If you have a child with a disability or some other limitations, they might have difficulty navigating their schoolwork. Fortunately, there are several programs that can give them the tools and resources they need to succeed. One is called an Individualized Education Program, or IEP. 

What is an IEP?

IEPs are covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which was reauthorized in 2004. This is a federal law that guarantees “free appropriate public education” to all children with disabilities. 

There are a variety of disabilities that qualify for IEPS. Some of these include autism, visual impairment, speech and language impairment, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment, intellectual disability, and specific learning disabilities. 

The purpose of an IEP is twofold – to establish learning goals for the child and to indicate the services and supports the school district will provide for the child. 

Can an IEP Help My Children?

If you believe that your child qualifies for an IEP, you’ll want to schedule an IEP meeting with their school. These meetings should take place within 30 days of your child becoming eligible for services, and the program will be reviewed at least once per year for any necessary revisions. 

At the IEP meeting, the team will determine if your child qualifies for an IEP. Specifically, your child should have a covered disability as well as proof that their disability impacts their ability to learn. If the IEP is approved, it can help your children navigate the learning process. 

In most cases, services delivered through an IEP can be provided in a regular school setting. However, some children that need special assistance might require a different educational environment which allows for more individualized attention. Also, some children require assistance from a person with specific training or require related services such as interpreting, counseling, or physical therapy services. 

How IEPs Differ from 504 Plans

504 Plans are another way to give children learning assistance. They are named for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits discrimination against individuals based on disabilities. 

A 504 Plan doesn’t alter the curriculum for the child, but it alters the learning environment to give the child equal access to learning. For example, if a child breaks an arm, a 504 Plan would be necessary to give the child access to a “scribe” or some other assistive technology so that they can complete their work. 

Some students may qualify for a 504 Plan but not an IEP. If a student has a documented disability that impacts a major life function, they will likely be a good candidate for a 504 Plan. 

Want to learn more about individualized learning programs through homeschooling? The South Carolina Association of Independent Home Schools (SCAIHS) provides encouragement and educational counseling to homeschooling parents throughout South Carolina. Contact us today for more information about how you can get the tools to help your children succeed.