How to get an IEP
What should I do if I think my child might benefit from an IEP?
The first step in pursuing an IEP is to request an evaluation to see if your child would be eligible for special education services. Teachers, support staff, or parents are all able to request an evaluation for special education services.
If you want your child evaluated, request an evaluation in writing. If you are able to use email, this is the best method, because you will then have evidence of when you requested the evaluation.
If you are making your request using pen and paper, sign and date the request and ask the school to make a copy of the request for your records. It is usually best to submit this request to the school psychologist or one of the principals/assistant principals since these staff are often more familiar with the special education evaluation process. However, if there is a teacher that you trust you can also submit this request to them.
You can find the standardized forms here that the school should be utilizing in this process (forms IE-1, IE-2, IE-3, and ED-1).
Once a special education evaluation has been requested, the school district has 15 days to “respond to your request” in writing (see form IE-1). During this time, the district should convene a team meeting to review existing evaluation data (REED meeting), which includes information like progress reports/grades, behavioral data, and disciplinary records that already exist in your child’s school record.
Parents and caregivers should receive written notification of the meeting and be invited to participate in the decisions made at this meeting (see form ED-1). In fact, if this meeting is held without the parent/caregiver, the ED-1 form must document at least three attempts made to reach you and invite you to the meeting.
There are two possible outcomes of the REED meeting (which must be convened within the 15 days) - the decision can be made that there is already sufficient information available to decide whether or not a student is eligible for an IEP (see form IE-2) OR the decision can be made that additional testing is needed to make the eligibility determination (see form IE-3). Parents or caregivers can also request additional evaluations and all requests must be considered and decided on by the team.
If determination is that additional testing is needed:
If it is decided that additional evaluation is needed to determine if your child is eligible for an IEP, then they should ask you to sign for IE-3. This form should give a list of the methods, evaluations or assessments that the school will be using to assess your child, which can include things like classroom observation, formalized testing by the school psychologist, occupational therapist, speech and language therapist, or special education teacher, as well as questionnaires to be filled out by you, your child’s teachers, and/or your child.
If you have questions about any of the assessment methods you see listed, school staff should be able and willing to answer these for you. Make sure that you know all the evaluations and assessments prior to giving written consent to the district.
Scheduling a meeting
Once you have signed the consent for additional evaluation, the school district has 60 days to complete their assessments and convene an IEP meeting to review the results of all the data to determine eligibility. The school MUST invite you to attend this meeting.
Additionally, the school should be flexible with you and offer you several days and times in order to accommodate your schedule (although it is rare for school staff to agree to hold meetings later than 4:30 or 5pm). You are always allowed to bring someone with you to support you at this and all IEP meetings. If you feel comfortable, simply let the school know the names of anyone accompanying you ahead of time so things run smoothly the day of (the school will likely need to have releases of information signed so that they are able to talk about your child in front of your support person).
At this IEP team meeting, the goal will be to review the data collected and then compare the results to the relevant eligibility categories to see if your child meets the criteria for any of them. If there are any eligibility categories that you think might apply that are not reviewed during the meeting, you can bring those up and ask that they also be considered. You can look at the checklists that are linked above to get an idea of which criteria your child may meet.
In order for your child to be found eligible for an IEP, they must be found eligible under one of the eleven categories AND be found to need specialized instruction in order to make progress. Specialized instruction means being taught different material and this is where it can be easy to get hung up - if your child is already making progress in school without an IEP, the school district might push back on finding them eligible.
If, at this point, the school district tells you that your child is not eligible for special education, it is a good idea to discuss a 504 accommodation plan. If the IEP team determines that your child is eligible for an IEP, the IEP team (which includes you) has 30 days to create your child’s IEP, and decide on your child’s placement. Waiting 30 days is not required - if the team agrees, then the initial IEP can be developed in the meeting in which eligibility is determined.