Individual Education Plans
Authored By: Iowa Legal Aid
Children with disabilities have rights under federal and Iowa laws. The main law is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal law. Under the IDEA, children with disabilities have the right to a “free, appropriate, public education.” Each child has a written education plan. These plans are called “individualized education programs,” or “IEPs.”
Sometimes a child needs extra services in addition to special education. These “related services” can include transportation, speech therapy, physical therapy, and special equipment that help the child function within a classroom. The IEP needs to include any needed related services.
An IEP is developed by a team. The team generally includes the parents of the child, the child’s teachers, and other staff members. Sometimes, parents experience frustration and confusion about the IEP process. They may feel they are not being listened to. They may not understand the technical words being used. They may believe their child’s needs are not being met.
These problems are even greater when the parents do not speak English well, and the school does not communicate with them in the parents’ language. Parents who do not speak English well have the right to an interpreter at IEP meetings. Parents also have the right to notices in a language they understand.
Parents may want to talk with a lawyer about problems with an IEP. A lawyer can explain how the law applies to their child. Parents have the right to have a lawyer go to the IEP meeting with the parents. A lawyer can help make sure the best possible IEP is developed. A lawyer can also help as decisions are made about:
- what to do if the child is not making enough progress toward his or her goals, or
- whether changes need to be made in the IEP, or
- what to do if the parents do not agree with what the IEP team decided. In that case, the parents may want to consider an appeal.
For questions or assistance with an education problem, contact Iowa Legal Aid.