School districts must comply with IDEA by ensuring that your child receives a “free and appropriate public education.” The Individualized Education Plan, or IEP is the cornerstone in the process that ensures your child receives FAPE. At its core, it is an individual plan that should be specifically tailored to meet the needs of your child and how they best learn. The school district will put together an “IEP team” generally made up of teachers and specialists that interact with your child at school, including therapists, administrators, and the homeroom teacher. These educators and other specialists, along with the parents, go through the process of forming an IEP.
Understanding how this process works and being an advocate throughout the formation of the IEP is extremely important. The IEP serves as the blueprint for the services and other accommodations that your child will receive. Unfortunately, the IEP formation process is complex and hard to understand. See Individualized Education: What Goes Into An IEP.
Crucial information from parents often comes late to the process, after it can do the most good. Please read the following article: Every Minute, Every Problem: Building a Better IEP, which describes my suggestions for how parents can provide timely information to the school district, including an Outline of Needs at the beginning of the IEP process