What is an IEP and how do I get one?

old school pencil sharpenerHaving worked with a wide array of special needs kids, as a psychologist I am aware that many parents are fairly in the dark about their child’s governmentally sanctioned promise to be educated and supported in accordance with their special need.

An “I.E.P.” is an acronym for an Individualized Education Plan, and a parent can, by law, ask a teacher or school administrator (verbally or in writing) to evaluate a given child to determine if that child is eligible for any extra help or support (Google IEP, see this blog’s link to IEP or visit http://tiny.cc/pBKVz).

The process, roughly, is that a parent (or a teacher, with parents’ consent) requests an evaluation, and an expert then meets with the child to evaluate them in terms of learning/cognitive functioning as well as social and emotional functioning.  Next, an IEP meeting is set where the “team” (parents, teachers, administrators, counselors, representative of the school district, etc.) meet to review the information and come up with the individualized educational plan.

Plans can range from no extra services needed, to pull-out support, to qualifying for an “NPS” (a non-public school) that the county would then pay for.  If your child is struggling in school, but you do not have the money to seek a private consultation, requesting an evaluation from your local school is a good first step.

Money is always an issue for a school district, and this is even more of an issue in the current economy.  Therefore it serves your child for you to be educated and informed about what the government is legally obligated to provide—and then for you to be the diplomatic, albeit squeaky, wheel of advocacy for your child. 

Given that many parents either do not know what an IEP is, or have heard of it but don’t really understand it, many kids flounder and suffer when they could be getting some extra help.

Also, many times we parents resist evaluating our children because we don’t want to stigmatize them, or because we ourselves are too pained at the idea of our kids being “different” in any way that we employ denial to avoid dealing with the situation.

And not a few therapists lack in “bed-side manner” when informing parents about “red flags,” learning differences or social-emotional concerns.  Sometimes this is due to clinicians being so seasoned that they forget what it feels like to be a parent first hearing about a concern regarding one’s child.  Perhaps even the clinician has a child with a special need and may unconsciously act-out the hurt they themselves have endured in the past.  No matter what the reasons, we parents need to surmount our fears and our resistance and address concerns early in our child’s life.

The main reason for this is that a small adjustment in direction early in a journey is the difference between going from New York to San Diego vs. Seattle.  Small interventions can often get a child on track, help keep self-esteem in place and prevent bigger problems later down the road.

We virtually all have some “issues,” and it serves to recognize that “learning differences” are just that, not better or worse, but different styles of learning (i.e. some kids’ best window for learning is their ears, some their eyes, others their fingers); a truly skilled teacher in learning differences knows how to get the info into the child in a manner that they can make use of it.  This is the only way that learning can proceed.

So, let’s dedicate today to compassionately and bravely supporting our kids, working to discover whatever might be in their way, and advocating for the best help available to guide and nourish them to be their best Selves, right along side us parents.

Namaste, Bruce

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2 Responses to “What is an IEP and how do I get one?”

  1. A. N. Says:

    As a parent of a child with special (needs) gifts it is wonderful to read such an insightful, right on blog on the issues involved, Thank you Bruce!

    Our job as a parent (of any child) is to have a sky- high hopes and to let go of any projected expectations. I know this sounds paradoxical, but if our child’s brain is not sending the eye muscle a message to open-the eyes are not going to open (as in the case of my daughter for the first three months of her life).
    I devoured all the available knowledge through books, internet, documentaries, professionals and in the process of learning came across the NACD.org, which is an alternative approach organization that teaches parents how to make neurological connections in the brain where there were none. It is all done through the set of numerous exercises that you do, with a certain freequency, intensity and the duration, many times a day one on one with your child.
    We also did yoga, energy healing, aromatherapy massages, cranial sacral therapy, music therapy and at the very beginning reflexology….mixed in with healing foods (she still orders salads at the restaurants and distastes sugar foods) and plenty of fresh air and fun in the water and the Sun. My opinion is that all the extensive growth and work we did together contributed to my daughter’s brilliance and where she is at right now (reading and doing math on her 2nd grade level and being equal with all her school pears. Part of the grand plan was to help her be very empowered and self confident young lady-which she is)… this is the hope part.
    Expectations, on the other hand, take us away from seeing who our child really is and away from allowing her spirit to guide us about how to give her support she truly needs: away from relating soul to soul and being present to the moment.

    Many times I came across volumes and peoples putting a limit on our “visionary, uncharted” ways of unfolding our child’s full potential just because the government or their 9-5 experience said so. This is where knowing the rules and going for everything that is out there available to you as a parent helps. It is there for you not to divide but to build the bridges where there are none so far. You will be surprised at how many people and institutionalized rules can change when you lovingly can show others what you are looking at.

    This may all sound like a lot of work (and it is if you see it that way), but if you see this special gift as an opportunity to grow “along side your child” (to quote Bruce) nothing is too much, it just is the way of life. The way of helping your child being more comfortable in her body while reaching her full potential. It is The way of removing the veil of an illusion of difference between us all.
    Let go and let love show you the way for your child and the gifts of your gratitude and moving and shaking are going to come back ten thousand times fold.

    For the first three years it was just us and it was hard at the beginning. Now we collaborate with a “small army” of therapists, shadow helpers and the middle people: a group that is working together on the same level of care and love towards the same goal – the betterment, integration and reaching full potential for my daughter and the community she is a part of. The IEP was a big part of this. When we have meetings around the round table at her schooI the name Knights of Light keeps popping to my mind…it takes the village to raise the child, but it takes a child to help change the consciousness of the world: One child at the time, your own child….and hopefully you will find a way to have fun in the process….

  2. krk Says:

    A big shout of BRAVO to A.N., and her daughter.
    Thank you for sharing, and to Bruce for the information another thank you
    peace and love to all

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