Frequently Asked Questions

Question mark cards in a pileThrough the FAQ you will get closer to:

  • Understanding the laws of special education as they pertain to Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), Section 504 and Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).
  • Understanding the steps to getting your child an assessment to see if he, or she, may qualify for special education services.
  • Understanding that you can share information about your child’s strengths and needs to assist in the assessment process and continuing evaluations. (You know your child the best.)
  • Understanding how building a relationship with school personnel will help you monitor your child’s progress and keep you involved. (Your child’s welfare and success is everyone’s top priority.)
  • Understanding how frequent and on-going communication (oral and/or written) with teachers, specialists and administrators, as well as being organized, keeping copies and documenting everything, is important to the success of your child’s services.
  • Understanding the role you have as a parent in discussing the educational placement of your child.
  • Understanding that you are not alone, and you can network with other parents and guardians who are going through similar situations.
  • Understanding the need to be informed and involved in parent education programs. (Knowing the facts can help you better deal with the emotional and physical aspects of special education services.)
  • Understanding the helpfulness of communicating with other parents. Sharing information and experiences can make you feel more at ease, and may provide valuable insights in dealing with your child. This can be done by joining various support groups offered within the district and the community.
  • Understanding that you do not need to feel guilt or embarrassment because of having a child with special needs. (Think of him or her not as disabled, but as ‘differently abled.’ Special education is not a place. It is another way of learning.)


Click the links below to find the answers:



Q. What can I do if I think my child is having school-related problems?

A. Identify what are some possible school-related problems. For example, does he/she:

  • Seem to learn at a rate significantly slower than classmates?
  • Make little progress in one or more basic skill areas, in spite of modifications or remedial instruction?
  • Have a short attention span or is unable to pay attention?
  • Have poor memory for things seen or heard?
  • Produce work that is disorganized, illegible or incomplete?
  • Use immature language or speech patterns?
  • Seem overly quiet, or appear withdrawn?Have difficulty with pencil and paper tasks?
  • Seem very clumsy, or has difficulty moving or locating body in space?
  • Have an inadequate or distorted understanding of time relationships?
  • Seem easily frustrated, or lack patience?
  • Seem to act without thinking?
  • Have unusual posture when reading or writing?
  • Have trouble shifting from one idea to another?
  • Reverse or confuse sounds, letters, words or numbers beyond grade three?
  • Stubbornly refuse to attempt new learning tasks?
  • Struggle to build relationships with others, avoid eye contact, have trouble responding in conversation, or doesn’t seem to ‘fit in’ with peers?


Q. What is a disability?Two rubiks cubes

A. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a person with a disability as a person who has the following:

“A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity. This includes people who have a record of such an impairment, even if they do not currently have a disability. It also includes individuals who do not have a disability but are regarded as having a disability.”


Q. What is Special Education?

A. Special Education (SPED) can be defined as individualized education for each child who has a special need.

Federal law states that all students who qualify for special education should receive individually designed instruction. Eligibility is determined when the results of an evaluation by a multidisciplinary team identify a disability that adversely affects the student’s educational performance; and the student’s educational needs cannot be met by the general education program.

The IDEA defines special education as “specially designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability,” including:

  • Instruction conducted in the classroom, in the home, in hospitals and institutions, and in other settings.
  • Instruction in physical education.


Q. What is Specifically Designed Instruction?

A. Specially designed instruction means adapting, as appropriate to the needs of the eligible child, the content, methodology or delivery of instruction:

  • To address the unique needs of the child that result from the child’s disability
  • To ensure the child’s access to the general curriculum, so that the child can meet the educational standards (within the jurisdiction of the public agency) that apply to all children.



Railroad tracksQ. There are so many Special Education laws. Which are the most vital?

 A. Four important laws to be familiarize with:

  1. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  • IDEA is a federal law that requires school districts to provide a “free appropriate public education” (referred to as FAPE) to eligible children with disabilities.
  • A free appropriate public education means that special education and related services are to be provided as described in an Individualized Education Program (known as IEP) and under public supervision to your child at no cost to you.
  • No Child Left Behind (NCLB) affects students with disabilities under the IDEA (and/or Section 504). NCLB requires that all students be assessed and that appropriate accommodations (when assessing students with disabilities. Also, each state must develop alternate assessments for students whose IEP Teams determine that they cannot be assessed through State testing programs.
  • Child Find is a legal requirement that schools find and evaluate all children who have disabilities and who may be entitled to special education services (requires parental consent). It covers children from birth through age 21. This includes infants, toddlers and children who are being home-schooled, are in private school, homeless children and children who are wards of the state.


