An Individualized Education Plan or (IEP) may be one of the most important, misunderstood, and under-used tools in education.
What is an Individualized Education Plan?
An IEP is a series of goals, commitments by teachers, school staff, students and parents to make certain the student is successful. It is a specific plan noting things like modifications that need to be made to the classroom or curriculum , specific services like speech therapy, physical therapy and other custom designed schooling situations.
In the beginning IEPs were created as part of the Individuals with Disabilities Act. It was a way to make certain that children with disabilities were getting the best education possible. After several law suits most states have now opened up IEPs to any student who believes they need a customized learning plan. This is not widely publicized. The term special needs can be used to describe children who are highly gifted as well as those with disabilities.
Parents or teachers can request an IEP be established. It cannot be completed without parental consent.
Who qualifies to have an Individualized Education Plan?
This is a vague area, but most states choose to give anyone who is requesting an IEP at least the chance to have the meeting.
For example, Trent was a highly gifted student. His parents did not want him to skip grades because they felt that socially this would cause issues. So, they created an IEP which allowed him to attend math and science classes in other grades and still stay with his class during other times. Eventually, in high school, the school paid for college courses in math and science that came via satellite.
If a child is not thriving in a regular classroom situation is may be time to approach a teacher about an IEP.
Why doesn’t every child have an Individualized Education Plan?
In some classrooms every child does have an IEP. In many classrooms no children have an IEP. Different teachers and schools have very different approaches. There is value in having the teacher, parents and other professionals meet to make sure a child is receiving information in a way they can understand, process and learn.
Some teachers are able to teach information using many different learning styles. This type of teacher probably creates IEPs in a less formal setting. For example, when making lesson plans this type of teacher may think “Angela is a visual learner. Do I have enough visual content for her to understand the concept?”
If parents, teachers and students work together education can be a great experience. IEPs can be an important part of the process.