Can you get an IEP in High School?

High School IEP

Surprisingly, I am asked the question about IEPs in High School quite often. More than I am comfortable with, but more on that in a minute.

The question “can I get an IEP in high school?” can be answered with a short “Yes.” However, the issue itself has many layers, so I hope you take a few minutes to browse this article. I want you to make sure that your child’s needs are being met, and have been met…up until high school.

iep students in a high school classroom

The main concern I have as a Special Education Advocate is this. Most disabilities, mild or not, are something that the child is born with. It is unlikely that a disability would appear in high school. So my main concern is that the child has been struggling for quite some time.

That being said, there are legit reasons why a child would not need an IEP until high school.

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Reasons for a High School IEP

There are some disabilities that may not appear until high school age.

  • Trauma or traumatic event, such as a family tragedy, divorce, homelessness; any of these could trigger a mental health or stress response that now requires special education.
  • TBI or Traumatic Brain Injury; the child was born non disabled but had an injury of some kind.
  • Mental Health Response to COVID: Some students had underlying or manageable mental health issues, but the pandemic exacerbated the issues and now they need special education.
  • Child was homeschooled or living overseas or in a private school, with the parent privately securing the needed services.
  • Lastly…and I think that this reason is super rare, but it’s possible. The child has a learning disability that was managed successfully without special education or an IEP up until high school. Maybe they had a 504 Plan. But now in high school, social and academic demands have changed, thus necessitating an IEP.

For that last bullet point, again I want to stress that those kids are a rarity. The more likely event is that the child needed an IEP before now, but was not given one. The child has likely been struggling, masking and has a wide gap between them and their age peers.

child-doing-homework-768x512

Evaluations for a High School IEP

The IEP process remains the same for ages 3-21. You request, in writing, IEP evaluations from the school. They do the evals, you have an IEP eligibility meeting and so on.

If, as a parent, you have been asking for an IEP for years, and maybe you’re getting the runaround. Maybe the are continually saying NO, but offering a 504 plan or RTI. If this is the case, I would re-evaluate your situation.

If you have previously only ever asked verbally, I would do a written request. If you have been asking in writing, then it’s time to read and use your parental rights or procedural safeguards. If this is a new situation (like death in the family or TBI), then ask in writing.

Also, if this is a battle you’ve been fighting for a long time, and your child is struggling or suffering or being disciplined based upon behaviors from the neglect, I strongly urge you to seek a consultation with an IEP lawyer.

Even if you’re thinking “I can’t afford a lawyer!” I strongly urge you to at least do the free consult if they offer one. Or, some offer a consult for a few hundred bucks. They can at least take a look and listen, and tell you where you stand.

You may be due some compensatory education, or the school district may be on the hook for your legal fees. It’s not a guarantee, but you never know until you find out.

What to Expect from a High School IEP

I have a separate post about middle school and high school IEPs. As our kids grow up, yes, their academic and social demands change. This means different expectations and goals.

Also, if your child is in middle or high school, they are likely IEP transition age. That is determined by individual states, and is anywhere from age 12 to age 16.

But, the transition section of an IEP should be comprehensive. Learning all about IEP transition and IEP Transition Goals is a whole “thing” by itself. I have over a dozen articles just about transition, as it is essential that your child is set up to be a successful adult.

I find that many schools drop the ball when it comes to transition. If parents do not take ownership of this, your child will not have a comprehensive plan.

college student carrying books

IEP Goals in High School

Your child’s High School IEP Goals will be based upon their individual needs. Even though you may be new to the IEP process, and if your child is over, your “IEP life” won’t be as long as some of us, it is essential that you commit to learning the process and your rights.

Please do not rely on others’ interpretation of your rights and the process. Learn it yourself.

I have written literally dozens of posts on this and I have a ton of information for you to get started. Also, consider joining our Facebook group so you can ask questions.

More on High School IEPs and getting started:

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