An Individualized Education Program (IEP) can sometimes be hard to understand. The best way to know that an IEP is properly tailored to your child’s needs is to stay involved. This can help ensure your child’s learning and development meets their individual needs.
What Are IEP Plans for Cerebral Palsy Patients?
An IEP is a written report of a learning curriculum designed to meet a child’s specific needs.
Children who receive special education services — such as those with cerebral palsy — may need an IEP.
Developing a strong IEP with families, teachers, and administrators is critically important to a child’s emotional and educational development. If done properly, an IEP can improve teaching, learning, and therefore, results.
How IEPs Are Developed
IEP plans are not simply created overnight. To make sure they are effective, a child’s needs will first be assessed. The plan will then be reviewed and modified over time.
10 steps are used to develop an IEP, according to the U.S. Department of Education:
- Step 1: Student with cerebral palsy is determined to need special education
- Step 2: Student’s needs and cerebral palsy symptoms are then evaluated
- Step 3: Parents and qualified professionals decide on eligibility
- Step 4: Child is found to be eligible for services
- Step 5: IEP meeting is scheduled
- Step 6: After IEP meeting is held, IEP plan is written
- Step 7: Services are provided
- Step 8: Progress is measured and results are given to parents
- Step 9: IEP is reviewed at least once per year
- Step 10: Student is reevaluated at least every three years
This process helps ensure that an IEP meets all of a child’s needs as they grow and learn.
Contents of an IEP Plan
IEPs must contain certain information by law.
This information includes:
- Current performance: Information on how the student is currently doing. This usually comes from classroom assignments, tests, and observations made by parents and teachers.
- Annual goals: Goals are set based on what the student can reasonably accomplish in a year. Goals must be measurable and may relate to academic, behavioral, social, physical, or other educational needs.
- Special education and related services: The IEP must contain details on special education and related services to be provided.
- Participation with nondisabled children: The IEP plan must explain any extent to which the student will not participate with nondisabled students.
- Participation in state and district-wide tests: The IEP must state the modifications the student will need. It must also state why tests are not appropriate and how the student will instead be tested.
- Dates and places: The plan must state when services will begin, how often and where they will be, and their duration.
- Transition service needs: When a student is 14, the IEP must address what courses are needed to reach post-school goals.
- Needed transition services: When the student is 16, the IEP must state what transition services will be needed to help the student prepare to leave school.
- Age of majority: A year before the student reaches the age of majority (age 18 in most states), the IEP must state that the family has been told any rights will transfer to the child. The rights can include a child’s decision to continue the IEP if they have not graduated by the time they come of age.
- Measuring progress: The IEP plan must include how the student’s progress will be measured and how parents will be notified of progress.
Parents should discuss the contents of an IEP with their child’s teachers if they have questions.
What if You Don’t Agree With an IEP Plan?
Parents may not always agree with what a school is recommending for the education of their child.
By law, parents can challenge decisions related to:
- Services provided
If a parent disagrees with the school’s choices, they should take action.
The following steps are suggested:
- Try to reach an agreement by talking with school officials about concerns
- Ask for mediation in which parents and the school meets with someone not involved to resolve any disputes
- Ask for a due process hearing in which an impartial officer decides how to solve the problem
- File a complaint by writing directly to the State Education Agency
Hopefully, disputes can be resolved by working with school officials so a child with cerebral palsy can get the education they deserve.
IEP vs. 504 Plans
An IEP plan is just one type of birth injury special education program. Another important education program for children with cerebral palsy is a 504 plan.
The main difference between IEPs and 504 plans is that the 504 plan modifies the student’s regular education program.
504 plans are monitored by classroom teachers, whereas in an IEP, students may receive different educational services in a special setting. IEP programs are monitored by additional school support staff.
Students with IEPs also receive the extra protections and services offered by 504 plans. Students with IEP plans might also benefit from a 504 plan if they’re moving from a special education setting into a regular classroom.
Being Active in Your Child’s IEP
If your child has cerebral palsy, you will be a key member of their IEP team. You choose where your child will be educated and you will know your child better than their teachers.
Thus, to make sure your child’s IEP meets their needs, it is critical to stay active.
To stay active, you can:
- Be vocal on how your child learns and what their interests are
- Listen to what other IEP team members think your child needs
- Offer ideas on how to enhance your child’s education
- Provide insight on your child’s strengths and needs
- Report on whether the skills they learn are being used at home
Although the IEP process is complex, it has been found to effectively address how other students with cerebral palsy learn and function. However, if you have concerns, it is extremely important to ask questions and resolve any issues as they come up.