The Individualized Education Program: IEP
The IEP, or Individualized Education Program, is a tool used by educators to keep track of your child's progress through their disability. The process involves a lot of people, but is there for one purpose: to help your child get as close to mainstreaming as possible, and keep them educated with their peers. But the process can seem a little scary, or perhaps a bit intimidating, and a lot of parents seem to feel lost when they meet for their IEP with their team.
An IEP is generally generated after the school system has evaluated your child and determined there is a significant learning disability of some sort. Autism falls in that category, as does any kind of hearing, sight, speech, or developmental delay. Once the team has determined a disability or delay is obvious, they look for reasons behind it. It should be noted that language barriers or "bad teachers" are not reasons for an IEP, just actual disabilities that impair a child's ability to learn.
It should also be noted that the IEP process is different with each State, though just about every State Board of Education has the IEP process, and it should cover just about all the same services. If you have any questions regarding your specific State's IEP process, contact your school district's Special Education office. They can give you all the details you need.
Once you have a confirmed reason for an IEP, the process starts. At this point it doesn't matter what the school's determination is for the reason, because the IEP is not standard for each "diagnosis". Rather, it's designed to be customized to the needs of the child, as determined by the IEP team.
So who is this team I keep talking about? First and foremost, it is you as a parent, and your child. In addition, your child's Special Education teacher should be present, a representative from the school's Administration team (principal or delegated representative), any General Education teachers involved in your child's education (including any that advise but don't teach directly), and someone that interprets any evaluations given the child (generally a school psychologist).Continued on the next page