An Educator's Guide to Common IEP Myths
By Stephanie Wynn
Do you have special needs learners in your classroom? Do you feel intimidated at the thought of meeting the needs of these students? Have you had specialized training in the areas of their unique exceptionalities? As inclusion policy grows and becomes more prevalent from state to state it is increasingly important to demystify some of the common misconceptions that accompany Individualized Education Programs and their related structures. Gaining understanding will not only benefit the learning environment of all students in the classroom but may provide educators like yourself some much-needed relief. Here I go over some of the more common myths and misinterpretations in special education.
The IEP team must develop an educational plan that is BEST for the student. By nature, IEP team members are all gathered in the best educational interest of the student especially parents. Best is a subjective term and therefore will have varied interpretations based on personal experience and value systems of each team member. You may hear a common thread from parents and educators at IEP team meetings “I want what is best for the student.” Albeit this is a common theme or statement it is not the legal guideline outlined in The Individuals Disabilities Education Act; commonly shortened to IDEA. Appropriate is the term used throughout the IDEA law. It is a highly influential term in IDEA and you will see it used and referenced many times as it details guidelines for student’s specific needs, strengths, goals, supports, services and more. The generally accepted definition as it relates to IDEA is that appropriate means whatever is acceptable, fitting, suitable or right for the eligible student based what will be provided to the student as outlined in the IEP.
If a parent requests it; then the school/district must provide it. As set forth in IDEA all IEP team members are equally required to participate, understand the function and create the student’s IEP. This of course included parents of the student which are an equally participating team member. As some parents begin to navigate through their experience and process of the IEP you may notice their increasing level of participation as they become more familiar and comfortable. It is very important to make every effort to foster communication and levels of trust early on in the IEP process with all team members especially parents understanding they carry a unique second process of learning and experiencing with their own child or as a guardian of a minor whom they have a natural human component of protection and affection for. IEP team members and school related staff work together to develop and implement the IEP. Generally speaking, school districts have the responsibility of making Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE.) FAPE is an educational right of children with disabilities in the United States guaranteed by IDEA and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. You can find more resources on IEP team requirements and FAPE in further detail within my online course coming soon at www.youwillchangetheworld.com.
Special education is only for severely disabled children. Part B of IDEA specifically states; Assistance for education of ALL children with disabilities. Special Education is guaranteed for all disabled children regardless of severity who require the NEED of special education services.Part B currently as of this date has 8 sub-parts which are:
General provisions, State eligibility, LEA eligibility, Evaluations IEPs and Placement, Procedural safeguards, monitoring and enforcement, Use of funds, Preschool grants.
You can find more information on these 8 subparts under Federal Register 34 CFR Parts 300 and 301.
ADHD/ADD is not a real disorder and does not qualify as a disability. ADHD/ADD is one of the leading medically researched disorders as related to education in school. ADHD/ADD qualifies as a disability under the Other Health Impairment (OHI) category of special education law and as a disability under section 504. Gaining an understanding of this disorder and how it interferes with students’ ability to access their education is an invaluable tool to help educators gain more ease in the classroom and helping the student move toward progressing to goals.
This publication is intended to give you a general idea of the law. However, each situation is different and unique. If after reading one of my publications you have further questions about how the laws may uniquely apply to your experience please contact me on my social media, which you can locate on my instructor page. I offer annual advocacy services on a first come first serve basis. For pricing and available openings contact me directly.
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Stephanie is a Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates member. As an IEP Advocate Stephanie has worked with parents, students, & districts across the US.
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