When it comes to a child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), there are no shortcuts, easy answers, or one-size-fits-all solutions. Each program is as unique as the individual for which it’s designed. A new school year can be a time of uncertainty and anxiety for parents of students with developmental and other disabilities, and now that students have settled into their routines, it’s a good time for parents to determine if their child’s IEP is meeting his or her needs.
Raising Special Kids (RSK), a non-profit organization that supports families of children with disabilities, works closely with members of the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) and the Arizona Department of Education to help families navigate the IEP process. Christopher Tiffany, Director of Family Support and Education at RSK says parents can do a quick assessment using these important questions:
- Do I have an understanding of what my child is doing throughout his or her school day?
- Am I confident that the best techniques are being applied so my child is learning at school, every day?
- Do I have open and free communication with my child’s teacher and or the school?
Tiffany says if parents cannot answer “yes” to those questions, it is more than likely time to review the IEP or have a conversation with the child’s school. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensures every child, no matter his or her disability, is entitled to a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE). According to the Arizona Department of Education (ADE), more than 132-thousand students are receiving special education under IDEA. An IEP can be critical to their success in the public school system.
IEPs are designed to meet the unique challenges of eligible students. The program spells out services that will be provided, how often, and for how long. Goals for the services are also identified in the IEP, as well as the setting in which the services will occur.
“While special education teams are trained to do a thorough assessment of a child’s individual needs, no one is better equipped to articulate those needs than the child and or the parents,” said Dr. Laura Love, Assistant Director of DDD. Love says it’s important for parents and their children to learn how to self-advocate in the IEP process.
Raising Special Kids can help by providing peer-to-peer support, education about the IEP process, and linking individuals to community resources. For more information on this organization, visit http://www.raisingspecialkids.org/resources/education-iep/.
By Vielka Atherton