Posts Tagged ‘related services’

April brings showers and IEP meetings

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

worried-womanthmApril is a time when most school systems schedule meetings with parents to review all of the services their child is receiving and to establish a plan for the next school year. If you have a child with a developmental delay, disability or birth defect, he may be eligible to receive services. But often there is so much to learn that it can seem overwhelming.

As a parent, it is important to know the programs or services that may benefit your child. It is equally important to understand the system. Our blog series can help you sort it all out.

If your child is receiving services at school, it is a good idea to learn the difference between an IEP and a 504 plan. This post breaks it out into a chart and explains the vital differences. Another great place to go for clarity is Understood, a website dedicated to helping parents with children who have special learning needs.

In addition, we suggest you contact the Parent Training and Information Centers in your state, which offer free guidance to parents. Find your center and learn more about these vital resources.

If your child is still a toddler, he may be able to receive help through the early intervention system. Children are eligible up until their third birthday.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org. We’re here to help.

 

IEP season is here

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

kids at schoolIt’s April. Finally. This was one winter that I thought would never end! The beginning of spring usually signals the start of beautiful weather as well as IEP meetings, if your child is receiving special services. If you are new to this process, read this post to learn about IEPs.

The law says that your child’s IEP must be reviewed every year. Usually, schools start this process in the spring, so that they are all set to start services in the new school year. However, you should know that you can ask for a meeting to review an IEP at any time. You do not have to wait until the spring to review or change your child’s IEP. It MUST be done at least once per year, but it can be done more often, too.

Here are two great resources to help you through the process:
All About the IEP  and What You Need to Know About IEPs & IEP Meetings.

If you have questions, send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

You can also view other posts on IEPs in the Delays and Disabilities: How to get help for your child series, here.

LDs – What they ARE and are NOT

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

alphabet magnets

There are many misconceptions about learning disabilities (LDs), which often affect preemies. Here is a quick review of LDs – first, the misconceptions, and then the truth.

LDs are NOT…

• the result of laziness.

• caused by a child’s home environment or cultural factors.

• the same as autism.

• the same as an intellectual disability (formerly called “mental retardation.”) In fact, persons with LDs have average or above average intelligence, and some are gifted!

• all the same. There are various kinds and degrees of LDs (mild to severe) and a child can have more than one kind.

• curable, and a child will NOT outgrow them. But they are treatable and most kids that receive appropriate educational interventions and supports overcome obstacles.

• associated with blindness or deafness.

LDs ARE…

• often unidentified or under-identified. Many students (as much as 15%) struggle in school as a result of having a learning disability that is not diagnosed or treated.

• prevalent.  Almost half (42%) of kids receiving special education services are children with learning disabilities. Roughly 2.4 million children in public schools in the U.S. have been identified as having LDs.

• more common in boys. Two thirds of students identified with LDs are boys.

• treatable. Through appropriate educational programs, kids with LDs are able to learn in school and succeed in life.

• brain based disorders, and often co-exist with attention problems.

• often seen to run in families.

The key to success is…

• getting a diagnosis as early as possible.

• getting help and support in place. “Specific learning disability” is one of the 13 conditions that qualifies a child for special education and related services.  (The other 58% in special ed have the remaining 12 qualifying conditions.)

• providing positive reinforcement so that a child’s self-esteem is not damaged.

• understanding your child’s diagnosis so that you can be an effective advocate for him. Arm yourself with information. See prior posts for general info on LDs, and specific info on dyslexia, dysgraphia and even dyspraxia and CAPD (cousins to LDs).

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Source:  Data for this post provided by NCLD’s 2014 publication of “The State of Learning Disabilities: Facts, Trends and Emerging Issues.”

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Go to News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” on the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). As always, we welcome your comments and input.

Words and terms – a whole new world

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

help

The early intervention and special education world is filled with its own language – words and terms that are probably unknown to you. In a prior post, I gave you a list of acronyms to begin learning some of the abbreviations for certain terms. In this post, I am pointing you to a wonderful resource on CPIR’s website (the Center for Parent Information and Resources) that will help make sense of all these terms.  It will help you to understand IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), which is the law that applies to the world of early intervention and special education. For those of you who feel you are drowning in a sea of unfamiliar words, here is your lifeline.

Early intervention terms

First up are the key terms and phrases common in Part C of IDEA. This is the part of the law that applies specifically to babies and toddlers up to age 3. Go to CPIR’s page on Early intervention Key Words  and scroll down the page for easy-to-read definitions and examples of each of the following terms. (The terms in bold will take you to my prior blog posts for additional reading.)

