Inside: How to Get an IEP for your Child. Whether you’re trying to get an IEP for autism, get an IEP for ADHD or even get an IEP for anxiety, the process is the same.

Are you trying to get an IEP for autism, anxiety or ADHD? It doesn’t matter, the process is the same. It’s kinda weird that I have 100s of articles about IEPs, and I’ve never done a post on how to request an IEP.

Sometimes I get so wrapped up in IEP issues and helping parents solve problems, that I forget that there are many people out there who are still trying to figure out how to get one.

If you want to know how to get an IEP for your child, this is for you!

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The first thing to remember is, you are not asking for an IEP. You are asking that your child is evaluated for special education services.

IEPs are needs-based. If there are not any identified needs, you will not get an IEP.

For the rest of you, I’m going to keep it simple.

If you need the whole truckload of IEP information, you can find it here on this blog. But I’m not going to overwhelm you with that right now.

Getting an IEP

IEP stands for Individual Education Plan. It is just what it says. Children with disabilities are entitled to a “free and appropriate education” but what that looks like for each child is Individual. The concept of Special Education has only been around at the national level since 1975.

That is when the IDEA law was passed, which stands for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Additionally, each state also has its own separate set of Special Education Regulations.

You should familiarize yourself with both IDEA and your state’s regulations which can be found online.

IEP Present Levels

How to Get an IEP

The first step, and the most important thing. And don’t ever let go of this concept. Everything in writing, always.

how to get an IEP
  • Get everything in writing. Everything. Start now, get in the habit of writing and documenting everything. Your first step is going to be to send a written request. My advice would be to send it to the school principal, with your child’s teacher getting a copy of it. CC them on it.
  • Be very clear about what you are requesting. State very clearly: I wish to have my child evaluated for special education services or accommodations. No gray areas. Not “hey, I think she’s struggling in school, is there something we can do?” Direct request. If you do otherwise, it will only drag out the process.
  • If you’re not positive you need special education, there are other options. Maybe you’re not quite ready to request special education services. Still, be clear about what you want. Ask to meet about RTII, and ask them to explain that process to you. Go over it, go home and read about it, then make your decision.
  • Request IEP Evaluations. Don’t stress if you don’t know exactly what to write. I have dozens of letter templates right here: How to request IEP Evaluations
  • Describe exactly what you are seeing. You want to be clear. What reading struggles are you seeing? Social skills, time management, whatever skill deficits you are seeing, describe them in bullet points in this letter.
  • Should I ask for specific IEP tests and IEP evaluations? No. There are literally thousands upon thousands of different types of evaluations. Parents can’t possibly know them all. Plus, if you only request specific evals, those might be the only ones you get and they may not be correct. Let the school decide. Give them a chance to get it right. They are required to evaluate in every area of suspected disability. This is why you want to include as much as you can in your letter.
  • How long does the school have to evaluate? Now you wait. Within a week or two, you should receive a Permission to Evaluate letter from your school. When you sign it, write a note, reiterating your areas of concern. Timelines vary by state, so you’ll want to check your own state regs to see exactly how long they have to return your forms and do the evaluation. Once the evals are completed, you will be invited to either an IEP meeting or meeting to go over the evaluation results. If your school chooses to go right to an IEP meeting or does the meetings back to back, I would ask for a change. Particularly if this is your first child going through the process for the first time, it is a LOT to absorb. I would ask to have a meeting for qualified individuals to go over your results. Then schedule the IEP meeting a few days or weeks after that, after you’ve had time to do some reading and absorbing.
  • I asked for an IEP, they offered RTI or 504. Yeah, it happens. You ask for special ed evals and your school says no. It’s ok, deep breaths. You should have been presented this information on a PWN form. If not, ask for it. 
  • You have choices: accept their decision or not. I would highly recommend if this happens, that you join our Chat Group and discuss your issue there.
  • Read your Procedural Safeguards. That is your parental rights in the IEP process, including when your child is just getting the valuations. It is required that the school district give you a copy of your IEP procedural safeguards. Read them! Most parents don’t. And it outlines all your rights as a parent.

How long does it take to get an IEP?

At the beginning of those 8 steps, I listed that it takes 100 days from start to finish. It really does! From the Permission to Evaluate Form, to evaluations, IEP meetings and then implementation, it really can take that long. So go with your gut. If you suspect a problem, don’t delay.

The special education and IEP process is slow. As I said, you’ll have to check your state’s guidelines for specifics. This can be a very stressful time, so again, I highly recommend that you join our chat group for support and ideas. You’ll find many experienced advocates and parents in there, all willing to help.

Lastly, please do not agree to the “wait and see.”

Since the process is so slow, if you agree to wait for even one marking period, you could be delaying services until the next school year.

Before we get started-

Acknowledge that you’re going to be on the learning curve. It’s a cumbersome and overwhelming process. You will feel frustrated at times and maybe confused. Others will talk in acronyms and other strange language that you don’t know. Yet. Own that word-YET. You will learn this and you will become a great advocate for your child.

