Preparing for the IEP

How do I request that the school evaluate my child for special education services?

Submit a formal request in writing to your special education liaison. It is recommended that you also also submit copies to your child's teacher and the principal of your child’s school. State law requires school districts to proceed and conduct a special education evaluation within 30 days after a parent refers the child for testing. School districts do not have the option to refuse or delay testing for any reason.

The timelines for evaluations suggest:

  • Referral - Parent or professional identifies a child as possibly needing special education and related services.
  • Consent - Within 5 school days of the receipt of a referral, the school district notifies the parent and asks for written consent to evaluate.
  • Evaluation - Withing 30 school days of written parent consent, credentialed trained specialist complete the evaluation.

Parents can start with written consent to the school. The Team Meeting should occur within 10 school days from receiving the evaluations. You have a right to receive copies of the evaluation reports at least 2 days prior to the team meeting by making a written request.

What types of evaluations can I request?

Parents may request that their children be evaluated once per year in any area of disability or suspected disability. Some examples include: functional behavioral assessments, assistive technology, speech and language, and vocational evaluation. Educational evaluations includes information about educational history and progress in the general curriculum. School districts cannot refuse to do an initial evaluation. Evaluations continue to be required prior to a finding of no eligibility. Language of evaluations must be provided in the child's native language or other method of communication or in the method most likely to provide accurate information unless it is clearly not feasible to do so.

Can I view my child's education records?

Yes. Parents can access their child's school records at any time.

What is an IEP?

IEP stands for Individualized Education Program. This is a legally binding document that spells out exactly what special education services your child will receive and why. It will include your child's classification, placement, services such as a one-on-one aide and therapies, academic and behavioral goals, a behavior plan if needed, percentage of time in regular education, and progress reports from teachers and therapists. The IEP is planned at an IEP meeting.

The individualized part of IEP means that the plan has to be tailored specifically to your child's special needs -- not to the needs of the teacher, or the school, or the district. Goals, modifications, accommodations, personnel, placement, all should be selected, enforced and maintained with the particular needs of your child in mind.

What is a 504?

A 504 Plan helps a child with special health care needs to fully participate in school. Usually, a 504 Plan is used by a general education student who is not eligible for special education services. A 504 Plan lists accommodations related to the child’s disability and required by the child so that he or she may participate in the general classroom setting and educational programs. For example, a 504 Plan may include:

  • Plans to make a school wheelchair-accessible
  • Your child’s assistive technology needs during the school day
  • Permission for your child to type assignments instead of writing them by hand
  • Permission for your child to hand in assignments late due to illness or a hospital stay

Your child may be eligible for accommodations under a 504 Plan if he or she has a physical or mental health disability that limits one or more major life functions. A 504 Plan is supported by the federal civil rights law, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. A 504 Plan is to be provided in programs that receive federal funds, such as public schools.

Each school is required to have a Section 504 Coordinator. Developing any plan requires working together as a team. Work with your child’s school nurse, primary care provider (PCP), and the Section 504 Coordinator to create a 504 Plan. In developing a 504 plan, the process should include:

  • A school evaluation
  • A letter from your child’s PCP describing the disability, related problems, and needed medications and/or treatments
  • Identification of the accommodations to be provided – physical and instructional
  • Your child’s Individualized Health Care Plan (IHCP)
  • A copy of the Emergency Information Form for Children with Special Health Needs

What is the difference between an IEP and a 504?

A 504 plan, which falls under civil-rights law, is an attempt to remove barriers and allow students with disabilities to participate freely; like the Americans With Disabilities Act, it seeks to level the playing field so that those students can safely pursue the same opportunities as everyone else. An IEP, which falls under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, is much more concerned with actually providing educational services. Students eligible for an IEP, or Individualized Education Plan, represent a small subset of all students with disabilities. They generally require more than a level playing field -- they require significant remediation and assistance, and are more likely to work on their own level at their own pace even in an inclusive classroom. Only certain classifications of disability are eligible for an IEP, and students who do not meet those classifications but still require some assistance to be able to participate fully in school would be candidates for a 504 plan. The 504 Plan does NOT require a written plan, progress reporting, transition planning and discipline protections, where an IEP DOES.

My child did qualified for special education, when should I get a copy of my child's new IEP?

Parents should receive at least a summary of their child's goal areas and a completed service delivery grid describing the types and amounts of special education and/or related services being proposed. If parents receive this in hand at the close of the meeting, they can expect the full proposed IEP in no more than two calendar weeks. If parents prefer to not wait 2 calendar weeks for the IEP, the district must respond to such requests with a completed IEP within 3-5 days of the team meeting.