·         Consent

·         Developmental delay

·         Early intervention services 

·         Health services

·         Infant or toddler with a disability

·         Multidisciplinary

·         Native language

·         Natural environments

·         Prior written notice

·         Service coordination services

Special education terms

Likewise, for parents of children ages 3 – 21, CPIR offers great explanations of many terms that you will hear and need to know that are in Part B of IDEA. (This is the part of the law that applies specifically to school aged children.)  Key Terms to Know in Special Education provides easy-to-understand explanations on the following topics (some of which I have already written about in a prior blog post, but this page from NICHCY’s legacy resources is too good not to mention again, here). Each category is explained and written about in detail and offers examples so that you have a full understanding of the meaning.

·         Point of Reference: IDEA

·         Child with a disability

·         FAPE (Free appropriate public education)

·         IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education act)

·         IEP (Individualized Education Program)

·         LRE (Least restrictive environment)

·         Related services

·         Special education

·         Supplementary aids and services

·         Transition Services

·         TA&D (Technical Assistance and Dissemination)

You should note that states interpret and base their own policies based on IDEA. So, there may be variations from state to state as to how IDEA is interpreted or implemented. First learn what IDEA says about a particular word, term or topic; then see if your state’s definition is the same or somewhat different.  NICHCY (on CPIR) says “States develop their own special education policies and procedures based on what IDEA requires. They are allowed to go beyond what IDEA requires–and frequently do, because the law leaves a great many things to state and local discretion–but they are not permitted to have policies or procedures that are not consistent with IDEA’s provisions.”

Bottom line

Learning a little bit about IDEA and your state’s interpretations can go a long way in helping you know what services your child is eligible to receive. It will also help you to become a better advocate for your child. Understanding the system helps to eliminate confusion, frustration and unnecessary anxiety.

 

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It appears every Wednesday, and was started on January 16, 2013. Feel free to go back to look at prior posts as the series builds on itself.  As always, we welcome your comments and input.

Summer programs for kids with special needs

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

summer-vacation1If your child has an IFSP or an IEP and is receiving services for a developmental delay or a qualifying disability, it may be possible for services to continue throughout the summer months.  This is called Extended School Year services or ESY.  ESY may include continued special education services or related services. It is sometimes possible for a child who does not have an IEP but rather a 504 plan to receive ESY. ESY is based on your child’s individual needs and your state’s regulations.

How is ESY helpful?

For most children, receiving special education or related services during the school year is more than adequate for their needs. But, for other children, the time between June and September is too long a period to go without receiving services. For instance, if your child has a language disability and has been receiving speech therapy, it may be hard to stop services for the summer without fearing that progress won’t continue, or worse, that your child may lose skills.

Extending services throughout the summer months may be appropriate for your child. This may take the form of additional therapy, academic tutoring, summer school, or a special program. It all depends on your child’s individual needs AND the regulations in your state.

Who qualifies for ESY?

Wrightslaw has a great page that tells you what you need to know about ESY services for your child. They emphasize that you need to understand the regulations in your state as well as recent court decisions that would establish a precedence or new procedures which may apply to your child’s situation.  On their webpage, Wrightslaw refers to a great article “Standards for Extended School Year (ESY)” by Nissan Bar-Lev. The author describes the legal basis and standards for ESY as defined by federal courts around the country. It is well worth a read.

Once you understand your state’s regulations, you can discuss your concerns with the IEP team at your next IEP meeting. ESY may or may not be necessary to comply with the requirement that your child receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).

If the IFSP/IEP team (of which parents are members) decides that your child qualifies for ESY services to continue during the summer months, then services would be added to your child’s program on her IFSP or IEP. (Your child’s IFSP or IEP is the document that describes all of the services that she will receive all year, due to her developmental delay or disability. Please refer to my prior post on how to write good IEP goals.)

What else can your child do for the summer?

Whether your child qualifies for ESY services or not, or if you have other ideas for her summer program, you might consider a summer camp for all or part of your child’s summer.  It seems that there is a camp program for every child, with every diagnosis or need. Check out this article on camps for kids with special needs and learn what to look for and questions to ask .