  1. Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE):Kids playing and holding hands
  • FAPE is the most fundamental and important right of your child. Special education programs in California are governed by a combination of state and federal laws.
  • Under this law, school districts must provide each student who has a disability with a free appropriate public education (FAPE). FAPE means special education and related services are provided at public expense, without charge.
  • FAPE means that your child, if eligible, must receive an education program specially designed to meet his or her unique learning needs.
  • FAPE includes health, vision, hearing, social and emotional status, general intelligence, academic performance, communicative status, and motor abilities.


  1. Section 504:

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Section 504”) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Amendment 2009, is a civil rights statute (and not a special education statute).

The definition of a disability is broader than that in IDEA because 504 eligibility extends beyond learning to other major life activities. Therefore, if your child did not qualify for special education, he or she child may qualify for a 504 plan.

  • Before classifying a student as having a disability, the school district must do an evaluation to determine that the child is eligible for a Section 504 plan. The District has established a Referral and Assessment process to determine a student’s eligibility for a Section 504 Service Plan. This evaluation may be done through a Student Study Team (SST) process. The evaluation will determine whether the disability has an impact on the child’s education.
  • A student is eligible for a 504 plan even if he or she has been able to compensate for his or her disability by using such things as assistive technology, medication, informal accommodations or learned coping mechanisms.
  • Under Section 504, “appropriate education” means “the provision of regular or special education and related aids and services that are designed to meet individual educational needs of handicapped persons as adequately as the needs of non-handicapped persons are met.” (34 CFR sections 104.34, 104.35, and 104.36)
  • If the SST team determines that your child is not eligible for a Section 504 plan, the district must inform parents or guardians of the decision in writing. The district will provide them with a copy of procedural safeguards, which explains parents’ options if they disagree with the district’s decision.

Section 504 has two main purposes in school districts receiving any federal funding:

  1. To protect students from discrimination under federal law by assuring access to educational services and a learning process that is equal to that given to students who do not have disabilities.
  2. To provide a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to those students who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (e.g. caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, eating, reading, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, concentrating, thinking and communication).


  1. Least Restrictive Environment (LRE):

LRE is part of the IDEA and is a requirement under federal law. LRE laws state:

  • Special education students must be educated and have interaction to the maximum extent possible with non-disabled children.
  • Students are not removed from regular classes unless, even with supplemental aids and services, education in regular classes cannot be achieved satisfactorily.
  • Students on public school campuses are integrated with general education students during the school day and other school sponsored activities. This integration may include:
  • Recess or nutrition, and lunch
  • Inclusion in many or all of the academic portions of the school day.
  • All placements must be described fully in the IEP.

(34 Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) Sec. 300.114)

B.I.G. Solutions Supervisors can work alongside the District LRE specialist and IEP team to ensure your child is in the least restrictive environment.

Gradually, public agencies and the broader  community and public agencies have become aware that children with disabilities can be educated with their non-disabled peers, guaranteeing equal opportunities for all children including children with disabilities.

It is important not to rely on school personnel to tell you about the law. School personnel’s knowledge of the law is often dependent on what they were told in an in-service training session or by “word of mouth.” Few school staff read the law. As the parent of a child with a disability, you need to know what the law actually says. You need to know how to find answers to your questions in the IDEA statute and regulations.


Q. So with FAPE and Section 504, services for special education is at ZERO cost to the parents?

A. Yes. Federal law states that special education is at no cost to the parents/family.


Q. Besides the SST requesting an assessment, can a parent request one too?

A. Yes. You, the teacher or the SST team can request an assessment. Under federal and state law, parents and educators are equal partners in planning for the special needs of each child.

During the assessment process, parents are guaranteed the right and opportunity to provide information for the assessment. Additionally, they participate in decision-making, which includes planning, placement and continuing program reviews and evaluations.

For more detailed information, please look at our 10-step process.



