A Guide to the Steps of the IEP Process

iep process

There are normally seven unique steps for the Individualized Education Program, or IEP process. This process is vital, as it is required for children in public schools to receive special education.

Mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), all public schools are required to develop an IEP for each child with special needs. This is effective for children aged three through high school academia.

The IEP process steps may vary, however, depending on the school district the child is in and the needs of the child. IEP remains one of the most essential elements in ensuring all children with special needs get the highest education opportunities available.

The following are seven steps to the IEP process for children with special needs.

Step 1. Pre-Referral to IEP Process

The pre-referral in the IEP process is the foundational step that begins to match a child’s disabilities with potential interventions. This is important, as it is the groundwork for the child’s education path moving forward.

What are the main objectives of the pre-referral IEP process?

  • First, the child is evaluated to determine the challenges he or she may have.
  • Next, an evaluation is made on the educational changes made.
  • There is then a review of the educational interventions.
  • Lastly, the development of the child is observed with interventions in place.

One of the main objectives in the pre-referral step is to find out if the child with special needs can adjust to the general classroom setting.

This step also has teachers take action, trying out different teaching approaches to help the child adjust to the general classroom setting. If challenges persist, the next step in the IEP process is referral.

iep process

Step 2. Referral

Referrals in the IEP process can come from a number of people in a child’s life. Parents, doctors, and a school nurse can all initiate a referral.

“Parents, teachers, a counselor, a doctor or anyone else who suspects a child is struggling can request an evaluation,” according to Understood.org.

These referrals can come at any point in a child’s life. The tell-tail signs that a learning disability may be present is if a child acts out continually in class, has poor academic scoring, or consistently disrupts class time.

Once a parent, doctor, or school system professional initiates a referral, the IEP process continues to the next step of identification.

Step 3. Identification

Once the referral has been made, the next step in the IEP process is identification. What exactly is identification? It is similar to the pre-referral process, but far more in-depth.

A special assessment, or evaluation is initiated to conclude whether or not a child has a disability that would require special education services.

“By law, the initial evaluation of the child must be “full and individual”—which is to say, focused on that child and that child alone. The evaluation must assess the child in all areas related to the child’s suspected disability,” according to the Center for Parent Information and Resources.

This step in the IEP process includes assessing all aspects of the child’s life, at school and at home. This helps determine the specific services the child needs. Parents, family members, teachers, educational professionals, and school psychologists are all part of this assessment.

The Center for Parents Information and Resources explained that, “The evaluation results will be used to decide the child’s eligibility for special education and related services and to make decisions about an appropriate educational program for the child.”

Step 4. Eligibility

After all information and data is compiled from the Identification step of the IEP process, it is used to determine the disability and special needs needed moving forward.

An IEP committee appointed by the school district handles these processes. The committee will determine what services or interventions are needed in order for a child with a disability to reach maximum educational growth.

The committee can also determine if the child is in fact in need of special needs services. They can in fact halt the IEP process here, returning the child back to the general classroom setting.

iep process

Step 5. Development

If the child is eligible for special needs services within the school system, the development of the IEP begins. Specialists, parents, school administrators, and educators are all gathered to make up the IEP team.

For many parents with a child recently diagnosed with a disability, the IEP process can be worrisome. Supplemental counseling for the family is often beneficial in this step in the process.

“Many of them would benefit from some type of family counseling. This is very important because they are going to play a big part in how the child with the disability will be able to adjust,” according to Kids Mental Health. “As the primary caregivers the role they play is huge and special training is often necessary and very helpful.”

During the development of the IEP, all resources needed to assist the child are discussed and placed into a very detailed plan of action. The child’s unique learning style is determined, as well as specific short and long term goals for the child’s educational advancement.

Step 6. Implementation

This step is when the IEP plan is put into place and executed. The needed accommodations are made for the child, including instructions and testing measures.

Parents are also not unsupported in this critical step either. There are normally a number of therapists, speech pathologists, and education/behavioral professionals on hand.

Step 7. Evaluation

Consistency is a hallmark when evaluating a child with special needs’ adjustment and progress after an IEP is implemented. Reviews are often mandated annually or every three years depending on the situation.

However, parents and teachers carry out the evaluation step in the IEP process more frequently than required. Since the overall goal is to determine the effectiveness of the IEP plan, continual assessment efforts are needed.

“Evaluation helps teachers to assess whether their teaching approaches are effective and to change or tune their practices accordingly,” according to the University of Kansas. “A well-researched and fully collaborative IEP will help students with disabilities to develop their capacities and to experience academic accomplishment–while benefiting the class by modeling and cultivating a more inclusive and differentiated educational experience for all students.”

If short and long terms are falling short, a revision to the plan is made to further assist in making the child’s educational growth a success.

Any IEP can be a long and worrisome process for parents and children. It is, however, an important aspect to any education system. All children deserve the chance to develop with their specific learning styles in mind. It is the dedication of parents and educators to facilitate these chances.