Many of us have noticed the increase in students diagnosed with disabilities such as autism. These numbers include students, like my son, whose disabilities significantly impact their ability to live independently.

We understand that you might be new to the world of special education, or simply more interested in understanding some of the specific details of what due process is and how a complaint is drafted.

As we all know, having a child with special needs may require a lot of effort at home and a ton of effort working with schools to ensure your son or daughter is receiving the services they need.

Marta V. Leyva, M.A. is the owner of Voz de Victoria, a bilingual (Spanish / English) special education advocacy and educational consulting firm that has been supporting parents in for the last 8 years. She currently works to improve the lives of children with disabilities and their families by creating a collaborative partnership between parents/guardians and school/educational teams to ensure students receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) while having both their academic and social/emotional needs met.



This is a summary of the third edition of CSNLG’s Beginner’s Guide to the IEP. In this podcast, host Michael Boll and CSNLG attorney/advocate Linaja Murray discuss what happens during the IEP meeting and what it feels like to be there. The podcast can be found here.

What is the atmosphere like?

  • The atmosphere is collaborative — the one purpose of the meeting is to identify the student’s strengths/deficits and how to address each area of concern.
  • You may be nervous or on edge at the beginning, which is totally normal, as a parent you are likely concerned for your child.

Who is there? What are their roles?

  • About 12 people will be present, this may include:
    • General education teacher.
    • Teachers who assist with your child, such as a special day class teacher and SAI teacher.
    • Assessors, such as the school psychologist
  • At a triennial IEP meeting, all assessors will be present
    • For some children, assessors may be an occupational therapist or a speech and language pathologist.

What should I bring to the IEP meeting?

  • Notebook to take notes.
  • A friend, family member, or someone else who supports you

Assessments should be provided to you in advance

  • Request these about ten days before the IEP meeting so you can familiarize yourself with them

What should I take away from the IEP meeting?

  • Copies of everything discussed

What is the difference between an annual IEP and a triennial IEP?

  • At the triennial IEP meeting there are a lot of assessments to go over such as the psychoeducational assessment.
  • This will also include ancillary assessments, such as speech and language, OT, visual, audio processing, or behavior assessments depending on your child’s specific needs.
  • At the annual IEP meeting, these assessments are not necessary — annual IEPs tend to be shorter, with much fewer people involved.

What does the process of the IEP meeting look like?

  • The IEP meeting is called.
  • A teacher or district representative will ask to do introductions where each person will give their name and title.
  • The meeting then starts; an agenda may be followed.
  • The strengths of the student will be shared.
  • The progress and goals of the student will be shared and whether goals have been met or not
  • Feedback from people in charge of those goals will be shared.
  • Parents can weigh in to discuss whether they believe goals have been met.
  • Services and accommodations (such as extra time during testing, preferential seating, behavioral aid) are discussed. This is when FAPE is brought up: special education and related services that your child should be receiving.
  • As a parent, you should get as much in writing as possible.
    • This process tends to be toward the end of the IEP meeting.

This summary is part of our complete Beginner’s Guide to the IEP

Dr. Susanne Roley is an occupational therapist who specializes in child development, sensory integration, learning difficulties, visual impairment, and autism. With over 40 years of experience in pediatrics, she works in private practice in Orange County, California, where she helps children and families through evaluation and consultation services. She is the co-founder and president of the nonprofit organization, Collaborative for Leadership in Sensory Integration (CLASI), which provides education programs for sensory integration certificates.

The IEP can be stressful at times. These five (plus one) tips will help you relax, prepare and feel good about your parental role before, during and after the IEP.  



A Beginner’s Guide to the IEP #1: Overview of the IEP

This is a summary of the first edition of CSNLG’s podcast Special Education Matters. In this podcast, our host Michael Boll and CSNLG lawyer Linaja Murray provide an overview of the Individualized Educational Program. The podcast can be found here.

What is an IEP?

  • IEP: Individualized Education Program. It’s an educational program that is specifically tailored for your child.
  • Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), only students who are entitled to special education will receive an IEP.
  • There are two types of IEPs.
  1. An initial IEP. The first request for special education
  2. An ongoing IEP. This is where the student already is receiving some form of special education.

How do I request an IEP for my child?

    • A request for an IEP can start with a parent, a school administrator, or a teacher. Really, anyone involved with the child or his/her education will often request an IEP.
  • An IEP starts with a referral for assessment. Each school district has a different system set in place on how to make this referral for assessment. Check with your child’s teacher for more information.
  • Parents can write a letter to the school district that describes the situation of their child and request an assessment.

What is an assessment?

An assessment, or educational evaluation, is how schools determine how your child is functioning.

There are various areas in which a student can be assessed, ex. psychoeducation evaluations, speech and language evaluations, social-emotional, Educationally Related Mental Health Services

Receiving an assessment for your child

  • At that point, the law requires the school district to provide this assessment once it has been requested.
  • The district has 15 days to give you an assessment plan after the request.
  • The parent then reviews that assessment plan, talks with the school if they think changes need to be made, and then provides consent to the plan.
  • The district has 60 days to complete the assessments and hold an IEP team meeting to discuss whether or not the child is eligible for special education related services.
  • Typically, if the issue includes the student’s slow progress academically, a psychoeducational evaluation should be included in their assessment. Unless it is a behavioral or emotional/mental health issue.

Using your school psychologist for an evaluation

A good school psychologist who does a psychoeducational evaluation will point out areas of deficit that weren’t included for further assessment.

  • They are a good resource in adding to a student’s evaluation.
  • Oftentimes for school psychologists, this is their first job, so they typically don’t go as deep as parents would like to benefit their student.
  • If don’t have a good school psychologist, there’s a lot of resources available online from evaluators, and that can give you a good place to start.

This summary is part of our complete Beginner’s Guide to the IEP