I’ve heard some of my homeschooling friends on Twitter talk about how they’re homeschooling their kids so that they’re not forced to have an IEP or 504 plan. I really wish I could tell them that neither one is a bad thing and that they ensure that their kids will have access to what they need in order to succeed in school.
So what are they, Jen?
An IEP is a written-out plan that spells out the special educational environment in which a student learns. (“IEP” stands for “individualized education plan”.) Putting it simply, it describes what needs to be in place instruction-wise in order for him to succeed. His covers not only educational goals but also goals for physical, occupational, and speech therapies. Every three years, they do what is referred to as a “triennial IEP” where they do very thorough testing (which is paid for by the school and/or district) to make sure that the student still needs an IEP and also to see where the student is in terms of their therapies and their psycho-social-behavioral development. To qualify, a student needs a diagnosis of one or more of 13 different disabilities and need a very specific environment in order to make progress in their education because of that disability. It came out of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which states that individuals with disabilities are guaranteed a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment possible.
A 504 plan deals with ensuring that students get accomodations needed to make progress in their education. It covers things like audiobooks, notetakers, and extended time for tests. It basically exists to level the playing field for general education. A child qualifies if they have a disability and that disability makes it harder to learn in a general education classroom. The qualifications are a little more broad than they are for a child to qualify for an IEP. It comes from Section 504 of the Rehibilitation Act of 1973.
Which one does Daniel have?
Daniel has an IEP and has had one in place since March 2012. In order to put one together or make changes, an IEP meeting or IEP amendment meeting has to be called and the IEP team has to gather. The team is comprised of me, his special education teacher, a general education teacher for the same grade level, his various therapists, a special education person for the district, and a school psychologist. If a meeting is called and someone cannot attend for whatever reason, I have to sign paperwork excusing them from the meeting. Otherwise, everyone has to be present.
What happens at an IEP meeting?
At the beginning of every meeting, I get handed a thick packet which contains all of my rights and the procedural safeguards. They are required by law to offer it to me, even if I choose to refuse it. (I usually do unless it’s the first time I’ve met with the team at that particular school and/or that particular school district.) Everyone has to sign a paper saying that they were present and I have to sign something saying that the procedural safeguard paperwork was offered to me and that I chose to refuse it, because an IEP is a legal document and could be admissible in court if I sued the school or district for violating Daniel’s rights under the IDEA Act. We go over the various goals spelled out in the previous IEP, talk about any meeting of goals and/or progress made, and what new goals they are setting or new services they want to add. At the end, I have paperwork to sign, stating that I agree with everything outlined in the plan. If I don’t agree with something, I have right to refuse to sign it and they need to fix the issue to my satisfaction.
Honestly, it’s ~2 hours once a year for the yearly IEP review and maybe 20-45 minutes for an amendment meeting which is maybe once or twice a year (if even that often).
If you want a lovely table that illustrates the similarities and differences between the two, click here.