Your Child's Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
An IEP is the document that will detail, in writing, an individualized approach to meeting the unique educational needs of your child. Once your child has been deemed eligible for services, IEP team members should be identified, and the first IEP meeting should occur within thirty calendar days of the original determination of eligibility. A date and time should be set to discuss the development and crafting of the IEP document, and you should be notified in writing of this important gathering. The IEP meeting should be scheduled to best accommodate your attendance. If it does not or if attending is problematic, request that it be rescheduled. The completed IEP must then be implemented within ten school days following the date of completion. Your child's IEP must also be reviewed annually. It can be revised in a team meeting or upon agreement between yourself and the district at your request at any time (you do not have to wait for the yearly meeting). The IEP must also be in effect for your child at the beginning of each new school year.
The team of professionals that will be designated to support your child will convene at the IEP meeting. Members of the IEP team should include the following:
You and your spouse or partner
One regular education teacher
One special education teacher
A school representative who can make decisions about the delivery of services (usually the principal)
Someone who can interpret the evaluation results as they apply to your child's educational instruction
Other participants with special expertise of your child
Your child (if she chooses to be present)
Participants with “special expertise” can include a parent advocate knowledgeable about IDEA and the IEP process, a professional consultant who specializes in developing IEPs, or a professional consultant who specializes in children's mental-health issues (typically not your child's doctor).
You know your child best, and there may times in your interactions with school personnel that you feel put in the position of defending your child's needs. Your experience and history of being with your child should be respectfully received as valuable by all. On the other hand, some willing and cooperative school districts may lack mental-health expertise and may stand firm in believing that they are doing all they can for your child. The IEP process should be a comfortable, productive time that holds your child's best interests at heart, not the convenience of each party. If the position of both parties escalates without compromise, it could lead to a dispute. Methods for handling a dispute about your child's education are discussed later in this chapter.