Individualized Education Programs
Need Assistance with Your Child’s IEP? We Can Help
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which was signed into law in 1990, requires all American public schools to provide children with disabilities a Free Appropriate Public Education or FAPE. One essential tool for achieving this is an Individualized Education Program. An IEP is a legally binding blueprint detailing precisely what special education services a disabled child will receive, and why.
If you feel your child is in need of special education and an IEP, it’s a good idea to speak with an experienced Los Angeles special education lawyer. At Woodsmall Law Group, we believe every child has a right to thrive, regardless of any disability. Our firm exclusively practices special needs law, and would love to represent you and your child. For a free consultation, call our Pasadena office at (626) 440-0028.
Who Qualifies for an IEP?
Not every child with a learning or attention issue is eligible for an IEP. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act lists the following 13 disabilities as qualifying for an IEP:
- Specific Learning Disability: This is an umbrella term for conditions that affect a child’s ability to read, write, listen, speak, reason, or do math. Dyslexia, dysgraphia (impaired writing ability), and dyscalculia (impaired mathematical ability) fall under this category.
- Other Health Impairment: Another umbrella term that covers conditions that limit a child’s energy, alertness, or strength. ADD and ADHD fall under this category.
- Autism Spectrum Disorder: This category mainly covers a child’s behavior, and social and communication skills.
- Emotional Disturbance: This category covers such disorders as anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression.
- Speech or Language Impairment: Includes stuttering, impaired articulation, and voice impairment.
- Visual Impairment: This includes both partial and total blindness. Vision problems that can be corrected by eyewear do not qualify.
- Deafness: The complete inability to hear.
- Hearing Impairment: This category covers any type of hearing impairment not covered by deafness.
- Deaf-Blindness: This covers children with both hearing and visual impairment whose needs cannot be met by learning programs for the deaf and blind.
- Orthopedic Impairment: This includes any impairment to a child’s body, such as cerebral palsy.
- Intellectual Disability: This category covers children with below average intellectual ability, self-care, or social skills. Down syndrome falls under this category.
- Traumatic Brain Injury: Any brain injury caused by an accident or physical force.
- Multiple Disabilities: Having more than one of the conditions listed above, which creates educational needs that cannot be met by a program designed for a specific condition.
How an IEP Can Help Your Child
Every child has unique needs, and an IEP is designed to meet those needs. While it may seem like a simple document, an IEP is an invaluable tool that can protect your child’s right to an education. Under both state and federal laws, your child’s school district must abide by the services and supports outlined in the IEP. The services and supports can take several forms, from accommodations to help your child with reading lessons to related services that help them understand class materials in a better context.
Although each IEP is different, it can grant your child access to:
- Additional time on tests
- Receiving instructions in multiple formats
- Audio recordings, visual aids, and other alternatives to reading materials
- Written and textual materials in larger print
- Lesson outlines
- Written lists of instructions
- Alternative settings for instructions, such as a quieter room
- Occupational therapy
- Physical therapy
- Psychological services
- Speech-language therapy
- One-to-one aides
- Assistive technology
The goal of an IEP is to ensure your child has the same access to an education as any other child, no matter what impairment he or she has. This comes with certain legal protections, including the right to a due process hearing if a school district attempts to deny your child certain services outlined in an IEP. The IEP also grants your child a right to an evaluation so that you and other members of your child’s IEP team can make informed decisions about his or her education.
Designing an IEP
If you feel your child could benefit from an IEP, you should speak to your school district about scheduling an evaluation. An evaluation can be conducted by certified and experienced therapists who will determine if your child needs any assistance in school. The evaluator may review your child’s school records, speak to his or her teachers, observe your child’s interactions in school, and conduct standardized tests to determine your child’s strengths and weaknesses.
After the evaluation, the school district will schedule an eligibility meeting with you to determine if the evaluation shows that your child needs an IEP and accommodations based on the criteria outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. If you disagree with the evaluation, you do have the right to request an independent evaluation, which the school district must pay for in California. In addition, if you disagree with the school district’s ruling in the eligibility hearing, you can also file for a due process hearing, but you should speak to an attorney first.
However, if you and the school district agree that an IEP is the best option, you will begin the process of drafting the IEP with an IEP team. Together, you will work with your child’s IEP team to develop a thorough education plan for your child that must regularly be reviewed by the team, typically once a year, if not more. This committee must include the following:
- The child’s parents
- A representative of the school district who has the power to commit school resources for the child and is knowledgeable about both regular and special education
- At least one of the child’s regular teachers
- At least one of the child’s special education teachers
- A school psychologist or other specialist who can interpret the child’s most recent evaluation and test results
- Any other specialist who has particular knowledge about the child’s condition, such as a neurologist or psychiatrist who has treated the child
- Representatives of any other parties or agencies involved in paying or providing for the child’s special education
- In some cases, the child (this is usually only the case with older children)
IEPs vs. 504 Plans
Another way a parent can advocate for a disabled child’s education is with a 504 plan. 504 plans are similar to IEPs in that they outline specific accommodations to help a child receive an education, such as giving him or her more time on a test, allowing him or her to take a test in a quieter room, or alternative learning methods. 504 plans are available to any child with a disability, whereas an IEP is limited to the 13 criteria outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
However, while a 504 plan may help your child succeed in school, it is not as thorough as an IEP. IEP plans are designed specifically for each child’s unique needs and can provide related services as part of a special education. 504 plans, by contrast, are much broader in scope and may only provide certain accommodations.
That is not to say that a 504 plan should be ignored. If your child is not eligible for an IEP but a 504 plan is an option, it may prove useful in ensuring your child receives proper and fair treatment during his or her education.
How an Attorney Can Help With an IEP Dispute
The process of obtaining an IEP for your child can be intimidating and overwhelming, and requires knowledge of IDEA that most parents don’t possess. But an experienced special education attorney can provide strong advocacy throughout the entire process. In addition to explaining your rights, we can also represent you in a due process hearing and work to ensure your child receives the educational services and supports he or she needs. If the school district ever tries to deny your child’s rights during an IEP, then you will want to have a knowledgeable lawyer by your side.
Our Los Angeles special education attorneys at Woodsmall Law Group consider it a mission to represent special needs children and their families. If you’re concerned that your child is not getting his or her educational needs met, please give us a call at (626) 440-0028 today.
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