Every student with a disability who is eligible for exceptional student education (ESE) services will have an IEP. An IEP is a written plan for the special education of a student with a disability. Students attending Hope Horizon are either primarily served under Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities (EBD) or another disability category with a major mental health diagnosis.
Keep in mind:
The IEP is written for an individual student only.
The IEP is a plan for up to 12 months of your student’s education.
THE IEP IS LIKE A ROAD MAP
The IEP describes what your student can already do and what your student needs to learn in order to reach their goals. The IEP also identifies the kinds of help that will be provided to your student. Your student’s IEP will be written by a team of people at an IEP meeting. The IEP team will decide which special services and supports your student needs in order to make progress.
YOU ARE AN IMPORTANT MEMBER OF THE TEAM
If you are representing a student with a disability, this guide will help you know what to expect during the IEP meeting so that you will feel more comfortable and be able to participate effectively in the process. If you are not comfortable representing a student alone, we encourage you to bring a trusted family member or advocate to help you navigate this process.
WHO CAN PARTICIPATE IN THE MEETING?
The following people can be at an IEP meeting:
You (parents or legal guardian)
Your student (starting at the age of 12)
At least one ESE teacher who provides, or may provide, services to your student
Your student’s general education teacher
Someone who understands the evaluations that have been done for your student and can explain them (this may be one of the school district staff already on the attendee list). If you have obtained any additional evaluations, provide them in advance of the meeting.
Someone from the school district who knows about special education and the school district’s resources (at Hope, this will be the Program Specialist or the Administrator).
Other people invited by you or the school (e.g., specialists, advocates, family, lawyers).
You may, in writing, excuse a team member from the IEP meeting if that member’s area is not being discussed or if that member provided input for the development of the IEP before the IEP meeting.
HOW CAN I GET READY FOR THE MEETING?
Think about the goals you have for your student’s future. Make a list of what your student can do, likes to do, and needs to learn, and the types of help needed, including what has worked or not worked before. Talk with your student about the IEP process and what your student wants from it. At Hope Horizon, we make every effort to ensure that parents have a draft of the IEP five business days prior to the meeting if time allows.
Let the school know in advance if you will need a translator or if you need to change the meeting time or place. Ask to look over your student’s school records and evaluations.
Read them carefully. If you would like to, ask a friend, another parent, or an advocate to attend the meeting with you. Let the school know if you have invited someone.
HOW CAN I PARTICIPATE?
Bring paper, a pen, and any records or evaluations of your student. At the meeting, the IEP team is counting on you to:
Share your vision for your student for this school year and for the years to come.
Talk about what your student can do and the help your student needs
Talk about any services your student has received in the past
Listen and ask questions to make sure you understand
Have a positive attitude—even when you disagree.
At the end of the meeting, review the proposed IEP. If you think the IEP is not finished, ask for another meeting. Once the IEP is complete, the school will give you a copy at no charge. Keep it in your records. You may request it in any/all of the following forms:
Emailed in a PDF
Uploaded to FOCUS
Hard copies in hand
Hard copies sent home in backpacks
Hard copies mailed
WHAT DOES AN IEP INCLUDE?
What your student knows and can do now
What your student needs help with
How your student’s disability affects her success in school
What your student should learn by the end of the school year
The special education services, supports, accommodations or modifications, and assistive technology your student will receive during the year
An explanation of any time that will be spent receiving instruction outside the regular class
How your student’s progress will be measured
Starting at the age of 12, identification of the need for transition services, including preparation for your student to graduate with a standard diploma
If your student is aged 14 or older, the student’s goals for life after high school
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE IEP MEETING?
After the first IEP has been written, you will be asked to give written consent for your student to receive ESE services. If you give your consent, the school will begin implementing the IEP by providing specially designed instruction and services in the IEP. Check that all the plans are being carried out and that your student is making progress.
Continue to look over your student’s school work, keep in touch with your student’s teachers, and visit your student’s class (call the school first).
The IEP must be updated at least once every 12 months. However, you may ask for an IEP meeting at any time if you believe it is important to consider changes in your student’s IEP.
IF YOU DISAGREE WITH THE IEP, THERE IS A PROCESS FOR RESOLVING DIFFERENCES:
You may schedule another IEP team meeting. ECSD has trained staff that conduct facilitated IEP meetings if needed. You may seek mediation, file a state complaint with the Florida Department of Education, or ask for a due process hearing. For more information, please contact ESE Director, Sondra Hill.