Every School Year I Had to Fight

Parents usually have to fight to get an Individualized Education Plan (IEP)or 504-plan for their children, but why?

An IEP is a plan or program developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives specialized instruction and related services.

You would think that for something as important as an IEP it would be very easy and not a long process for parents to get it. You would think that it would take at least a month or two to receive a finalized copy.

I started the IEP process two years ago for my daughter. I learned quickly that it was not going to be an easy process. The first school year came and went with no IEP in sight.

By the second year I felt like a pro. Now mind you before the last school year ended I was in constant communication with the school social worker. So the week before school was scheduled to start I started the process. I called the school social worker every other day to see where everything stood. Whenever I went to the school I spoke with the principal. I was in constant communication with my daughter’s teacher. She spoke with school officials as well. The day before my daughter graduated from kindergarten I picked up her finalized IEP. Yes she went another year without it.

For a child to go through school without a plan in place is inexcusable. The sad thing is we’re not the only family to go through this. I think about all the children that went without an IEP throughout the school year. Children who took standardized tests, children who may not have been promoted to the next grade—all of these kids suffered.

I spoke with another single mother with a daughter who has Asperger Syndrome, dysgraphia and a mood disorder. Serving in the military, she had to regularly relocate requiring her daughter to undergo multiple evaluations for an IEP—since they are not transferable from state to state. Each time the family relocated, it took an entire school year before her IEP was finalized. The problems didn’t end there. At each grade level, she faced teachers who would not honor her daughter’s IEP. Most of her teachers didn’t understand all of her disorders.

It is worth noting that local school districts are primarily responsible for covering the cost of an IEP—and they are expensive. What if your school does not have the budget to make sure each child that needs an IEP receives it?

Obviously the entire process is in need some improvement.

I will continue to say to parents, you are the voice of your children. Be engaged with your child’s school. Build a relationship with the teachers and administration at your child’s school.

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