Q. What are my rights as a parent (or student over age eighteen) in Special Education?

A.  You have the right to:

  • Participate
  • Receive prior written notice
  • Consent
  • Refuse to consent
  • Be given a non-discriminatory assessment
  • Receive Independent Educational Evaluations
  • Access educational records
  • Stay in the current program if there is a disagreement about placement
  • Be given a hearing regarding disagreements about an IEP
  • Receive mediation
  • File a complaint against your school district
  • Be informed of school discipline and Alternative Placement
  • Be informed of policies regarding children who attend private schools


Q. Can a Parent request that an assessment be performed prior to or after school?

A. An assessment date and time can be requested. However, school staff have their working schedule set. It is helpful to work with the site administration or the District Special Education Department on special requests.


Q. Where can I learn more about these Special Education laws?

A. The California Department of Education maintains a website that will have citations for Education Codes relating to Special Education:



Q. How can I ensure that I understand the assessment results?

A. It is suggested that you review the assessment results before you go to an IEP team meeting. You may obtain a copy prior to the IEP meeting by making a request in writing to the Teacher of Record. As a parent, you are an equal member of the IEP team and may defer discussion of the various reports until you have had a chance to read them, process them and possibly discuss the results with your family or a professional. If you have questions about the assessment that need to be clarified in advance of the IEP team meeting, you may contact the person who did the assessment (e.g., psychologist, speech and language specialist, adapted physical education specialist, etc.).


Q. What do I do if my child has been assessed by the district and I am told that my child does not qualify for special education?

A. In this case, you have two options:Conquer fear everyday

  1. You always have the right to have a private evaluation done and submitted to the IEP team for consideration. Under certain circumstances, if the child is then deemed eligible for special education, the parents can be reimbursed for the cost of the private testing. Some children who do not qualify for special education may qualify for help under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
  2. You have the right to Complain. You can always dispute the results and talk to the district to see what can be done.


Q. Where can I find an Independent Educational Evaluator (IEE)?

A. When you ask for an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE), your school should tell you the criteria it uses to conduct a similar evaluation. It should also tell you where you can get an independent educational evaluation — schools usually do this by giving parents a list of the qualified evaluators from the “Approved List” that work nearby. However, the school cannot limit you to the evaluators on its list; you can pick any person in your area who meets the school’s criteria. The public agency must ensure that the parent still has the right to the IEE at public expense and is informed about where the evaluation(s) may be obtained. Therefore, if a parent elects to obtain an IEE by an evaluator not on the public agency’s list of evaluators, the public agency may initiate a due process hearing to demonstrate that the evaluation obtained by the parent did not meet the public agency criteria for IEEs, or there is no justification for selecting an evaluator that does not meet agency criteria. If the public agency chooses not to initiate a due process hearing, it must ensure that the parent is reimbursed for the evaluation.

B.I.G. Solutions performs IEE for certain school districts.  However, to avoid a conflict of interest, our agency cannot be currently providing school services for the child.


Q. Are there Independent Educational Evaluator’s (IEE) who can do Behavioral Assessments?

A. Yes. These type of assessments are called Functional Behavior Assessments (FBA)

IDEA requires the IEP team “in the case of a child whose behavior impedes his or her learning, or that of others, to consider, when appropriate, strategies, including positive behavioral interventions and supports to address that behavior.”

  • Professionals generally agree that there is no single cause for problem behaviors.
  • Although behaviors may seem similar (e.g., physical aggression: hitting, pinching, etc.), the causes of the behavior, or “functions” of the behavior may be very different.Road sign with the words "Learning" and "Knowledge" on it
  • An FBA is an approach that incorporates a variety of assessment techniques designed to identify the likely cause of the behaviors, and which can provide the IEP team with the information necessary to develop an intervention plan that teaches strategies to reduce the frequency, intensity or duration of problem behaviors.
  • This approach is important because it leads the assessor beyond the “symptom” (i.e., the behavior) to the cause of the behavior (i.e., what the student is trying to “get” or “avoid” by demonstrating the behavior).
  • Research has demonstrated that a Positive Behavior Support Plan (PBSP), created from the knowledge of “why” the behavior occurs, is extremely effective in addressing a wide range of problem behaviors.


