Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) are written plans for providing an appropriate education for a child who has been identified as having a disability. IEPS are required for children with disabilities who are in public school, but are not generally required if a student is being homeschooled, unless the child is being provided services by the public school. Regulations regarding requirements for homeschooling children with disabilities vary by state, so it is essential you research and understand requirements designated by your state’s homeschooling regulations. A good resource for this information is the “Homeschool Legal Defense Association” website’s state-by-state listing: http://www.hslda.org/strugglinglearner/sn_states.asp which has information regarding regulations for homeschooling children with special education needs.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) designates regulations for identifying children with disabilities, establishes the child’s rights, the parent’s rights, and regulations for educational provisioning. An IEP must be written for children whose needs fall into one of the categories defined in IDEA regulations:
- Emotional disturbance (EBD),
- Hearing impairment (HI),
- Mental retardation or intellectual disability (MR),
- Multiple disabilities,
- Orthopedic impairment,
- Other health impairment (OHI),
- Specific learning disability (SLD),
- Speech-language impairment,
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI), or
- Visual impairment including blindness.
Under the Americans with Disbilities Act, some children end up with what is called a “504 Plan.” From the Office of Civil Rights, “Section 504 requires recipients to provide to students with disabilities appropriate educational services designed to meet the individual needs of such students to the same extent as the needs of students without disabilities are met. An appropriate education for a student with a disability under the Section 504 regulations could consist of education in regular classrooms, education in regular classes with supplementary services, and/or special education and related services.” (Ref: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/504faq.html#interrelationship)
“If a student is eligible under IDEA, he or she must have an IEP. Under the Section 504 regulations, one way to meet Section 504 requirements for a free appropriate public education is to implement an IEP.” However, an IEP is not required if a 504 plan is sufficient to provide equal educational access and the child is not eligible for services under the IDEA rules. If you’d like to understand more about the similarities and differences between 504 Plans and IEPs, the National Center for Learning Disabilities has a nice chart on their website: http://www.ncld.org/disability-advocacy/learn-ld-laws/adaaa-section-504/section-504-idea-comparison-chart.
If you are the parent of a child in public school, it is essential for you to understand IEPs, what schools are required to provide, and even more importantly–what schools are not required to provide. It will be helpful for you to explore these additional topics:
- Delphi Techniques (coming soon),
- Your Child’s Rights (coming soon),
- Your Parental Rights (coming soon),
- Working Within the System (coming soon),
- Constraints of Public Schooling (coming soon),
- Breaking Away towards Homeschooling (coming soon).