Each parent wants the best for their child, especially in the classroom. While learning styles and challenges can vary from student to student, this is especially true for children living with Cerebral Palsy. How CP affects the child, and how that presents itself in the learning process and classroom, can make the ‘standard’ educational plan feel as though it is lacking or unsatisfactory. An IEP aims to create a bridge between the educational materials and the student with Cerebral Palsy to achieve the best results possible for teachers, children, and their families.
But what is an IEP exactly? IEP stands for Individualized Education Program and is a written educational plan aimed at finding ways to limit the impact learning challenges can have on a child. There are a wide variety of concepts or elements that can be a part of a child’s IEP, and because an IEP is built around the child’s individual needs, there is no one-size-fits-all explanation for what an IEP is. Instead, to define an IEP is to focus on what an Individualized Education Program represents and what it is intended to accomplish for the student.
For example, as it relates to children with physical challenges, an IEP may be the only way that they can receive extra time to complete testing or be able to view certain materials. That is because an IEP may be built around providing extra time to overcome handwriting challenges or include the use of an individual display unit/assistive technology for learning. In this way, an IEP is built around identifying the specific challenges a child faces and then presenting unique solutions to ensure that a child is not prevented from achieving the best results possible.
An Individualized Education Program relies upon two things: (1) an IEP Plan and (2) a team of educational professionals, family representatives, and other specialists. The team, which would specifically include one of the child’s teachers, a school employee with the training needed to evaluate progress, and a special education professional, regularly holds meetings and tracks progress against the written plan. The legal basis for the creation of an IEP is based in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which outlines the requirements and bases for ongoing use and revision of the IEP plan.
Make no mistake, an Individualized Education Program does not provide unfair advantages to the children who utilize them. Instead, they are focused on creating tangible steps to undo disadvantages that align with a child’s special needs. The scale and relative size of an IEP can vary widely because, again, they are based upon individuals and are not intended to be the same for all children. Children with mild stutters or difficulty speaking, who do not have Cerebral Palsy or would otherwise be considered special needs, can have an Individualized Education Program focused solely on supplementing their education with speech therapy appointments.
For those who have heard about additional educational programs, or other programs intended to assist children with special needs, all of this may sound similar to a 504 Plan. An IEP is not the same as a 504 Plan, and you can read about the differences in these two equally important mechanisms for educational assistance by clicking here.
For children with Cerebral Palsy, an IEP can be a life-changing tool in an effort to continue their education and achieve great things. Whether an IEP includes additional time to complete tasks, a teaching aide, assistive technology, additional one-on-one-time with an educator, etc., an IEP Is an excellent tool for a parent to explore when looking for any and all options available to limit the impact of their child’s special needs and to fully achieve their potential.
If you have concerns about your child’s schooling and wish to see how an IEP might improve his or her ability to overcome educational challenges, speak with your child’s teacher soon. The timelines for creating and advancing an IEP Plan can vary based upon your child’s grade level and schooling, making it critical that you start early in pursuing this important opportunity. If you are struggling to initiate an IEP with your child’s teacher, do not give up! Instead, move on to speak with counselors at your child’s school, with administrators, and any special education staff available. The most important thing is to keep advocating and fighting for is your child’s education. We understand the frustrations that can develop, but also know how valuable an IEP Plan that helps your child can be!
Contact us today with any questions you might have regarding assistance we have available to help children with Cerebral Palsy and their families!