IEPs: Independent Education Plans

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JLP Staff

Parenting /

Many schools emphasize individualized learning. Focusing on each student's needs can foster success and help every child reach his or her potential. Some students need even more special attention, which is where independent education plans (IEPs) appear. What exactly are IEPs, and who benefits from them?

IEPs: The Basics

Image via Flickr by Phil Roeder

The Center for Parent Information and Resources defines an IEP as "a written statement of the educational program designed to meet a child's individual needs."

Federal law dictates that all children in special education must have an IEP. An IEP sets learning goals that are within the child's reach, and it outlines the school's responsibilities toward the child. When a child is in high school, the IEP includes information about how the school will train him or her to cope with life after graduation.

As special needs children progress through their education, their IEPs contain records of how they perform on standardized tests and other assessments.

How IEPs Are Developed

Before children can be placed in special education, they must undergo evaluation, and a team comes together to write the IEP. You won't be left out of the loop when the IEP is written. School staff are obligated to inform parents about the IEP meeting, and you're invited to participate in it. This will ensure the plan meets all the child's needs, not just the needs that school staff members have observed.

Besides the parents, people who may be part of the IEP team include:

  • A special education teacher     

  • Your child's other teachers     

  • An individual who represents the school system     

  • The student     

After the IEP is written, it goes into effect as soon as possible. Every three years, another evaluation will take place to see if your child still qualifies for special education.

Who Qualifies for IEPs?

"Special education" is a broad term that takes in a range of teaching techniques for several different groups of learners. Children with any of the following conditions may be eligible for an IEP:    

  • Learning disabilities         

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder     

  • Cognitive challenges     

  • Emotional disorders         

  • Visual or hearing impairment     

  • Autism     

  • Language impairment     

  • Developmental delay     

Is an IEP Right for Your Child?

Not all students who struggle in a traditional classroom will qualify for special education. However, if you suspect your child would benefit from an IEP, you should approach the school and request an educational evaluation. The school's psychologist, along with other school staff members, will perform the evaluation. The school will use the evaluation's results to decide if your child is eligible for special education.

An IEP isn't right for everyone. If your child's condition is relatively minor, other solutions, such as private tutoring or behavioral therapy, might be the key to helping him or her thrive in a traditional school environment.

Parenting is never easy, particularly when you're concerned your child isn't truly benefiting from school. An independent education plan could help your child to thrive, and it is an option that is worth looking into for many families.

Categories: Parenting
About The Author
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Joan Lunden’s in-house research and writing team works with Joan to create content that complements her focuses and the interests of her fans. The team is dedicated to creating a thriving community through content and conversations, and hopes their work, like Joan’s, can make a difference in the lives of her readers everywhere.

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