If your child met one of the thirteen conditions (“Deafness” is one of the conditions) that are covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act [IDEA], you will hear the word Individualized Education Program [IEP] during their educational journey. IDEA requires public schools to provide services that allow for special education instructions, support and services that are deemed appropriate for your child. 

In their IEP, these instructions, supports, and services are listed however it is more than just a legal document. An IEP is a roadmap that allows for the program to make sure each accommodation is helping the student make progress. During an IEP meeting, students, families, and school professionals gather together to discuss goals that measure the success of the student. Sometimes they are directly related to the accommodations they receive and sometimes they are not. 

Now, much to many parents’ surprise, an IEP is not always automatically offered. The process of getting an IEP begins with an evaluation for special education. As a parent, it is important that you are an advocate for your child so here is some information that will help you get this journey started:

  1. Have your child found eligible for special education services. You don’t have to actually ask for an IEP, all you do is submit a request for the school to evaluate your child. Sometimes the school will initiate the evaluation process themselves but will require your consent to do so. 
  2. Make sure you are aware of the 13 conditions that are covered by IDEA. If you believe your child has one of these conditions, be sure to be assertive about it. 
  3. Learn what accommodations are standard for your child’s disability and what other options there may be for your child if they do not benefit from the “standard accommodations”. 
  4. Once your child has been qualified for an IEP, you will work with the school to create an IEP for your child. This must happen within 30 days of your child being found eligible for an IEP. 

If your child is deemed ineligible for special services under IDEA, you might be able to request a 504 plan for your child. This would still provide accommodations or other supports that give your child access to learning. There are other steps parents can take including independent educational evaluation [IEE], mediation, and due process complaints. Be sure you’ve exhausted all options prior to starting a due process complaint.