Do you know what your IEP rights are?
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Please don’t let this overwhelm you. As you read articles on here, pin them, bookmark them, and do it in phases. Chunk it down, just like we would for our kids! You might feel a sense of urgency to learn this all as soon as possible. Learn to curb that feeling because the IEP process by itself is slow. Nothing gets resolved in a day or one meeting.

An IEP is more than one document or one meeting.

FAPE (Free and Appropriate Education) is the cornerstone of Special Education, so you should learn and understand the concept.

As you learn the process and go through this with your child, please know that the IEP is not just a meeting, and it is not just one document. It is an on-going, year-long process. You do not just go to one meeting, go over one document and that’s it.

As a parent, you should be engaged in the process the entire year, every year. Yes, I know, it’s overwhelming. I get it. My child has one too.

How does a child get an IEP?

Someone, usually a parent or teacher, has referred the child to be evaluated for an IEP. That is the first step of the IEP process-evaluations. Here are some tips on getting started in Special Education Evaluations.

After the IEP Evaluations:

After the evaluations are complete, the school will generate what is known as an ER, for Evaluation Report. They should hold a meeting to discuss this with you.

And then on to the IEP:

What the evaluation report says will determine how the team will proceed. If it is determined that your child needs special education, a team will be formed. Other times, you may be offered something instead of an IEP, or denied any services whatsoever.

If the team says that they are going to draw up an IEP, then a meeting will be held. I have a separate post about that.

When you get the invitation to the IEP meeting, you should submit a Parent Concerns letter when you RSVP. This should be submitted prior to the meeting.

How To Write the Best-Ever Parent Concerns Letter for your IEP 

What’s in an IEP?

A quick version of the IEP is this: Cover Sheet with basic information—>Present Levels (should describe your child fully)—> Goals—> Supports and Services—> Progress Monitoring and LRE percentages.

Staying Engaged in the Process

As I stated above, parents need to be engaged in the process all year-round. There are certain things that a parent should be doing to maximize their value and input on the team. I have those things listed here. You also should have a system set up to organize your paperwork efficiently.

Depending on your state, evaluations are required every 2-3 years. Above, in the “5 Things” post, you will read ways that you can maximize your input in the evaluation process.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Wait, but I have some issues that I need further explanation on.” No problem, here are some common issues that come up. Read the article(s) that pertain to your situation, and use them as a guide to writing your letter.

Ideas to Bring to the Meeting or include in Parent Concerns Letter

If you are having trouble defining what it is your child needs, I have dozens of lists. Most of them can be found in the two links below, but there’s also a search bar at the top of the blog if you need more ideas.

Transition Plans (including preschool transition)

If Discipline and Behavior have been an issue

We don’t agree, now what?

FAQs about How to Get an IEP

  1. What is an IEP (Individualized Education Program) and why is it important? An IEP is a legal document designed to ensure that students with disabilities receive appropriate educational services tailored to their unique needs. It outlines the specific goals, accommodations, and support services necessary to help the student succeed in school.
  2. Who is eligible for an IEP? To be eligible for an IEP, a student must have a qualifying disability that affects their ability to learn and participate in the general education curriculum. This can include physical, intellectual, emotional, or developmental disabilities.
  3. Is a doctor’s note or diagnosis required for an IEP? Absolutely NO. IEP eligibility is based upon the evaluations that the school does. Not any note from a doctor or diagnosis. IEPs are needs based, not diagnosis based.
  4. How can I request an IEP for my child? To request an IEP for your child, you should start by contacting your child’s school and expressing your concerns. Typically, you will need to submit a written request to the school’s special education department or principal, indicating your desire for an evaluation to determine eligibility for an IEP.
  5. What is the evaluation process for an IEP? Once you request an evaluation, the school will gather information about your child’s academic, developmental, and behavioral performance. This may involve assessments, observations, and interviews with teachers, parents, and relevant professionals. The evaluation results will determine whether your child qualifies for an IEP.
  6. What happens during an IEP meeting? During an IEP meeting, you, along with the school staff and relevant professionals, will discuss the evaluation results and determine the appropriate educational program and services for your child. Goals, accommodations, modifications, and support services will be outlined in the IEP document.
  7. Can I participate in the IEP process and contribute my input? Absolutely! As a parent, you have the right to be an active participant in the IEP process. You can provide valuable insights about your child’s strengths, challenges, and goals. Your input is crucial in developing an effective IEP that meets your child’s needs.
  8. How often is the IEP reviewed and updated? The IEP must be reviewed at least once a year to ensure its effectiveness. However, you can request an IEP meeting at any time if you believe changes are necessary. The school is also obligated to reevaluate your child’s eligibility for an IEP every three years.
  9. What should I do if I disagree with the proposed IEP? If you disagree with the proposed IEP, you have the right to express your concerns and request changes. You can discuss your concerns with the school staff and try to reach a resolution through open communication. If necessary, you can also seek assistance from an advocate or special education professional to help navigate the process and ensure your child’s needs are properly addressed.

And there you go. Is that everything? Probably not. There’s only so much information you can put in one blog post. Depending on your situation, we could probably delve deeper into a lot of other topics.

But, this should be enough for you to gain more confidence and be a better advocate for your child than you were before reading.

Remember, a solid IEP is time consuming. But, it’s our kids’ education and outcomes that we’re advocating for.

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