B.I.G. Solutions has BCBA staff available to perform IEE for certain school districts. We employ a variety of assessments and data collection methods to determine the nature, or “function,” of the challenging behavior(s). An FBA identifies events that predict and maintain challenging behaviors. The outcome of the FBA will determine the course of treatment needed to foster change. Throughout this process, our Certified Behavior Analysts are always available to answer questions, work with other therapy providers, provide additional coaching and modify recommendations as needed.

*However, to avoid a conflict of interest, our agency cannot be currently providing school services for the child.


Q. How do I request that the school pay for my child’s IEE?

A. You can write a letter to your school with the following information:

  • Tell the school that you think its evaluation (or re-evaluation) of your child was inappropriate, and that you are requesting “an independent evaluation at public expense.”
  • Give the reasons why you think the school’s evaluation is not appropriate.
  • Explain what kind of independent evaluation you want (educational assessment, neurological assessment, functional behavioral assessment, etc.). If you do not know what kind of evaluation would be best, ask the school.
  • Ask the school for information on where an independent evaluation can be obtained.



Q. If my child is eligible for special education services, would my child participate in general education school programs?

A. Students receiving special education services and related services are educated in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). Placement decisions are made by a student’s IEP Team based on the individual student’s needs, and in keeping with the “Least Restrictive Environment” requirement. The determination of the “best place” for a student to receive education and related services is made on a case-by-case basis by the student’s IEP Team.


Q. If my child is only 3, and my district does not offer any preschool for children without disabilities, will my child be able to integrate with any non-disabled children?

A. Yes. All of the provisions of federal and state special education law apply to students starting at age three, which includes preschool age special education students.

  • Preschoolers also qualify for “a continuum of alternative placements… to meet the needs of children with disabilities….” [34 C.F.R. Secs. 300.115(b) & 300.116.]
  • Preschoolers, therefore, may receive instruction in regular classes, special classes, special schools, home instruction and instruction in hospitals and institutions. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.115(b).]
  • The LRE requirement for preschoolers may include placement in a Head Start program or private preschool placement.


Q. Does my child have the right to participate in non-academic and extracurricular activities offered at his school?

A. Yes. Your child has the right to participate in all activities at school, including field trips and camps with the support that is stated in the IEP.


Q. What if my child’s behavior impedes his or her learning or that of others?

A. The IEP team must consider strategies, including positive behavioral interventions and supports, to address that behavior. Students who demonstrate serious behavior problems must receive a positive behavior intervention plan that has its own set of goals and objectives related to reducing inappropriate school behaviors and substituting appropriate behaviors.


Q. Could my child with a disability be suspended or expelled from school?

A. Students with disabilities are subject to the same suspension rules of 10 days or less as non-disabled students. Federal and state law allow for up to 10 consecutive days of suspension of special education students without any requirement of a manifestation determination.

  1. Suspension, or expulsion, must be related to school activity or attendance. This includes misconduct which occurs on school grounds, while going to or coming from school, during lunch (whether on or off campus), during a school sponsored activity or while going to or coming from a school sponsored activity.
  2. School districts should use alternatives to suspension, or expulsion, to address problems of truancy, tardiness and other absences from school activities.
  3. You must also be informed in writing of a suspension. The written notice should specify the section, or sections, of the Education Code which the district says your child violated.
  4. You are required to respond without delay to any request from school officials to attend a conference regarding your child’s behavior.

Suspensions that are more than 10 consecutive school days, or being expelled from school, are governed by IDEA 2004 amendments of children with special educational needs:

  • A “manifestation determination” meeting must be held.
  • Schools cannot change your child’s placement without your consent, or without a manifestation determination meeting, except for certain behaviors.
  • The school system must conduct a “functional behavioral assessment” and develop or modify a behavioral intervention plan, as necessary, to address the behavior for which the student is being disciplined.


Q. What is a “manifestation determination” meeting?

A. The manifestation determination meeting is a meeting of the relevant members of the IEP Team to determine whether a student with a disability may be expelled, or have his placement changed for more than 10 consecutive school days for misconduct.

  • It is supposed to be held within 10 days of the school’s decision to expel the student or change his placement.
  • At the meeting, the IEP Team reviews the relevant information from the student’s file, including the IEP and any information from teachers and the parents
  • The IEP team decides two things:
  1. Was the behavior caused by, or a direct and substantial relationship to, the student’s disability?
  2. Was the behavior the direct result of the school’s failure to implement the IEP?

