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The “I” in IEP

Have you ever heard someone from the school say, “for kids like yours, we offer this”? Or have you ever heard “we don’t do that here”?

The “I” in IEP stands for individualized. The definition of individualized is something tailored to one person. In this case, the education plan is tailored to your child. This becomes extremely important in IEPs (individualized education plans) because this plan should be tailored to your child’s needs, not to what the school offers.

Let me give you an example of what I am talking about in this post. Let’s say that your child was newly diagnosed on the autism spectrum. You provide that evaluation to the school and a meeting is scheduled to discuss the findings. Your child does well in school, but they have some social issues and stim when anxious. At the meeting, the school representative says that because your child is on the spectrum, “we have an autism classroom.”

First, the federal law called Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states that a child should be placed with the least restrictive environment and remain in the regular classroom if possible. Perhaps a classroom of other children on the spectrum is adequate for some children, and may be appropriate for your child as well, but that necessarily should not be a starting place. Your child does well in school, completes homework, and performs well on tests. Your child has friends, even though your child does not always pick up on the social cues. The teachers love having your child in their classrooms and only have nice things to say about them. So, why would we remove your child from general education and place them into classroom of a few students based solely on a diagnosis?

When you object to this placement and ask that she remain in general education with a paraprofessional or an IEP with supports, the school may say, “we don’t do that here.” Well, the federal IDEA states that you do because you receive federal funding. (Now if this was a private school, then that’s a different conversation.)

My hope would be that you never hear these statements from schools. The proper approach would be for the school to evaluate your child and consider the private evaluation. After the evaluation is completed, a team of individuals who knows your child, including you as parents, would meet to discuss what your child needs to have meaningful progress for independent living, further education, and employment.

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