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Five Questions on IEPs that PEAK Parent Center Can Help You Answer: An Interview of Ms. Shirley Swope

Peak ParentWhat does an IEP do?

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is required by federal statute for students with special needs in order to understand what accommodation, modifications, special education support and educational goals a specific child needs. The IEP process can be tedious, yet if you are equipped with the proper tools, is a maze that can be navigated. PEAK Parent Center is the Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) for the State of Colorado. It reports that the number one most-sought-after help is on the IEP for a child with disabilities.

Each child is unique, and an IEP is catered to the individual child. There are no right or wrong answers when considering what modifications or services your child may need in order to access a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). An IEP helps provide equal access to education. Before IEPs existed and before we knew as much about children with disabilities as we now do, children were often denied an education. Now with accommodations and special education support, these children are doing amazing things. 

What is a reasonable accommodation, a modification, and the difference between the two? 

According to the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities: “An accommodation is a change that helps a student overcome or work around the disability. These changes are typically physical or environmental changes.” An accommodation is a change in access to the program. A modification, on the other hand, changes the actual program of what is being taught to or expected from the student. Modifications alter what a student must learn in order for him or her to achieve certain reduced goals that take into account the disabilities that the student is facing. One example of a modification is reduction of homework. One example of an accommodation is having more time for an assignment. A given student may need accommodations, modifications, or both.

What is the difference between general and special education?

The difference between general and special education is sometimes not well understood. Technically, all children are general education students. Children who have an IEP receive special education services and supports. Special education is not a place, but a service or support. IDEA provides that special education must take place in the least restricted environment (LRE). All children are in general education first. Do not allow a school to place your child into a highly restricted special education program unless this is exactly what your child needs. 

What should you do to get ready for the school year and your IEP meeting?

PEAK Parent recommends you have a copy of the school’s IEP Manual before the meeting, and to leave the meeting with a copy of the IEP in your hand. In the State of Colorado, it is only required to have permission from “one party” to record a conversation. Therefore you may record the meeting for personal use to recall salient points. If you record, the school will probably want to record as well.

Call the school prior to the first day to make sure that they are ready for your child. The IEP should be in place from the moment the child begins school. Know the discipline policy for the school—and know that policy may not always be compliant with the law. An IEP is an educated guess into the future, and can modify the discipline or other school policies. For example, if a policy states that a student must raise his or her hand in class to be called upon, and you know this is a problem for your student that has ADHD, ask for an accommodation before this is an issue. Know what your child’s patterns and triggers are and plan ahead for success to provide the best chance for your child’s future. Be prepared for the IEP meeting so you can do your best for your child with special needs.

How do we implement the IEP?

Now that you have a plan in place it is your job to ensure that the school is doing exactly what the team has stated that the child needs. Do not let administrative problems interfere with the IEP. If the IEP states that your child will receive x number of hours a week for speech therapy, and the child does not seem to be receiving them, do not be afraid to ask why the school is violating the IEP. Perhaps the school is following the plan, yet the results are not what you expected or particularly want, or perhaps the school is not following the plan. It is your right as a parent to call a meeting when necessary; therefore call one and make the necessary modifications to your IEP to better meet your child’s specific needs. At some point you may need an advocate or attorney to take care of your child in the best way.

As a parent, you are a watch dog for your children. The State of Colorado just updated its regulations not only to the level that the federal government mandates but to an even more strict point of protection for students with disabilities. Inform yourself about your child’s rights before you walk into an IEP meeting, in implementing the IEP, and before you run into any possible problems. PEAK Parent is here to help all families of children with special needs through the IEP process. 


PEAK Parent Center: 611 N Weber St, Colorado Springs, CO 80903 - (719) 531-9400 
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