Individualized Education Program
If the IEP team decides that your child is exceptional and in need of special education, the team writes the Individual Education Program (IEP). This plan will be written at a meeting and will include a description of all the programs and services necessary to help your child be successful. The IEP team uses information that is contained in the CER to write the IEP. As a parent, you are an important IEP team memmber. It is important that you attend these meetings. Meetings will be scheduled to fit in with your schedule and school officials' schedules. You will get a written notice of when, where, and why the meeting will be held and a list of the other people who are invited to attend. The minimum number of people at the IEP meeting should be four in almost all circumstances: you, the local education agency (LEA) representative, a special education teacher and a regular education teacher (if your child will participate in regular education). If you choose not to attend the IEP meeting, it may be held without you. Parents may also be included by telephone if it is impossible for them to attend the meeting in person. The IEP must be completed within 30 calendar days after the Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) issues its Comprehensive Evaluation Report (CER). The IEP must be put into action as soon as possible, but no later than 10 school days after the meeting is completed. Your child's program is reviewed every year at an IEP meeting or more often if requested by you or any other IEP team member. Additional multidisciplinary evaluations (reevaluations) are conducted at least every two years.
The IEP team will review all the evaluation material and will determine how your child is performing in school now. The IEP team will write annual goals and short term learning objectives that can be measured and which meet the needs of your child. Annual goals will describe what your child can be expected to learn during the year. Short term objectives are the sequential steps your child must take in order to reach these goals.
The IEP team will determine:
- The special education services and programs to be provided to your child which will be used to meet the individual needs of your child.
- Where, what kind of, how much and how often related services will be provided. For example, the IEP may say "individual speech therapy, 30-minute periods, three times per week, in the speech room.' Special transportation, which is different from the mode of transportation utilized by other children in the neighborhood, also falls under this category. For example, the IEP may say "a bus that will lift a wheelchair from the curb taking Jimmy from his home to school with a ride no longer than 30 minutes."
- The date services and programs will begin and how long they will last.
- The tests or other methods of evaluation that will be used to decide if the student is meeting the annual goals and learning objectives and how and when this progress will be reported to you. Progress must be reported at least as often as progress is reported for regular education students.
- How much, if any, the student will NOT participate in the regular class, or in the general education curriculum. When your child will be in settings with other special education students only. When your special education student will NOT be studying skills or knowledge that are directly linked to the skills and knowledge studied by the children in regular education.
- The adjustments in the regular education setting, if any, for your child to succeed in a regular education class. This could include, for example, giving the child untimed tests or having someone help the child take class notes.
The IEP team must consider the following when developing the plan:
- Your concerns
- Whether a child exhibits behavior that interferes with the child's learning or the learning of others and therefore needs a behavior management plan.
- The needs of children with limited English language skills
- The use of Braille for children with visual problems
- The communication needs of students, including students who are deaf or hard of hearing
- Whether the child needs assistive technology devices or services to communicate or participate in the activities which are going on around the child.
- Extended School Year- The team whether children need more than 180 days in order to receive a free appropriate public education or if interruptions in the school schedule, such as summer break, will result in children with disabilities losing many of their basic skills and taking a long time to get those skills back once school begins again. Extended School Year (ESY) services are to be provided during breaks in the educational schedule to prevent this loss as part of a free appropriate public education.
- Special or modified physical education (adaptive physical education) for children who cannot take part in regular physical education because of their disabilities.
- Enrichment activities for gifted students
As a parent, you are uniquely qualified to know your child's learning strengths and weaknesses. School professionals will utilize your knowledge in designing a special education program for your child's benefit. Your child may be exceptional if he/she: 1) Has a physical, sensory, mental or emotional disability or is mentally gifted and 2) Needs special education as determined by an Individualized Education Program (IEP) team. Your child must meet both qualifications in order to be deemed exceptional. In Pennsylvania, all exceptional children have the right to a free and appropriate public education.
If your child has met both the above criteria (a disability and a need for services exist), they may be referred for a special education evaluation, called a Multidisciplinary Evaluation (MDE). A Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) gathers the information necessary to design a program which will help your child make real progress. The MDE is a process to gather the information that will be used to find out if your child really does need special education and, if so, the types of services needed. Your child will probably be evaluated by a school psychologist. Other evaluations may include tests by a hearing specialist for a child with a hearing problem, or an evaluation from a doctor for a child with a health problem. The evaluation must also include input from a therapist if certain related services, such as physical or occupational therapy, may be needed.
A child may be referred for the first MDE in several ways: 1) You may ask your school to give your child an MDE at any time. This can be done by sending a letter to the principal of your child's school. 2) The school may also contact you to ask permission to have your child evaluated. You must consent in writing to your child's evaluation. School officials cannot proceed without your written permission unless they first request a hearing and get approval from an impartial hearing officer.
A reevaluation is conducted every two years. You must also give your permission for this. However, if the school district has made "reasonable attempts" to get your permission and has failed to get a response, it may proceed with the reevaluation. Such attempts may consist of: Telephone calls, Registered letters with return receipts required, and Visits to the home or parents' place of business. All evaluations needed to determine your child's exceptionality will be provided by your child's school district at no charge. If you child needs special education, special programs and related services will be provided free by your child's school district. Results of the evaluations will be made available for your review. Evaluations must take into account the child's English language skills and ethnic background so that the testing and evaluation will not be unfair for a child of a different race or culture. Evaluations must also take into account the child's disability to be sure the results are reliable. For example, a child with a severe visual impairment would not be given a written test with small print.
The MDE will gather information about your child's skills, social behavior, learning problems, learning strengths and educational needs. All multidisciplinary Evaluations and reevaluations must include a review of all testing and assessments that were conducted, information from the parents, classroom observations and the observations of teachers and related service personnel. The evaluation or reevaluation must also tell you what additions or changes are needed to help your child meet goals which will be described in your child's IEP, and to take part in and progress in the general curriculum (the skills and knowledge taught in a specific school district). The MDT reviews all materials and writes a report called the Comprehensive Evaluation Report (CER) that recommends whether your child has one or more disabilities or mental giftedness. It also recommends whether your child needs special education, and the type of programs and services your child needs. The CER may recommend that your child is not exceptional and therefore does not need special education services. If this is recommended, the report will list changes that may be made in the regular classroom to make the child more successful. The entire MDE process must be completed within 60 school days from the date you give permission to your school. The actual evaluation must be completed within 45 school days of your written request. The CER must be written within 10 school days after the MDE is completed. A copy of the report must be given to you and explained if you request it, within five school days. All members of the MDT, including parents, are entitled to see the CER. Next to your signature you will indicate whether or not you agree with the report. If you do not agree with the report, you have five school days to write your reasons for not agreeing, which is called writing a dissenting report. This dissenting report must be included as part of the final report. A typewritten copy of the final report must be given to you.