How long is an IEP good for? The timeframes for the IEP are based on federal law. There are specific timelines on how you get up to the creation of the IEP, but once the IEP is created and signed, it is suitable for three years. However, annually, so every school year, there needs to be an IEP meeting where the IEP team meets. This might include healthcare providers, therapists, special education coordinators or teachers, general education teachers, and parents. And then school administration. They’ll come together every year to assess the student regarding the IEP.
What Happens in an IEP Meeting?
In an IEP, goals will be set, and benchmarks for progress monitoring and how they will reach those goals. So, every year, the IEP will be looked over. Everybody will meet as a team and discuss if that student is progressing towards their goals. If they are, they will keep it on track and keep it the same way it is; it’s working. If the student is not meeting those benchmarks through progress monitoring, then the IEP may be adjusted. Additional therapy or accommodation time needs to be added to the IEP. However, the student remains qualified for the IEP for up to three years. So, every year there will be an IEP meeting to check the student’s progress.
Are they meeting their benchmarks through progress monitoring and reaching those goals? And if they’re not, what needs to be adjusted for that to happen? The student will be reassessed at the three-year mark to see if they still need an IEP. So, when you are initially getting an IEP, meaning the first time you see if the student is qualified, there may be evaluations or assessments. That is needed to collect data on that student to see if they qualify for an IEP. If this is a renewal at the three-year mark, usually, most of the time, they already have all the data that they need to evaluate that student. Also, did they meet their goals? If they have completed their goals and are up to grade level on everything, then there are no roadblocks.
And the least restrictive environment would be for them to be in a regular general education classroom with no accommodations. Then the IEP would stop. There’s no reason for it because there’s no need for accommodations. However, if the student has yet to reach the goals, or if they feel like other sorts of obstacles substantially affect their ability to learn, then potentially new plans will be made at the three-year mark. And new assessments, evaluations, and collecting data could recur at the three-year mark. Now, an IEP can take a student through secondary education. At the college level, that’s when it’s likely that the school or university would switch to a 504 plan.
Duration of an IEP
But again, to reiterate, an IEP is good for three years. You’ll have an annual meeting every year, and every three years, the IEP will be recreated, which can follow the student through 12th grade. And if they are potentially in a life skills classroom, they could be in that secondary education setting for up to age 21. And then, at that point, the IEP would stop. So, those are just the guidelines for how long an IEP is good. And when I say three years, it will keep everything. They’re just going to reassess the student and ensure they’re still qualifying for an IEP.
Who Qualifies for an IEP?
Who qualifies for an IEP? This is outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in federal statute, which says a child must have a qualifying disability that falls within 13 categories that are outlined in federal statutes. The child has to have a disability that falls within those categories. Still, not only that, but it also has to be shown that the disability has adversely affected the child’s ability to learn. Because they have a disability doesn’t mean they automatically qualify for an IEP. Because the disability first must affect them lately, they need this IEP.
13 IEP Categories
Let’s go through the 13 categories listed in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The first one is a specific learning disability. I would say that the best example of this would be dyslexia. If you have a disability with reading or interpreting words or anything specific to learning, dyslexia is the most common one. So, that’s what I’m using as an example. And if it adversely affects your education, then you would likely qualify for an IEP. The next one is other health impairments. So again, I’ll keep saying this, anything that’s a health impairment that would adversely affect your ability to learn.
One good example here would be AHD. It is a health impairment and affects the child’s ability to focus and process information in the classroom. So, therefore, it would likely be that that student would qualify for an IEP. The next one would be autism spectrum disorder. As you know, autism spectrum disorder is a spectrum. So, if your child has a diagnosis, we use the term on the spectrum or, as I said, autism spectrum disorder. And it adversely affects them in the classroom, so they’re likely to qualify for an IEP. That one is straightforward. Next, emotional disturbance. Suppose they have emotional disorders or trouble regulating their emotions, such as depression and anxiety; these things will fall within that category. And again, then they would likely qualify.
The fifth category would be speech or language impairment. This is the one where the adverse effect has to come into play. Just because this child has a speech impediment, it may not adversely affect their learning. So, they might not be qualifying for an IEP. A 504 plan is required if therapy is brought into the school. But if they do have a disability that is considered a speech or language impairment, then they could qualify for an IEP. The sixth category is visual impairment, including blindness. And that one is straightforward. If you have a diagnosis of extreme visual impairment or blindness, then you would likely qualify as well.
And then deafness. Again, if the student cannot hear, it would interrupt their learning, and there would need to be other ways that the information is brought to the student. Next is hearing impairment. Not just deafness, but maybe there are hearing impairment issues that don’t rise to the level of deafness. That would be the eighth category as well. Then there’s also deaf-blindness. When a child is blind and deaf, that will fall into that ninth category. Next is orthopedic impairment. Again, I’ll touch on this as well because just because a child has an orthopedic impairment, if it’s not adversely affecting their education, they wouldn’t qualify.
However, if it is, then they would qualify for an IEP. And they fit within that 10th category. The 11th one is an intellectual disability. The best example of this is if the child is just not at the academic level of their peers, and maybe they need different types of instruction. Then they would likely qualify for an IEP. Traumatic brain injury. So, an accident, damage, or something like that would adversely affect their learning ability because they’re working with a brain injury. They would likely qualify as well.
And then multiple disabilities. If there are multiple disabilities working together to affect that student, again adversely, they would be likely to qualify for an IEP. So, to summarize that list again, it would be a specific learning disability, and I gave dyslexia as an example. Other health impairments include autism spectrum disorder, emotional disturbance, speech impairment, visual impairment, deafness, hearing impairment, deaf-blindness, orthopedic impairment, intellectual disability, traumatic brain injury, and multiple disabilities. Those are the 13 categories that your child must fit in. And again, I’ve probably said it a million times in this blog; it needs to affect their learning ability.
Is AZ IEP Free?
You might have a perception that education is expensive. However, the good news is that IEP is a free program in Arizona. The federal and state government have put in place adequate measures to ensure that all children with disabilities can access this form of education at no cost. However, this does not mean that the program is entirely free. Families must pay for some costs associated with IEP, such as travel expenses, books, and other materials.
How Do I Get an IEP For My Child in Arizona?
As a parent or guardian, you can request an IEP evaluation for your child if you think they might need special education services. You can make this request to the school district in which your child attends school. The school district must evaluate whether your child is eligible for special education services.
If the school district determines that your child is eligible for special education services, they will develop an IEP for your child. The IEP is a document that outlines the special education services that your child will receive.