funding nationwide must develop an Individual Education Plan, or IEP, for all disabled students. 

To qualify for an IEP, students must fulfill the criteria specified for at least one of the 13 disability categories established by IDEA

These categories include: 

  • Specific learning disability 
  • Speech or language impairment 
  • Other health impairments (including ADHD)
  • Intellectual disability 
  • Autism spectrum disorder 
  • Emotional disturbance 
  • Developmental delay 
  • Multiple disabilities 
  • Hearing impairment 
  • Orthopedic impairment 
  • Visual impairment 
  • Traumatic brain injury 
  • Deaf-blindness 

Most importantly, it must also be determined that the identified disability negatively impacts the child’s academic performance.

How to get an IEP for your child

If you believe your child has a disability that may qualify them for an Individual Education Plan, you can immediately contact your school administrator or special education director to request an evaluation. Once a request is submitted, your child’s evaluation must occur within 60 days. 

Your child’s IEP test will typically take place in their school, or an outside professional’s office if your school district does not have an evaluator on staff. 

Throughout this process, your child will undergo assessments covering all aspects relevant to their suspected disability to understand their developmental and academic function level.  

An IEP test may include evaluating your child’s: 

  • Motor skills 
  • Cognitive abilities 
  • Social and emotional status 
  • Speech 
  • Language 

If your child qualifies, the next step will be to schedule an IEP meeting.

What are the different types of IEP meetings? 

The first meeting you will attend is the initial IEP meeting, which will be held within 30 days after your child is deemed eligible. 

The initial IEP meeting 

You will work with your child’s IEP team in the initial meeting to create their IEP document. This document will detail the specialized education, services, and additional support personalized to your child’s needs. It will also outline your child’s strengths, areas of improvement, and learning and behavioral objectives.

The IEP team typically consists of the following members: 

  • A case manager who will be your go-to contact for any questions or concerns regarding your child’s IEP 
  • General and special education teachers who understand how your child learns
  • A school district representative 

When attending the initial IEP meeting, it is essential to remember that an IEP is not meant to change the content and curriculum that your child is learning. The goal is to modify and specify how this curriculum is imparted to them to ensure they can learn in a way that works for them. 

We can do that with different kinds of IEP accommodations, depending on your child’s disability. 
The four fundamental types of IEP accommodations are:

  • Changing how information is presented to students  
  • Adjusting how students complete assignments and testing 
  • Adapting students’ learning environments to fit their needs 
  • Allowing students to have additional time for tests or extended project deadlines 

The main goal of this initial meeting is to develop an educational approach that prioritizes your child’s needs and puts them on the path to success. 

Yearly IEP meetings 

After the initial IEP meeting, your child’s team will meet annually to review their academic and behavioral progress, reassess their goals, and ensure that their current education plan is still effectively meeting their needs. 

While attending these yearly meetings is not mandatory, your child’s school must invite you to each meeting. 

Although your attendance is technically optional, these meetings offer a valuable opportunity to share your perspective on your child’s progress at home and in school. They also provide a platform to advocate for your child if you have any concerns or questions about their education plan. 

As a parent, you can also request IEP meetings outside the regularly scheduled yearly ones.

What is alternate assessment in IEP? 

In addition to exploring the various accommodations your child may need for their daily learning experiences in school, their IEP will also determine how their achievement will be measured by district or state-wide testing.

By law, students with disabilities must participate in district and state-wide assessments.

However, your child’s IEP team will decide which assessments are appropriate or if alternate assessment options are needed.

The Department of Education outlines the following alternative assessment options based on:

  • Grade-level academic achievement standards: These standards are for children who cannot take the standard test, even with accommodations, but whose grade-level academic standards are still appropriate for them.
  • Modified academic achievement standards: These standards are for a small group of students who can still make substantial progress but may not achieve grade-level proficiency within the time frame of their IEP.
  • Alternate academic achievement standards: These standards are for children with the most significant cognitive disabilities who will be tested on content related to, but not precisely like, grade-level standards. 

You can find more information on the Department of Education’s Regulations for Modified Academic Achievement Standards here

Although much of the literature on alternative assessment options is quite dense and potentially confusing, your child’s IEP team is an excellent resource to help clarify doubts or concerns.

Helping students on IEPs succeed  

At Education Alternatives, we aim to ensure that Ohio students with Individual Education Plans receive the support and opportunities they need and deserve. 

Regardless of your child’s unique disability or needs, our programs are designed to help them to learn and thrive in a supportive alternative school environment. 

From our Coral Autism Program to the therapeutic Day Treatment Program, we develop IEP and classroom accommodations to ensure that every child can learn in a way that works for them. 

Some examples of IEP accommodations we offer include: 

  • Smaller class sizes 
  • One-on-one instruction opportunities 
  • Frequent or multiple academic breaks 
  • School transportation modifications 

EA also provides some of the special services that may be required by a child’s IEP, like speech pathology, occupational therapy, or daily group therapy sessions through our sister organization, REACH Behavioral Health

If your child already has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or has recently been determined eligible for one, we will work collaboratively with you and their IEP team to support their growth and success.

We know that the IEP testing, evaluation, and development process can be challenging to navigate alone. 

That’s why our team is here to help! 

Contact us if you have any questions regarding how to get an IEP, or about the IEP programs we offer in our eight centers across Northeast Ohio

We want to be part of the team that helps your child succeed! 

Contact us