IEP and Keeping the Process Moving Forward
The Individualized Education Program, also known as the IEP, is a document that is developed for each public school child who needs special education. As a parent of a special needs child it’s important to be aware of the timelines in play especially when it comes to testing and getting help for your son or daughter. Below is a rough outline to keep in mind as you begin to consider additional services for your child. This timeline is set primarily by Federal laws but State laws also come into play. School districts are working hard to get your child the services he or she needs but there are the realities of budgetary and personnel limitations that impact your child’s ability to get help in a timely manner. The key is to be aware of those realities and to work with your school to keep everything moving forward.
Request for Testing
As a parent, you are able to request testing for your child to determine if he or she qualifies for services. If a parent requests testing, a meeting must be held within 15 days to address the request. So be sure to get the ball rolling by requesting testing early if you think there may be a need.
Determine Need for Testing
After the initial meeting, if it’s determined that your loved one should be tested, then an assessment plan is signed and the 60 day testing window begins. During this time, various evaluations are performed to determine whether the student qualifies. In most situations, the 60 days for this testing window is needed by school districts to conduct a thorough evaluation.
Prerequisite for Testing: Classroom Intervention Attempted
Keep in mind that before your child can qualify for testing or special services, the classroom teacher must demonstrate that all reasonable interventions have been tried. This can be (and often is) a long process. So it is important to maintain a dialogue with your child’s teacher to monitor progress towards his/her goals and to continually assess if special services testing may help. In many cases, initial interventions may help the child improve to the point where special services end up not being necessary.
Follow Up Meeting (IEP Meeting)
Thereafter, a follow-up meeting is held to present the findings of the testing to the parent. This meeting must take place within 60 days of the assessment plan signature date. If it is determined that a child qualifies for special services, then the services can start immediately. 90 days can quickly pass as part of this process, so keep the momentum going by being up to date with your calendar
60 Day Testing Window
One tough reality with the 60-day testing window is that the special education departments can’t agree to do testing the last 60 days of school. They need all 60 days to complete testing and they can’t hold IEP meetings in the summer. So plan ahead with enough time for the school to do their part.
One Major Factor
One major additional factor: The first month of the school year (September) can be the special education department’s busiest time of year. Your family will have to work diligently to get on their radar as they are managing an existing caseload. They are also on boarding incoming cases from kids transferring into the district along with handling new requests. This tremendous load placed on the special education department in your district at the beginning of the year is something to be aware of and sensitive to when going through this process.