My daughter used to qualify for continued speech therapy sessions during the summer through ESY. Instead of putting her in an academic summer school program with speech therapy sessions during the day, I opted for an artsy kind of day camp at the YWCA (more her style) and kept twice weekly speech sessions early in the morning. This way, she still got her therapy but also had the benefit of an entirely different kind of summer experience.  The school system provided the speech sessions as part of her free and appropriate public education (FAPE), while I paid for the summer camp. The theatrical part of the camp helped her with her communication skills, and introduced her to the world of theater.  It started a lifelong love of drama for her, and she acted in plays in high school and beyond.  Who would have thought that a little girl with a speech disorder would enjoy speaking on a stage! It provided a different way of tackling her speech problems and gave her a much needed shot of confidence. The end result was that her speech skills would increase dramatically in one summer session.

Often dabbling in something different for the summer can open doors for your child that you never thought of!

Bottom line

Be sure to explore all of the options for your child’s summer program. This could be a time to introduce her to new experiences which will only enhance her learning and help her progress. This is the time to be creative and to have fun. When kids are happy, they tend to blossom.

Have questions?  Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started on January 16, 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Feel free to go back to look at prior posts as the series builds on itself. As always, we welcome your comments and input.

What are Recreation Services?

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

kids-playing-with-a-ballRecreation Services (also known as Therapeutic Recreation, Rec Therapy or “RT”) involves the use of activities to help treat a variety of challenges (physical, cognitive, emotional, social, and leisure). For children with delays or disabilities, recreation therapy focuses on the non-academic, recreational activities in your child’s life.  The end goal is for your child to become more comfortable when participating in recreational activities with his friends or classmates. The added bonus is usually a boost in self confidence, which we all know can have an enormous impact on your child’s life.

What are examples of recreation services activities?

Rec therapy can focus on his hobbies, sports or games. They can take place in school or at a community center, indoors or outdoors, or at another place appropriate for your child’s needs. Some school systems even have arrangements for children to receive therapy at local park programs.

What else can RT include?

Your child may need to learn how to “warm up” before playing a game, or conversely he may need to learn how to channel his energy as he plays. He may need help in navigating his body in space as he plays a sport, or need assistance in learning how to wind down and relax.  Maybe a sudden injury makes it necessary for him to learn how to adapt to his disabling condition. Special adaptive recreation equipment may be necessary to help your child participate in a particular leisure activity.

The therapist may incorporate all sorts of games, sports, dance, creative movement, music, and artistic endeavors such as crafts and acting into your child’s program.  Since RT is so pleasurable for your child, he may have an easier time participating and making progress. I know this was the case for my daughter. At first, I could not for the life of me understand how it was therapy – she was having such a good time!  She got to pick two classroom “buddies” to go with her, and they played all sorts of games in the gym and on the playground. This encouraged her to use her language with her friends and become more comfortable with the rules of games involving balls, running, etc. Over time, I saw definite improvements and watched her gain confidence and improve her skills.

There are lots of facets to RT. For more information on how RT might be helpful for your child, see this excellent summary.

What should you do if you think your child could benefit from recreation services?

RT is one of the services a child may receive as part of related services. Like all related services, RT services needs to be based on your child’s individual needs as identified by his evaluation results. If your child is already receiving special education services, mention RT at your next IEP team meeting, or request an IEP meeting. Discuss your concerns with the team, and see if an assessment would be helpful. (Remember, parents are members of the team, and your child can be too, once he is old enough to participate.)

After an RT evaluation and discussion of your child’s individual needs, if the IEP team decides that RT should be included in your child’s program, specific goals are then added to your child’s IEP.  The therapist will begin working with your child either individually or in small groups. Remember, as part of related services, parents and educators may be given training on the effects of recreation therapy on your child’s education. This is so important! It ensures that skills are not taught in a vacuum, but are able to be “transferred” from one place to another (the playing field, school, home, etc.).

If your child does not currently have an IEP and you feel he could benefit from RT, see my prior posts on how to have your child evaluated for free if he is under 3 years of age or age 3 or older.

Who provides RT?

As in many other therapeutic fields, recreation therapists are college graduates who receive a credential after taking certain courses and passing tests.  The organization that certifies recreation therapists is NCTRC, the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation.

Bottom Line

Your child’s non-academic or leisure activities are a very important part of his life. But often a child with delays or disabilities struggles with these activities. Isn’t it great to know that RT exists and is a part of the related services that can be provided to children who qualify?  Every little bit of help…helps.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It appears every Wednesday, and was started on January 16, 2013. Feel free to go back to look at prior posts as the series builds on itself. As always, we welcome your comments and input.

