How Does A Student Qualify For An IEP?

If you suspect your child may need special education services, it isn’t always easy to figure out how to get the school to provide special education services. The process is supposed to be simple: request an evaluation, the evaluation is completed, a team of individuals meet to discuss those results and if found eligible these individuals develop an IEP. Parents who are new to this process it can be overwhelming and a bit secretive. Let’s pull back the curtain…


Anyone can make a referral for special education; a teacher, pediatrician, or a parent/caregiver. As a parent, if you have concerns about your son or daughter’s progress, send a letter or email to the building principal. A simple paragraph is all that is needed. Something like:





Dear ___,


My son/daughter, _________, is a student in Mr/Ms/Mrs __________’s classroom. For sometime now, I have been concerned about ______’s progress and wonder if he/she may require special education services. I’m concerned that ____ isn’t able to:

· Read grade level material independently

· Unable to complete homework

· Is struggling understanding math and hasn’t mastered their math facts

· Is continually getting in trouble

· Can’t get along with their peers

· Is extremely unorganized and forgets to hand in assignments

· Is anxious and having trouble getting to school


Could you please send me an Evaluation Consent Form at your first opportunity? If you have questions regarding my concerns, I can be reached at____.


Thank you,



When a principal receives this type of letter, they are supposed to notify the special education department and that department is supposed to issue a consent to evaluate within 5 school days. When the form reaches you, you should review, sign the document, and return it to the school, as this starts the process of evaluation. Evaluations are required to be completed within 30 school days of receipt of this signed consent. If you receive questionaries or other paperwork to complete, it’s important to set aside time to provide that information and return it to school, as this information will be incorporated into the reports the evaluators will generate.

Once these evaluations are completed, a group of school personnel and you will be invited to attend an eligibility meeting. (This meeting must be held within 45 school days of the signed consent form.) The participants are tasked with determining if a child is eligible for special education services by answering the following questions:

· Does the student have a disability?

· Is the student making effective progress?

· If no, is the lack of progress are result of the disability?

· Does the student require specially designed instruction or related services?


I’ve found that most of the discussion takes place while the team answers the second question, as it’s subjective. Effective progress isn’t solely academic progress, but the student needs to be making social/emotional and behavioral progress. Many times, the conversation focuses merely on academic progress of the student and fails to consider these other areas. Consider bringing in “evidence” of your child’s struggles, such as samples of schoolwork, tests or quizzes, report cards, printout of missing assignments, emails from your child’s teachers, referrals to the principal’s office, a list of phone calls from the school regarding behavior violations, etc.


If the team determines your child does qualify for special education services, an Individualize Educational Program (IEP) is developed and will identify accommodations, modifications, supports and services your child requires. You should leave the meeting with a meeting summary that identifies those accommodations, the goal areas the team will focus on for the upcoming year and how those services will be provided. Within a few days of this meeting, a formalized IEP is submitted to you for review and approval. Once this document is signed and returned to the school, services begin.


If the team has determined that your child does not qualify for an IEP, you have the right to “appeal” this determination through various dispute resolution mechanisms.


So that’s the basic process. If you have questions about this process, consider calling Cape Cod Advocate. We’re highly trained advocates who can walk you through this process and ensure the correct determination is made. We’re here to help!


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