It’s 2011 and some school districts are already back in session, it’s time to address your child’s academic struggles and find out why they are not doing well in school. It is now second semester and before you know it, the school year will be over. Remember, school districts do not conduct IEP’s during the summer and with all the budget cuts you might not be able to resolve any disputes until the next school year begins. I’m bringing this up now because recently I’ve been told by some parents that they plan on opening an IEP for their child sometime this year. I’m glad to hear it, however, there are few details you should be aware of before waiting too long to request an IEP.
The first detail is the timeline involved when you open an IEP. You have to keep in mind that the school has 15 days in which to give you an assessment plan for you to approve. This assessment plan should outline testing in all areas of suspected disability. Next, you have up to 15 days to return and approve the assessment plan. Once you have given your approval, your school has an additional 60 days in which to conduct the assessments and hold an IEP. Theoretically, it could take up to 90 days from beginning to end. This puts you somewhere near April or even May, if you didn’t request an IEP until February. However, if you are not satisfied with your school’s assessments and you request an Independent Educational Evaluation, then another IEP will have to be held when that assessment is completed. As I just laid out for you, this process takes quite a bit of time, so you must be aware of that when you open an IEP. Also, please be aware that each state could have slightly different timelines, but for the majority of the states these are accurate.
As I stated earlier, before you know it, the school year will be over and your child will be moving on to the next grade possibly even further behind than the year before. Another important detail you should be aware of is that many school districts try to talk a parent out of opening an IEP by conducting General Education Interventions such as Response to Intervention (RTI) or Student Study Teams (SST). During the meeting, the school might discuss various forms of interventions to try for the student before testing them for Special Education. However, you must keep in mind even though your child might be receiving RTI you still have the right to open an IEP at the same time and be assessed for Special Education. While the school does have an obligation to try General Education Interventions prior to starting Special Education, the assessments can take place simultaneously with RTI. The timelines for Special Education assessments do not stop because the school wants to try RTI first.
With the law “No Child Left Behind,” many students are passed on to the next grade, but their academic abilities are 3 or 4 years behind. I receive calls every day from parents with children in high school whose academic abilities are still at the elementary school level. Yet, the schools are still telling parents their child has plenty of time to catch up. Now that they are in high school that is no longer true and they are almost out of time. This is why you should address your child’s needs sooner rather than later. They are the future of this country and need to be given a chance to go to college and lead a productive adult life.