By Kristin Stanberry
Federal law defines what an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is, but the details can be tricky. Myths and false assumptions about IEPs abound. Here are five common misconceptions—and the facts about each.
Fact: To qualify for special education services (and an IEP), a student must meet two criteria. First, he must be formally diagnosed as having a disability as defined under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This federal law covers 13 categories of disability, one of which is “specific learning disabilities.” Second, the school must determine that a student needs special education services in order to make progress in school and learn the general education curriculum. Not all students with disabilities meet both criteria. Learn more about the process of getting an IEP with our IEP Roadmap.
Fact: The IEP is a legal contract, so the school is required to provide the services and supports it promises for your child. But teachers and administrators are busy—and human—so sometimes details are overlooked or forgotten. Part of your role as your child’s advocate is to make sure he’s getting the services and accommodations outlined in his IEP. Monitor his schoolwork, test scores and attitude toward school. If things seem off track, meet with his teacher to discuss the situation. Explore other ways you can assess whether your child’s IEP is being followed.
Fact: The IEP (and the services it guarantees) will end when the student graduates from high school. Special education doesn’t extend to college or the workplace. The IEP team is required to work with the student to create a transition plan as part of his IEP. This plan will focus on the student’s future goals and help him prepare for young adulthood.
Fact: Federal law requires that children with IEPs be placed in the least restrictive environment. This means students should spend as little time as possible outside the general education classroom. The IEP may specify services and accommodations your child needs to succeed in the general education class. If students spend time in a “resource room” or special education class, that will be listed in the IEP.
Fact: According to federal law (IDEA), parents are full and equal members of their child’s IEP team. This means that you have a say in how your child’s IEP is crafted. Even if you’re not an expert on special education, you are an expert when it comes to understanding your child’s needs! Your intimate knowledge of your child’s development, strengths and challenges, home life and activities outside of school are extremely valuable for developing the IEP.
Preparation is the key to being an effective, confident advocate at your child’s IEP meetings. Here are five important things to do before an IEP meeting.
Being a member of the IEP team requires confidence, collaboration and a commitment to your child. Here are five important ways to advocate for your child during an IEP meeting.
Kristin Stanberry is a writer and editor specializing in parenting, education and consumer health/wellness.
IEP Terms to Know
The Process of Getting Your Child an IEP
Download: IEP Goal Tracker
5 Important Things to Do After an IEP Meeting
At a Glance: Who’s on the IEP Team
Download: Parent-School Communication Log for Your IEP Binder
Learn how she found her talent and took it all the way to an Olympic gold.
When your child goes off to college, will her accommodations from high school go with her?
Dr. Sheldon Cooper struggles with social skills—just like this mom’s son.
Jan 18th at 12:00 pm
Sign up for weekly emails with helpful resources for you and your family.
This email is already subscribed to Understood newsletters. If you haven't been receiving anything, add firstname.lastname@example.org to your safe-senders list.
Name must have no more than 50 characters. Email address must be valid. Email message must have no more than 140 characters and cannot include the < > / \ special characters. Please fill out all fields to send a message.
Don’t worry—we saved what you wrote.
Sign up to get personalized recommendations and connect with parents and experts in our community.
Only members can view and participate in conversations.
Child’s nickname is private and only you can see it.