August 4, 2011
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Making Sense of the IEP Process:  Stage 1  

Are you confused by the jargon and maze of legal procedures associated with your child's education and individualized education plan (IEP)?   With this newsletter, we begin a monthly discussion of each of the 9 stages of the IEP process.  We hope that these newsletters will help you better understand school procedures and parental rights, and facilitate a collaborative relationship between you, your consultant, and the school.


Stages of the IEP Process, as defined in the Special Needs Advocacy Resource Book:


Stage 1:  Prereferral, Prescreening, General Education Intervention

Stage 2:  Referral and Screening Stage/Process

Stage 3:  Evaluation Planning and Evaluation

Stage 4:  Eligibility Determination

Stage 5:  IEP Development

Stage 6:  IEP Is Implemented

Stage 7:  The Child's Progress Is Reported

Stage 8:  IEP Is Reviewed in a Periodic or Annual Review Meeting

Stage 9:  Reevaluation


The IEP process begins with prereferral, prescreening, and general education intervention.  The school system should first work together with family members to attempt to resolve educational or behavioral difficulties in the general education classroom before the student is referred for special education assessment.  The particular steps taken will vary depending on the school and situation;  one commonly used model is RTI (Response to Intervention), which emphasizes early intervention, evaluations, and increased intensity and specialization as appropriate.  (For more information, see School Success for Kids with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, pgs. 54 - 60).  


Students who are suspected of having an educational disability (those that are struggling in the regular classroom) are protected under federal and state laws and regulations, just like their disabled counterparts.  If the interventions and services in the general education setting are not effectively addressing the child's needs, the parent may request that the team move to the next stage for referral and screening. 

Tips for Parents

"When you first notice your child struggling in any area, begin to keep a portfolio of work samples and examples of assignments that represent your child's strengths and areas of need.  Through the referral, screening, and evaluation process, it is very important to keep a calendar so that you may document discussions with school staff, behaviors that occur at home, correspondences with the school system, or any other important events related to the IEP process  Have more frequent meetings with the school staff during the referral and screening stage, and observe your child in the classroom as many times as possible.  The more effective and frequent communication you have with the school, the more you will understand the IEP process and the less you will be surprised during it." - Special Needs Advocacy Resource Book, pg. 87.

Case study


Although Sam (not his real name) did well in elementary school, his parents worried that his distractibility and organizational difficulties would need support during middle school due to the increased academic demands. Working with their ABCs for Life Success consultant, they requested and attended a pre-screening meeting and subsequent meetings to review Sam's strengths and needs, and to explore interventions to try in the general education classroom.  In the end the school team agreed he did have a disability that required specialized instruction to make academic progress, and developed an IEP for him.  The proactive steps taken by his parents and consultant helped Sam to succeed in middle school with help from the accommodations and supports in his IEP.   

Starting this fall: Parent Training and Counseling


At ABCs for Life Success we are passionate about parents being truly equal partners with the multidisciplinary team.   Our new parent training and counseling service will educate and empower you to most effectively assist with the implementation of your child's IEP through convenient, weekly phone sessions facilitated by one of our expert consultants.  Learn about legal and practical considerations in every aspect of the special education process and share your stories, challenges and successes with other parents.  Contact us today for more information and to sign up. 


"Understanding the stages [of the IEP process] and their interrelatedness will help parents experience the process in a powerful way that allows them to be an equal partner with the team."
Special Needs Advocacy Resource Book, pg. 85

 Check out these great resource books: 

SNARB cover  

School Success for Kids with EBD cover

The ABC for Life Success Team


Michelle Davis, M. Ed

Eric Levine, Ed. D.

Amy Mounce, MA, M. Ed.

Revanette Gilmore, M. Ed.

Paul Livelli, Ph. D.

Gretchen Holtzinger Levine

Nina Hagan, MAT

Kelly Diamond


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