What is physical therapy or “PT”?

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

child-on-tricyclePhysical Therapy, or PT, can help your child increase strength, flexibility or endurance, and improve posture, balance and movement (such as walking). Therapy can help improve overall function and reduce disability. PT generally involves “gross motor” therapy, which means large body parts, such as the legs, but it can involve the entire body.

PT may be provided for your baby, toddler or school age child, depending on her needs. If you have a child with a developmental delay, disability or medical condition, her doctor may recommend PT.  Likewise, if your child is evaluated for early intervention services by the Child Find services or by your local school district, she may qualify for PT services. (See my posts on early intervention for babies and toddlers or intervention for children ages 3 and older to learn how to request an evaluation for free.) PT falls under the umbrella of “Related Services” which is available for children with disabilities, in order for them to benefit from special education.

In most cases, if your child qualifies (based on the results of an evaluation), she will receive the PT services for free. However, every state has slightly different regulations, so you should check with your state to find out more specifics.

Who provides the PT services?

The IDEA (law) says that physical therapy means “services provided by a qualified physical therapist.” Every state requires a physical therapist to be licensed. A physical therapist is highly educated. In fact, according to their credentialing organization, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA),  “all physical therapists must receive a graduate degree from an accredited physical therapist program before taking the national licensure exam that allows them to practice. Physical therapists have the most specialized education to help people restore and improve motion.”

Where will the PT take place?

If your child qualifies for PT, services will be provided at a place that is appropriate for your child. This may be your home, a PT center, hospital, or your child’s local school. PTs who work with children are usually very creative. They find engaging ways to interact with your child, making the sessions fun while working toward goals. Kids usually enjoy PT sessions and look forward to them.

Remembering back to when my daughter received PT, she “played” with scarves and bean bags, ran obstacle courses, climbed ropes and balanced on huge balls or balance beams. She loved playing games such as Twister with some of her classmates. She even learned to ride a tricycle in her PT sessions!

What will the goals of PT be?

Specific needs and goals will be outlined in your child’s individualized plan. This is called an IFSP – Individualized Family Service Plan (for kids from birth to age 3) and an IEP -Individualized Education Program (for kids ages 3 and older). This document will provide details of the services she will receive, such as the specific goals to be achieved, how often she will see the physical therapist and the place where services will take place. Parents, as team members, have input into the creation of this very important document.

Often a PT will coordinate therapy goals with your child’s other therapists, such as an occupational therapist, to maximize results. And, it is important that a child’s teacher understand the goals and objectives of the PT sessions so that progress can be integrated into the classroom.

Remember, the goals to be achieved are specific to each individual child, and is based on her needs. Every child is unique! There is no one-size-fits-all plan. And, at a minimum, goals need to be reviewed and updated yearly. See my prior post on how to create a good IEP.

Bottom line

Physical therapy has helped many babies, toddlers and children to overcome obstacles. If your child qualifies to receive this service, it may make a huge difference in her life!

Have questions?  Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started on January 16, 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Feel free to go back to look at prior posts as the series builds on itself. As always, we welcome your comments and input.

What is speech therapy?

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

girl-blowing-bubbles1Speech and language therapy (commonly referred to simply as “speech therapy”) is a special kind of therapy to help your child communicate.  If your child has difficulty expressing his needs, he may become very frustrated and display behaviors such as crying, tantrums, withdrawing, etc. If it is due to a delay or disability, the sooner your child begins therapy, the sooner he will be able to understand language, express his needs and be understood. Once he is no longer frustrated, the happier he and the whole family will be!

Are speech and language problems all the same?

No. There are many different aspects to speech and language. For example, a child may have difficulty speaking due to a structural problem in his mouth or for another reason. Other times a child can understand language but has a hard time getting words out and expressing himself. Yet other times a child does not understand the spoken word (which may be due to a hearing problem, but it could also have no known cause).   Some children develop language more slowly than their peers (a delay), while other children have more choppy development or have more serious problems (a disorder). Sometimes a speech or language problem is one part of a larger diagnosis. It is different for every child.

Here are some common types of speech and language problems:
• expressive language – how a child speaks or expresses himself
• receptive language – whether a child can process and understand what is said to him
• mixed expressive/receptive language- a combination of both problems
• social language or pragmatics  – using language correctly in a social setting
• dysphagia – a swallowing disorder
• dyslexia and language based learning disabilities  – when a child has trouble understanding the written word (reading), learning new vocabulary, expressing ideas clearly, understanding directions, spelling, numbers or telling time.

