Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) are very critical in the learning of students with disabilities. The sole purpose of an IEP is to provide services, accommodations, modifications, and equal opportunities for children with disabilities. An IEP outlines all of the resources and tools that a teacher and other professionals will/should be using in order to provide a better and more appropriate learning experience for the student. These tools can include things like Speech Therapy, additional testing time or help reading questions on an exam, Occupational Therapy, the use of hearing aids/tools in the classroom, having an interpreter, having a paraprofessional, and so much more!
Who gets an IEP?
There are a lot of different disabilities that may qualify a student (between the ages of 3 and 26) to receive an IEP. These include the 13 categories listed under IDEA (the nations special education law):
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Intellectual Disabilities
- Multiple Disabilities
- Visual Impairments
- Hearing Impairments
- Orthopedic Impairment
- Speech or Language Disorders
- Specific Learning Disabilities
- Traumatic Brain injury
- Emotional Disturbance
- Other Health Impairment
As social workers, we play a huge role in the creation and implementation of IEPs. School Social Workers, Clinical/Behavioral Social Workers, Case managers and/or Support Coordinators and more are part of the IEP Team. The team is comprised of every professional that is contributing and providing a service for the student in the plan (as well as the parents of course).
So what does that process look like?
Well firstly, the child must meet the qualifications for an IEP. Not everyone with a disability requires an IEP at school. The school will conduct an educational evaluation to determine a child’s challenges, strengths and needs. The school will determine whether these challenges and diagnosed disability warrant an IEP (i.e. do they need additional services to be successful or are they able to navigate on their own?).
The next step is the IEP Meeting that will include everyone in the students IEP team. The purpose of the meeting is to create, review and revise the students Individualized Education Plan. This meeting should occur within 30 days after the school decides the student is eligible for special needs services. The IEP team will go over the students Present Level of Performance, Annual goals, and the types of supports and services needed. The team will meet once a year once the plan is created and in place.
What about the Social Workers?
Again, Social Workers in many different roles can play a part in creating/implementing IEPs. This includes school social worker, clinical and behavioral health social workers, supports coordinators and case managers, as well as impacting the process of IEPs and resources available through different laws and programs!
As social workers, it is our job to advocate for our clients to ensure that they are receiving all of the services that they need to be successful in the learning environment, as well as being an aide to the parents as they navigate the process of getting an IEP for their child. It can be increasingly difficult for a parent to navigate all of the resources their child may need and some of the jargon that is often used during meetings as well.
What are some resources that you like to use when involved in an IEP?