If the IEP Team answers “YES” to either question:

  • The school cannot legally suspend the student beyond 10 days, or expel.
  • Any placement change requires either the consent of the parent, or a hearing officer’s order.
  • The student must go back to his original placement, unless the parent and school agree otherwise.
  • The IEP team must correct the IEP, or its implementation.
  • The school must also do a behavioral assessment for the student, or modify the student’s existing behavior plan to address the behavior.

If the team answers “NO” to both questions:

  • The student can be referred for a suspension longer than 10 days, and/or expulsion, in the same way it can for a student without a disability.
  • The law states explicitly that a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) must be available, including for children with disabilities who have been suspended or expelled from school.

{34 CFR 300.530-537}


Q. What if my child requires medication intake at school?

A. Any service or education element that is included in a student’s IEP is considered a part of the student’s FAPE.

Update as of November 6, 2013

On August 12, 2013, the California Supreme Court issued a decision stated that the “California law does permit trained, unlicensed school personnel to administer prescription medications, including insulin, in accordance with written statements of individual students’ treating physicians, with parental consent.’

(The California Supreme Court’s decision may be found in American Nurses Association v. Torlakson 57 Cal. 4th 570 (PDF). / Ed. Code §§ 49423, 49423.6; tit. 5 §§ 600-611.)

In addition, a school or district may not require the parent or guardian to waive any rights or agree to any particular placement or related services as a condition of administering medications or assisting a student in the administration of medication at school.

(Berlin Brothersvalley (PA.) School Dist., EHLR 353:124 (OCR 1988) (district policy of giving school officials discretion in whether to administer needed medication and conditioning the provision of services required by Section 504 or IDEA on parents signing a waiver of liability is prohibited).



Q. What is an IEP? decorative

A. The term “Individualized Education Program” (IEP) means a written statement for each child with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised in accordance with determinations about eligibility, special education and related services under the IDEA. Such determinations are always based upon the unique needs of the individual child. As a part of each IEP, there must be “a statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services, based on peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable, to be provided to the child, or on behalf of the child, and a statement of the program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided for the child” in school and in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities. (


Q. Could an IEP be scheduled via an email?

A. Yes. Parents/guardians can correspond with the District via email if IEP dates need to be changed or confirmed. However, the District will send out the notification via regular mail.


Q. May an IEP meeting be audio or video recorded?

A. Yes. Parents may record the audio of the meeting if you provide a written notice to the staff member who sent you the invitation to the meeting at least 24 hours prior to the meeting. You will need to supply the recording device and media for recording. The School District cannot refuse to allow you to record the meeting.

The school may also record the IEP meeting if it notifies you 24 hours prior to the meeting. However, if you object, then the meeting will not be recorded.


Q. What if my family speaks a language other than English?

A. At any meeting you attend for which you need an interpreter, you must notify the special education department in advance, preferably in writing, in a timely manner. In some districts giving 24 hours is enough notice. The district must provide an interpreter, if requested, or you may also choose to provide your own.


Q. Who are the members of the IEP team?

A. A potential list of the team:

Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman figurines

  1. The parent, guardian, or representative
  2. At least one general education teacher of the child (if the child is or may be participating in general education).
  3. At least one special education teacher or, where appropriate, at least one Sp. Ed. provider
  4. A representative from the district who is qualified to provide or supervise DIS services, is knowledgeable about general curriculum, and is knowledgeable about availability of resources in the district and Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA).
  5. A person who can interpret the evaluation results as they pertain to the child’s educational needs and is qualified to give diagnostic tests, such as a school psychologist or speech pathologist. This role may be filled by one of the above members of the team.
  6. At the parent’s or district’s request other people may be invited to the IEP meeting who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child. This may include Identify Designated Instructional Services (DIS) service personnel as appropriate. The party inviting these individuals (parents or staff) has the authority to determine whether they have knowledge or special expertise to participate.
    1. If transition services are being discussed, representatives of other agencies who are likely to be responsible for paying for or providing transitions services must be invited.
    2. If the district is considering a private school placement, it shall ensure that a representative of the private school attends the meeting or participates through other means.
    3. If the child may need mental health services (AB3632), the district will invite the Department of Mental Health to participate.
    4. If the child was served under Early Education or Intervention Services, the coordinator or representative will be invited to the initial IEP meeting.
    5. A translator when needed.