You can read more about the different kinds of speech and language problems as well as important language milestones here.

How do you get speech and language services for your child?

The first step is to talk to your child’s health care provider about your child’s speech or language milestones.  You can request to have your child evaluated for free through programs provided by your state (for babies and toddlers) or by your school district (for children age 3 and older). This is provided to you under the IDEA, (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). This is the federal law that ensures that children with developmental delays or disabilities receive the help that they need.  Speech and language therapy falls under the umbrella of Related Services.  Keep in mind that parents can request an evaluation without a referral from a doctor or school. See my prior posts for info on how to have your baby and toddler or child age 3 and up evaluated for free.

According to the IDEA, a “Speech or language impairment means a communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or a voice impairment, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.”  The key words are articulation, fluency, voice and language. For a closer look at each one, please see NICHCY’s discussion on the CPIR website.

Once your child has been evaluated and the professionals have met with you to discuss the results of the testing, they may recommend that your child receive services provided by a Speech and Language Pathologist (a professional who provides therapy for communication problems). Therapy may include services for addressing communication problems as well as counseling and guidance for you and your child’s teachers. Although the primary aim is to get your child to learn to speak clearly and understand language, it is sometimes necessary for a child to learn sign language or rely on picture books in order to be able to communicate. Every child is different.

When and how is speech therapy begun?

Speech therapy often begins in infancy for a baby with oral structural problems, and in toddlerhood or preschool for children with delayed speech or other language issues. However, it can begin at any age. If your child is not identified as having a speech and language problem until he is in elementary, middle or even high school, do not despair. The positive effects of therapy may still be very helpful.

If it is decided that your child will receive speech and language therapy, his specific needs and goals will be outlined in his IFSP – Individualized Family Service Plan (for babies and toddlers up to age 3) or IEP – an Individualized Education Program (for kids ages 3 and up). This document will provide details of the services he will receive, including how often, where and with whom. Remember, parents are members of the team that write up the goals for the IFSP or IEP.

Will your child like the therapy?

Most children thoroughly enjoy speech and language therapy – I know my daughter did. SLPs incorporate games and creative ways of learning into the sessions which make it fun and enjoyable for your child. For example, blowing bubbles helps to develop oral facial muscles and also breath control, which are necessary in learning to speak.

The bottom line

If your child is referred for speech and language therapy, be glad that he is going to have the specialized attention he needs to help make communication easier for him and you. It is important to address all communication needs as soon as you learn of them because your child will benefit from the therapy for the rest of his life.

On a personal note, my daughter started speech and language therapy at age 3 and continued through early high school. It helped so much! She became a thespian in high school and continues to act in plays with a local community theater group. In college, her highest grade (A+) was in a Public Speaking course!  Without receiving speech therapy, I doubt she would have overcome her obstacles to the point where she could speak in front of large groups or act on a stage in front of a live audience. Never say never!

Have questions?  Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started on January 16, 2013 and appears every Wednesday . Feel free to go back to look at prior posts as the series builds on itself. As always, we welcome your comments and input.

What are related services?

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

related-servicesAccording to the IDEA, the federal law which specifies how states provide early intervention services and special education, “Related services means transportation and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services as are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education.”

Simply put, related services can include, but are not limited to, any of the following:
 speech-language pathology and audiology services
• interpreting services
• psychological services
• physical and occupational therapies
• recreation, including therapeutic recreation
• early identification and assessment of disabilities in children
• counseling services, including rehabilitation counseling
• orientation and mobility services
• medical services for diagnostic or evaluation purposes
• school health services and school nurse services
• social work services in schools
• parent counseling and training

As you can see from the above list, there are many different kinds of services. In other posts I give you more details about some of these related services. In addition, you can view the law  and view the definitions of these services on the CPIR website. For now, it is important for you to know that these categories exist, and that if your child qualifies, he will most likely receive these services at no cost to you (although this may vary from state to state).

How can you get one or more related service for your child?

If you think that your child could benefit from any of the above services, he must be evaluated first. (In other posts, I discussed how to have your baby and toddler or child age 3 and older evaluated for free.) Once your child has been evaluated and you have met with the evaluator or team to discuss the results, they may recommend that your child receive one or more related service.  If so, the team will meet with you to create a document which will specify the services that your child will receive.  In my two prior posts, I explained these documents – the IFSP (for babies and toddlers) and the IEP (for children ages 3 and older). Remember, parents are active members of the team that creates the goals for your child!

