An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a written, legal document that outlines the structure of the program of special education, support, and services children with special needs require to prosper in their learning and growth. These programs are created for children with special needs on the basis of eligibility.
Designing an IEP is done by evaluating the challenges faced by students along with the strengths they exhibit and then incorporating the support and services provided to them. There are various people involved in this program who perform different roles that make the program work. These include the student, parents or guardians, general educator or teacher, special educator or teacher, school district representative results interpreter, outside specialists or advocates. There can be additional members as well such as a translator, a friend, or transition services expert.
What does the IEP team look like?
An IEP team consists of many members, some can vary and some must be present in it. From the student to the special educator and people who handle the logistics of the program are all one unit. The members of an IEP team and their roles and responsibilities are discussed below.
1. The student
The student must be included in IEP meetings if they are 14 or older. This ensures that their opinion is validated and they can have a say in the strategies underlying the IEP. From the beginning itself, parents and teachers must emphasize the significance of the students vocalizing and advocating their needs and their goals.
The more the student’s needs and goals are put forward and paid heed to, the more the program will be personalized to them and be modulated in a way that benefits them. The student’s participation in the IEP is quite vital in the way that the purpose of the program is to benefit the student and their career, for which their requirements and feedback is important.
2. Parents or Guardians
Parents, being the child’s first and foremost advocate, are key members of the IEP team. They know the child the best and can provide appropriate insight about its strengths, needs and challenges faced so that the program suits the child perfectly.
Information like what are the child’s main interests, and how the child learns and responds can only be given by parents or guardians. It is also important for parents and guardians to contribute to the IEP objectively and not carry their emotions through it.
3. General Educator or Teacher
The general teacher of the child is amongst the first people to notice that the child requires a special education intervention. The role and responsibility of the regular teacher of the child in the IEP team is crucial. There are several functions that the teacher delivers in an IEP team:
- Provides the academic background of the child
- Provides information about the general curriculum in the general classroom
- Insight on the aids, services, or changes that can be brought to the educational program that would help the child learn and meet goals
- Insight and strategies to work with the behavioral aspect of the child
- Being involved and keeping check of progress in regular classroom
4. Special Educator or Teacher
The special education teacher is essential to provide special education services that the child needs regardless of being in a regular classroom or not. For instance, for a child with impairments in hearing, it could be a speech therapist. Below mentioned are the functions these educators provide:
- Provide valuable insight into the child’s needs and adjustment in the classroom.
- Expertise in the services and interventions to be developed as per the child’s features and requirements.
- Outline specific goals relevant to the child’s difficulties
- Suggestions on how to modify the general curriculum to meet the necessities
- Working with children in special classes devoted to students receiving special education services
- Collaboration with regular teacher
5. Results Interpreter
The person who evaluates the results of the IEP and the special education services provided to the child need not always be a separate person on the IEP team. It can be a member who is qualified for multiple roles such as the special educator. The designated work of this person is to interpret the results of the program and explain them to the other members of the team in a layman’s manner. The evaluation of results is very useful in determining the progress of the child based on the program, and the validity of the program itself.
6. School District Representative
A school district representative is a person who understands school resources and can approve services for the student provided by the school. This can be an administrator in the school, the school principal, or any special education coordinator. Often, this person coordinates the meetings and procedures between the parents and other team members and ensures all committed services are provided to the students that were made in the IEP.
7. Transition Services Expert
Students who are transitioning into after-school aspects or phases of their career such as college or jobs require services to facilitate this transition. These services begin to be planned and chalked out before the student turns 16.
8. IEP Advocate
An IEP advocate holds an unbiased position in the IEP team as they do not belong to any of the parties. They collaborate and work closely with the parents and the school and take them through the process of obtaining the services they have been committed to. They help in briefing team members about the medical aspects of the disability and the laws that are relevant and protect the rights of the child with special needs. An advocate can intervene if there is a conflict between the parents and the school related and help in problem-solving.
Who is the most important member of the IEP team?
An IEP team is a collaborative and codependent team where the responsibilities of each member are required to be fulfilled for the purpose to be met. It can be said that the parents, students, and special as well as general education teachers are the most important members as their roles cannot be replaced.
The special educator is vital in providing the services with the IEP is centered around and the general educator is essentially required to monitor it. The parents and students are the recipients of the program and without them, the program will make no sense. However, school representatives play a significant role as well since, without the approval of services, the program will be at a standstill.
Who is involved in the IEP-making process?
Although the inputs and insights of all team members are necessary for developing the IEP it is essentially outlined by the general and special educators along with the student and parents as per the needs and goals of the child.
Other members of the IEP team also play a role in its development to approve the services to be provided, coordinate the meetings for parents and teachers and evaluate the results of the program.
Is it important for all members to attend IEP meetings?
All members should ideally be attending IEP meetings as that is the way a team works. However, practically, it may not be possible for everyone to attend meetings at the same time always. In this case, members like school district representatives and results interpreters, and the transition services agent, can keep a check once a month or once in 45 days or so. This can work because their work is based on objective and tangible features of the program. There can be a set cycle, such as 3 months for the interpreter to check the progress.
For the school district representatives, the approval of services and check on their efficiency may not require them to attend all meetings. And the transition services come into play only once the child turns 16 for not-so-regular meets. Having said that, those members who are actively involved in the process and execution of the program such as educators, parents, and students, attending all meetings is quite crucial. Parents have also conveyed their experience of attending meetings to be positive and agreed upon having a clear understanding of the IEP process after actively being present in meetings.
An IEP is an Individualized Education Program designed for children with special needs to provide them with the support and services they need to grow and learn. It is a team of a lot of members who are required to fulfill their responsibilities equally and perform the functions they are required to.
Without one, the work of the other may go into limbo. These team members are the student, parents, special and general education teacher, school district representative, transition services agent, and result interpreter. It is important for all team members to work in a collaborative manner and follow a holistic approach to meet the needs of the child. All members must be on the same page and contribute to the program to the best of their abilities.