My Child Just Turned Three – What’s an IEP?
We have created a quick reference guide of explanations as well as tips outlining what you can expect as your child transitions to school-age services.
Individualized Education Plan
The Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is a legal document created under United States law that is developed for a child who is enrolled in public school and determined eligible for special education. This document outlines individualized goals for your child as well as identifies who will be considered a part of the child’s “team.” The team has a shared goal in supporting your child and their progress over their academic career, and they will support you every step of the way! The team includes you, as the parent/caregiver, teachers, and other district personnel that may be supporting your child. You can also invite a friend or advocate that can support and assist you in navigating the information discussed. Examples of district services that may be discussed and provided are: speech therapy, adaptive physical education, occupational therapy, behavioral supports, etc. This document is developed for each year of a child’s education, including any accommodations and modifications that your child might need to be successful in the classroom setting.
Six Months Before Turning Three
You will be contacted by the school district in which your family resides to begin initial assessments. These assessments will be conducted by various district personnel to determine your child’s eligibility for school-based services, beginning in preschool. These assessments may include parent/caregiver interviews and direct observation of your child’s skillsets. Each assessor will compile a report of their observations and findings prior to the official IEP meeting (explanation below).
Transition to School-Based Services
Prior to your child turning three, they were eligible for services under your local regional center or your family’s private insurance. All responsibility of services from the regional center is transitioned to your local school district as soon as your child turns three. You are likely still eligible to receive home-based services through private insurance. However, all school services will be determined by and provided through the IEP from this point forward throughout your child’s school career.
The IEP Meeting
The school district will contact you to confirm a date for your first IEP meeting. This meeting will include all personnel that were involved in the assessment process. They will present their reports and recommendations for what they believe your child will need to be successful in the school setting. This presentation will discuss goals for the upcoming year, placement into a preschool setting, and the supports that will be available to your child. Additionally, if services are recommended, they will review the number of minutes that your child is recommended to receive therapy and the frequency at which they should receive that therapy.
The IEP Schedule
IEP meetings are held annually throughout your child’s school career for as long as they are determined eligible to continue receiving the services. Every three years a triennial IEP meeting is held. The IEP team will once again complete the assessments and evaluate your child’s progress over the last three years.
Your Role in the IEP
You, as the parent/caregiver, are a crucial piece of the IEP team. It is important that you feel comfortable asking questions if you do not understand what is being said. You are encouraged to provide input if you do not agree with the goals or recommendations. You can request a translator for the meeting if that would be a beneficial support to you. You are your child’s biggest advocate, and the team is there to support both you and your child through this new process. The goal is to present you with a plan that you feel confident will assist in your child’s progress during the next school year.
The Role of the ABA Clinical Team
If you would like the support of the Behavior Analyst from your child’s home ABA services during the IEP meeting, please feel free to notify them of the IEP date and extend an invitation. While the Behavior Analyst will not be able to advocate for services or change goals, they are able to provide crucial information as to what your child has been working on at home and what has been successful for them. Private insurance refers to this support as ‘coordination of care’ and it is an essential part of your child’s progress. The more providers that collaborate to create a well-rounded and consistent plan for your child across all of their environments, the better. It is equally important for the Behavior Analyst to hear the goals that the IEP team has recommended to ensure that they are also targeting similar skills at home through the ABA program. If you do not feel it is necessary for your Behavior Analyst to attend the meeting, it is always recommended to show them the IEP goals and services once you have signed the IEP. You can also ask your Behavior Analyst general questions related to the IEP as most are well-versed in the IEP process.
The IEP team is invested in your child’s progress and will work together by communicating progress, making necessary adjustments, and collaborating throughout the year. While some parents report that the transition can be overwhelming, remember that you have a team by your side every step of the way.