does your child have an IEP?
Navigating the world with a child who has disabilities is already challenging. Our job as parents is to help advocate for our children to get the supports they need to succeed. Schools are often a difficult path to navigate and understand what it means to provide a “free and appropriate” education for all. What would we be asking for our children? What are our options for accommodations or modifications on their IEP?
The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) mandates that each state provide free and appropriate education for all children, regardless of abilities and disabilities. IDEA requires that individual education plans (IEPs) be developed for students with disabilities who meet certain criteria. IEPs are made of multiple parts including the Accommodations and Modifications.
Special Education Process
A parent, student, or school staff may request an evaluation for special education. A request must be made in writing to the school district, and the district must complete a full and individual evaluation. No matter who asks for the evaluation, a parent must give permission in writing for a first time evaluation.
If the child qualifies, then the special education team made of teachers, parents, and sometimes even the student, comes together to write the IEP. They also may have to determine the correct placement of the child as some educational settings have to be more restrictive.
Once the IEP is written, the parent must agree to and sign the IEP and then services can start.
There are several components that make up an IEP.
- Present levels– A description of how the child is performing in school both academically and functionally.
- Annual Goals – The goals are what the team agrees your child will try to attain within a year.
- Special Education & Related Services – This describes what services your child will receive during the school day to help them accomplish their goals. This may include time with a Special Education teacher, a Speech teacher, Occupational Therapist, etc.
- School Day – This describes how much of the school day your child will be with their peers. Children with disabilities are with their peers for varying amounts based on what is best for your child and if they can receive the services they need.
- Assessments – Your school participates in local and national assessments and this section describes if and how your child will participate.
- Services & Modifications – This section should describe what, when, how and where these services and modifications will be provided.
- Progress – A plan should be in place for how they will measure the progress your child makes on their annual goals.
Accommodations and Modifications
Although it is important to understand all parts of the IEP, the difference between success and failure for students with disabilities often comes down to how effectively the curriculum is adapted to individual needs. Accommodations and modifications are the tools used by the IEP team to achieve that end. At the IEP meeting, parents work collaboratively with the district, but can make their own recommendations to make sure their child gets the services and support they need.
An accommodation changes HOW a student accesses information and demonstrates learning.
A modification changes WHAT a student is expected to learn.
How Does a Parent Know What To Ask For on the IEP?
If I can give you any advice, it is , “Do not hesitate to ask.” You may wonder if what you are asking for is to big or not possible. But in the end, you know your child and you understand them better than anyone else at that table. Now, you may not get exactly what you ask for, but that is why it is a collaboration. The school helps you navigate what is feasible and what is necessary to provide the appropriate amount of support.
You will understand your child as you see them at home, but the school understands your child at school, and they sometimes can be two very different things. For instance, at school a child may be able to sit and work independently on their homework, but at home, they may refuse to do it or be highly distracted. Therefore, the accommodation or modification may not be directly related to all of their work at school, but it could include something regarding homework. An example would be, “all work not completed at school will not be sent home as homework” or “homework assignments will be reduced by 50%”.
Accommodations and Modifications FOR AN IEP
Accommodations and Modifications can be general or they can be for very specific needs your child may have with their disability. Here are a few that you could request.
- Pencil grips
- Special paper
- Speech to text on a device
- Simplified text
- Read aloud text, text to speech
- Vocabulary lists
- Visual outlines
- Word banks provided
- Simplified word problems
- Breaks built into the day
- Reinforcement of positive behavior
- Space for movement
- Shortened assignments
- Preferential seating
- Untimed tests
- Modified grades
- More time to complete tasks
Remember that as a parent, you need to advocate for the needs of your child, and you may have strong teachers that will also advocate for your child and guide you through this process.
If you have more questions regarding your state’s process in Special Education, make sure to check out your state’s education department or you can also connect with a Parent Resource Center in your state. To find a center, check out this website and select your state. https://www.parentcenterhub.org/find-your-center/
If you want a larger list of accommodations and modifications, please get it here!