Navigating the IEP Process for Struggling Students
The law surrounds us. Even though my job involves injury claims and estate planning, knowing about other areas of the law helped my family protect my son.
Navigating IEPs: Our Story
My second son was diagnosed with autism when he was a toddler. We had suspected something was wrong from the beginning. When his mom entered the room, he would never track her with his eyes. This was so different from my first son, that we were scared that He might be blind. As he grew older, he fell far behind on typical developmental milestones like talking and interacting with others. That led to his diagnosis at Lurie’s Children’s Hospital.
Because of his autism, we had to learn to advocate in the public school system.
He began school in a special “early childhood” program. When it was time to enter kindergarten, we were worried. The school wanted to “mainstream” him in a regular kindergarten classroom. We were not sure because we did not know what he could handle. We got help from a friend, who suggested we have him evaluated at a nearby autism center.
At his IEP meeting, we brought the expert who evaluated my son. In the end, we compromised and agreed to have him enter a regular kindergarten class, but with a lot of extra support. The expert was there to help specify what supports he would need.
If you have a child with special need
s, ask about an IEP. It can help your family protect your child.
Before you can qualify, your child must be diagnosed with a disability — including autism, or other intellectual, learning, speech, emotional or behavior disabilities or developmental delays.
An IEP is a contract between the school and your family. It says what the school must do to help your child succeed. If the school doesn’t follow the IEP, you can take legal action.
What Circumstances Would Lead a Parent to Seek an IEP?
There are many circumstances that might lead you to seek an IEP for their child. Some common reasons include:
Your child struggles academically, even with extra help from their teacher.
He has difficulty paying attention or following instructions in class.
He has behavior problems that interfere with his own learning or the learning of others.
He has a diagnosed disability (like autism) that affects his ability to learn.
You or your child’s teachers are concerned about his development.
Benefits of an IEP
An IEP provides benefits including:
- A personalized education plan that is tailored to your child’s individual needs.
- Access to specialized services and supports, such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, or assistive technology.
- A team of people who are working together to help your child succeed.
- A legally binding document that ensures that the school is providing your child with the services they need.
If you are concerned that your child may need an IEP, the first step is to talk to their teacher. The teacher can assess your child’s needs and discuss your options with you. If you decide to pursue an IEP, the school will need to c
onduct an evaluation to determine if your child is eligible.
If your child is eligible, a team of people will be formed to develop the plan. This team will include you, your child’s teachers, and other specialists. The team will work together to identify your child’s present levels of performance, set goals for the year, and determine the services and supports that your child needs.
IEPs: It’s All About Helping Your Child
An IEP can be a valuable tool for helping children with special needs succeed in school.
If you are concerned that your child may need an IEP, talk to their teacher. They can help you get the process started.
As for my family, my second son is now sixteen years old. He is in high school. He is doing fine because of all the early intervention we received. We are forever grateful that we advocated for him when he was a toddler to set him up for the best chance possible to succeed.
Although education law is not my area of practice, if you ever need help, please do not hesitate to contact me at my office because I know very good lawyers in Lake County.
Bob Monahan has been helping people for 25 years. He can be reached at (847) 848-6165. His office is in Gurnee.