How many kinds of related services can your child receive?

There is no cookie cutter formula that dictates what services a child may receive. The law requires that the interventions be individualized based on the child’s developmental delay or qualifying disability. Also, a child can receive related services if he is on a 504 plan (discussed in an upcoming post).

Where can you go for more information?

The CPIR website has a  complete discussion of related services which will answer a great many of your questions, including how related services are funded, how to get them for your child, who delivers the services, where they are held, etc. Also, Wrightslaw, has excellent information on this topic. It is a website created by experts Pam and Pete Wright that explains all of the laws you need to know to help your child. Definitely check it out.

Have questions?  Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Note: This post is part of the new weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It appears every Wednesday, and was started on January 16, 2013. Feel free to go back to look at prior posts as the series builds on itself. As always, we welcome your comments and input.

What is an IEP?

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

foldersAn IEP is short for “Individualized Education Program.” It is both a process and a written educational plan for a child with a disability. It is a document that lists all of the educational services that your child will receive, if he qualifies. In a prior post I told you all about the IFSP (for babies and toddlers). Well, the IEP is a similar document but it is for children ages 3 – 21.

The IEP is supposed to be just what it says – INDIVIDUALIZED, which means that it is specific for your child’s needs. It is not one size fits all. It is also supposed to be EDUCATIONAL, which means it should look at three main areas of your child’s life:  the general education curriculum, extracurricular activities and nonacademic activities. Lastly, it is a PROGRAM or PLAN, where all of the services your child will receive are laid out and detailed in writing.

In a sense, the IEP is like a roadmap. It shows you where you are now, where you plan to go, and the roads that you will take to get there. It sounds simple, but it is actually more challenging to write and put together than you might think. This post is just a quick overview to help you understand the basics.

Who gets an IEP?

In prior posts, I explained how to have your child (from birth to age 3 or ages 3 – 21) evaluated for free if you suspect that he has a developmental delay or problem. Once the team (evaluators, school officials and parents) has met and discussed the results of the testing, you will learn if your child is considered eligible for services (if he fits one or more of the categories of disability.) If your child is eligible, the team will develop an educational program (the IEP), that will be specific for your child’s needs.

What’s in an IEP?

The IEP may include special education, related services and/or supplementary aids and services. The IEP is first based on your child’s “present levels” which is a snapshot of your child’s current level of academic and functional performance. In other words…what he is able to do now as compared to his non-disabled peers. Then, based on his present levels and his delay or disability, the IEP sets measurable annual goals. The goals should specify:

• Who will provide the service (eg. the regular ed teacher, special ed teacher, reading specialist, physical therapist, etc.).
• What kind of service will be provided, such as curriculum modifications or adaptations, the types of related services or aids- (eg. specialized reading curriculum, speech therapy etc.).
• Where the service will be implemented (eg. the regular ed classroom, playground, counselor’s office, etc.).
• When parents will receive reports on how well your child is doing. By law, you need to receive progress reports at least as often as children without disabilities. Often a school system will send home the IEP progress reports when Report Cards are sent home for all children.
• When the goal will be achieved (eg. by the end of the marking period or by the end of the year).
• How the goal will be measured and how you will know the goal has been achieved (eg. a benchmark, such as a test score that shows if the goal has been reached).

An IEP is a living document that can be changed or updated by the IEP team, of which parents are members! It must be reviewed by the IEP team at least once a year, but it can be reviewed and updated more often if necessary.

Where can you get more help with IEPs?

A great place to go to understand your options, how to prepare for IEP meetings, and to understand the process of creating a great IEP is the Short and Sweet IEP Overview on the Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) website. In particular, they provide guidance on how an IEP team can write effective goals. Another great resource is Wrightslaw. They go into even greater detail which will help you with every aspect of the process.

Why should you learn about IEPs?

The more you know about the law and the special education process, the better you can help your child. Knowledge is powerful!  If your child has a delay or disability, be sure to check out CPIR’s and Wrightslaw’s information (above). It will help you understand the process to become a more effective advocate for your child and to feel more in control of your journey.

Have questions?  Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Note: This post is part of the new weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started on January 16, 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Feel free to go back to look at prior posts as the series builds on itself. As always, we welcome your comments and input.