With a brand-new school year just a few weeks away, it is important that parents are setting up their kids for a successful year. Sometimes this may include an Individual Education Plan (IEP). An IEP helps kids with disabilities learn on an even playing field with their peers. Without IEPs, some students with disabilities may feel overwhelmed and become discouraged. If you are the parent of a kid with a disability, it is important for you to understand what an IEP is so that you can be actively involved in the creation process.
Who needs an IEP?
Students need IEPs if they:
- Are identified as exceptional by the Identification, Placement, and Review Committee (IPRC)
- Need accommodations, program modifications, and/or alternative programs, but have not been identified as exceptional by an IPRC
What is an IEP?
The goal of an IEP is to make learning accessible for kids with disabilities. It is a written plan that the IEP team writes. The IEP team includes many people, such as:
- Students, if they are 16 years of age or older
Parents and students have a say in what is in the IEP. Parents review the IEP three times per school year. The Learning Support Teachers (LSTs) handle explaining changes to parents. Parents and IEP team members work together because they share a goal of making learning accessible for kids with disabilities. As well, if students are able to have input in the IEP, they should contribute.
An IEP covers important information, such as:
- A listing of all assessments to date from various healthcare providers
- Student strengths and needs
- Program options: accommodations, modified expectations, or alternative expectations
- Program goals and learning expectations
- List of assistive equipment, such as Braille writers or amplification systems
These are only a few of the many sections included in an IEP. If you are a parent of a child with a disability considering an IEP, be prepared to contribute to the creation of these sections.
IEPs in the Classroom
Teachers have the task of managing IEPs in the classroom. Furthermore, some classroom teachers have several students on IEPs. Since a teacher manages each different IEP, they become skilled at using strategies that accommodate many different learners.
However, teachers do not have much choice in following IEPs. If an IEP is put in place, teachers must follow it. Teachers may find it difficult to manage multiple students’ accommodations if they seem to be competing. For example, one student’s assistive tech serves as a distraction for a student with a reduced stimuli accommodation. That said, if teachers are having a hard time, LSTs may offer extra classroom support through modeling or accommodation revision.
Teachers play a dual role in managing IEPs. They ensure that accommodations are being followed, and they also provide feedback about how accommodations are working. Teachers are instrumental in ensuring that accommodations are carried out in the classroom.
How IEPs help Students with Disabilities
IEPs help ensure that everyone in the classroom is learning. Indeed, one of the ways that IEPs help is by building the confidence of students on the plans. Kids know when they aren’t keeping up with the class. As a result, they may feel discouraged and not put effort into their learning. If so, it is difficult to get them back. However, an IEP can help kids see that they are capable. When they see their own success, they become more open to learning.
By making lessons accessible for students, teachers enable students to focus on their learning.
We should keep in mind that education is a human right. So, it needs to be accessible to everybody. No kid should face barriers to learning.