Q. Are there any individuals for whom advance written notice must be given to the District in order for them to be at an IEP?

A. If you choose to bring legal representation to an IEP, it is common practice to give the district advance notice. Otherwise, the district may elect to not start the meeting. In many districts, at least 24 hour notice is advisable.


Q. Can I communicate with school personnel before an IEP team meeting takes place?

A. Yes. Communication is the key! Before the IEP team meeting, you can talk informally with the school personnel who assessed your child as well as his/her teachers to find out what range of recommendations are possible, or likely, based on the assessment results.

You may also speak with your child regarding his or her feelings toward school and the results of the assessments, including strengths and areas of need. You may also consider including your child in the IEP meeting.


Q. How can I be better prepared and organized for the IEP meeting?

A. Preparation List:

  1. Keep good records and bring appropriate ones to the IEP team meeting. We recommend keeping a notebook with records pertaining to your child’s services. This notebook can be very helpful should you move away from your current district to a new district.

Prepare and maintain a notebook that includes sections such as:Checkers game board with checkers on it

  • Background Information
  • Developmental history
  • Medical history and medical reports
  • Family health history
  • Educational history
  • Psychological and therapy reports
  • Copies of your child’s previous IEPs and school progress reports
  • Samples of your child’s past and present work
  • Copies of records from outside agencies (such as Regional Center)
  • Copies of letters you have written or received regarding your child’s disability/abilities
  • Records of your contacts with schools and agencies (personal visits, telephone calls, etc.). Your long-term goals and short-term objectives your child
  1. Formulate your own goals and objectives for your child.

You know your child best, and have expectations about your child’s future. These are based on your own values, background, and experiences. Be prepared to voice your expectations at the IEP team meeting so that related goals and objectives can be included in the IEP, if appropriate.



Q. What should you expect in an IEP meeting?

A. Potential Expectations:

  • State purpose of the meeting and introduce IEP team members
  • Receive a copy of Parental Rights and Responsibilities
  • Identify parental concerns
  • Review assessments/present levels of performance
  • Determine eligibility (if appropriate)
  • Identify assessed area(s) of need
  • Write goals and objectives that address assessed area(s) of need
  • Identify Designated Instructional Services (DIS) necessary for student to benefit from educational program and the frequency and duration of the service(s) the student will receive
  • Identify placement where the IEP, including goals and objectives, can be implemented
  • An IEP may be recorded by either the parent, the district or both. Parents and the district have the right to record the audio of the IEP team meetings, provided that the IEP team members are notified at least 24 hours in advance. But, if the parent objects to the district recording the meeting, the district will not do so.
  • Parents also have the right to inspect and review the recordings of the IEP meetings and request that the recordings be amended.


Q. What must the IEP document contain?

A. The document must address all of the following areas regarding your child’s plan:

Present levels of performance (PLOP)

  • Educational and functional statements about what your child can and cannot do are based on assessment information, a review of records and a report of progress in the classroom.
  • These may include information about academic, social, language, motor, self-help and pre-vocational skills.
  • Statements should be objective and measurable, so that progress can be measured from year to year.
  • They should describe the way your child performs, and how the disability affects your child’s participation and progress in the general curriculum.


Annual goals and objectives

  • Based on your child’s identified learning needs, the IEP defines goals hot air ballonyour child will work toward achieving based on present levels of performance and current records and assessment data.
  • The IEP must specify measurable annual goals, i.e., what your child can reasonably be expected to accomplish within one year. Short-term objectives (benchmarks) are measurable, intermediate steps between where your child is now (i.e., present levels of performance) and the annual goals.
  • The objectives are developed based on a logical breakdown of the skills necessary to achieve the goal.
  • The objectives serve as guides for planning and implementing instructional activities in the classroom, and as milestones for measuring progress.
  • The goals and objectives must relate to meeting your child’s educational needs resulting from the identified disability and enabling your child to participate and progress in the general curriculum.
  • For students who are Limited English Proficient (LEP), the goals and objectives will address English language development and be based on the student’s level of English language proficiency.
  • The teacher(s) and other specialists who work with your child in school are responsible for designing learning tasks and activities which correspond with the goals and objectives written in the IEP.
  • It is important that you tell the IEP team your own expectations for your child and those of other professionals who work with your child outside of school.
  • If your expectations are integrated into the IEP, you and other team members can work together to achieve the same goals.


