Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) can seem daunting, especially to a parent who might not have any prior knowledge of what they are or how they work. Because of this, IEPs and school services may seem intimidating. Here are some answers to commonly asked questions about IEPs:

What is the purpose of an IEP?

An IEP is created when a child’s disability is impacting their ability to access the curriculum, or meet their academic potential.  It is put in place to ensure that your child is receiving the services he or she needs in order to be a successful student. Only staff on your child’s IEP team will be aware of the information in the IEP.

Who determines if my child’s disability is having an academic impact?

The IEP team as a whole makes this decision, using the guidelines outlined by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI). You can find these eligibility worksheets on their website at this link. The whole team must be in agreement that a box should or should not be checked.  Through completion of the worksheet, the team will have determined if the student meets the DPI’s eligibility requirements to receive special education services.

Who is a part of my child’s IEP team?

YOU are a member of the team! As a parent, you know your child best and can be your child’s strongest advocate. An IEP team can be such a powerful force for your child when everyone on the team comes together to support and encourage each other. You bring a wealth of knowledge about your child and their development, and the rest of the team also brings specialty information on how to best support your child. It is within your right as a parent to bring any outside counsel to the meeting, with prior notice. This may include other therapists (ABA, occupational therapist, speech-language pathologist) your child is seeing. If you decide to bring outside counsel to the meeting, you should provide advance notice to the IEP team case manager.

Your child is also a member of the IEP team! Depending on your child’s age, they may also be present for the meeting.

• LEA – is a person who represents the Local Education Agency (LEA). They must be present at every IEP meeting. An LEA ensures that what the IEP team is offering is within the boundaries of free and appropriate public education and within the student’s least restrictive environment (LRE). An LEA is typically a staff member at the school such as the principal or school psychologist. For additional information on LEAs, please visit the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s website.

• Your child’s general education (classroom) teacher will also be a part of the team, and depending on the areas of concerns the following additional staff may be included on the team: special education teacher, reading interventionist, school psychologist, speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, and/or deaf and hard of hearing specialist.

How often is an IEP meeting held?

An IEP meeting is held once every school year, prior to the expiration date of the previous year’s IEP. An IEP is a legal document that is valid for one year from the date of implementation. Any team member may request to meet with the rest of the team at any point during the school year. As a speech-language pathologist, I may ask to hold a meeting prior to the expiration date for several reasons, some of which include:
• If the student has met their goals
• If I want to recommend that the duration, frequency, or location of services be changed in order to continue to adhere to LRE.

As a parent, you may wish to hold a meeting to discuss:

Start by reaching out to your child’s classroom teacher. Share your concerns, and let her know what you are looking for. For example, if you have questions or concerns about reading, articulation, and fine motor, it is easiest to ask for an evaluation of all 3 at the same time.

How do I get things started with my child’s school? Here’s a timeline!

  • Start by reaching out to your child’s classroom teacher. Share your concerns, and let her know what you are looking for. For example, if you have questions or concerns about reading, articulation, and fine motor, it is easiest to ask for an evaluation of all 3 at the same time.
  • Once the school receives your written referral, the team involved has 15 business days to determine if additional assessments are needed to make an eligibility determination.
  • If the team determines additional information is needed, the team will need parental (your) permission to initiate an evaluation. The team will discuss the areas of concern and the evaluations that are needed.
  • Once parental consent is received the team has 60 days to complete an evaluation and hold an eligibility determination meeting. At this meeting the team will review their findings and discuss if the child meets criteria to qualify for special education services.
  • After the evaluation meeting, if the student qualifies for special education services, the team will then create an IEP. The team has 30 days to create an IEP, hold an IEP meeting, and initiate services.
  • Be patient – As you can see, the whole process from start to finish can potentially take up to 3-4 months.

CI’s role in IEPs

  • It is important to share an IEP with your child’s therapists at CI to ensure cohesive collaboration. An increase in carry-over and generalization of skills generally occurs when everyone in the child’s life is on the same page and implementing the same strategies!
  • You can also share your child’s CI Plan of Care (POC) with the IEP team. Although the school may not be working on the same exact goals and skill areas (since the goals must directly relate to academics in the schools), it can be important to provide a holistic view of what is happening when the child is not at school.
  • CI can also support you and your child by attending the IEP meeting.

Navigating the world of school based services and IEPs can sometimes feel overwhelming. It is helpful to remember that everyone has your child’s best interest in mind and wants your child to reach their full potential. Still have questions? The DPI has more information on IEPs on their website.

Alyson Rogers, MS, CCC-SLP