Accommodations + Modifications

  • The IEP must identify the individual accommodations and modifications your child requires in the administration of state- or district-wide achievement assessments.
  • If extra time is needed, it is important to specify this in the IEP, as this language will be needed to ensure the identified accommodations or modifications.
  • It is critical to establish your child’s right to extra time on future tests.
  • There is a difference between “accommodations” and “modifications” Parents should contact the district’s administrator in charge of testing for additional information on accommodations that will not affect scoring of the tests.
  • State and District tests have different requirements, including the SAT and California State Exit Exam.
  • If the IEP team determines that your child will not participate in particular assessments, the IEP must state why that assessment is not appropriate and how your child will be assessed instead.



  • Placement refers to the setting, or settings, in which the services identified in your child’s IEP will be implemented.
  • A variety of placement options will be discussed and the team will determine the appropriate placement based upon your child’s unique needs.
  • Children with disabilities must be educated to the maximum extent possible with non-disabled children in what is referred to as a Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).
  • Special classes, separate schooling or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular education environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in general education classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.
  • Children with disabilities must be provided maximum interaction with the general school population.


Designated Instructional Services (DIS) or Related Services

  • The IEP must specify any related services required for your child to benefit from his or her educational program (such as mobility training, adapted physical education).
  • In California these services are called Designated Instruction and Services. The IEP will indicate the frequency, location and duration of the services to be provided.
  • These services will be provided until there is no longer a demonstrated need and testing in the area of service supports a change and there is a new and signed IEP.

Below is a list of DIS services (also referred to as related services) that may be required to assist a student in accessing his/her educational program. These services may include, but are not limited to:

  • Speech and Language Servicesdecorative
  • Audiological Services
  • Orientation and Mobility Services
  • Instruction in the home or hospital
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Adaptive/Adapted Physical Education
  • Physical Therapy
  • Vision Services
  • Specialized Driver Training Instruction
  • Counseling and Guidance
  • Psychological Services other than assessment and development of the IEP
  • Parent Counseling and Training
  • Health and Nursing Services
  • Social Worker Services
  • Specially designated Vocational Education and Career Development
  • Recreation Services
  • Special Services for low-incidence disabilities, such as readers, transcribers, vision and hearing services
  • Transportation
  • Interpreting Service (generally for low incidence disabilities, such as deafness)
  • Deaf and hard of hearing Services


Medical / Health

  • Vision and hearing screening results will be noted.
  • If your child has important medical or health considerations, such as seizures or prescription medication, this information can be discussed and recorded on the IEP document.



  • A student’s behavioral functioning is also reviewed at the IEP meeting.
  • If the IEP team feels that a student’s behavior is negatively affecting his or her academic progress, a continuum of interventions will be considered.
  • Behavior issues may be addressed through environmental modifications, goals and objectives, a Functional Behavior Assessment leading to a Positive Behavior Support Plan, a Functional Analysis Assessment (FAA) (which may lead to a Positive Behavior Intervention Plan), DIS Counseling or a combination of one or more of the above.


Q. Must the IEP include all services and modifications my child needs?

A. Yes. The IEP must include all services, including:

  • Duration and frequency of all DIS sessions.
  • Modifications/accommodations such as those necessary to include the child in the general education classroom (special seating, oral testing, etc.).

If it is not in your child’s IEP, your child doesn’t have it. Make sure the agreements decided upon at the IEP Meeting are written in the IEP.

Be prepared to work as a team member at the IEP team meeting

Keep in mind, the IEP is developed by a team, and you are an equal member. Remember, you have known your child longer than anyone else and routinely observe your child in many different situations. You have important information to contribute.



Q. Do parents have to sign the IEP document at the time of the meeting?

A. No.

  • Parents may choose to take the IEP home to read it thoroughly and are entitled to do so.
  • If you take it home, you should sign it “in attendance only” while at the meeting.
  • If you are satisfied with it after you have read it thoroughly you should sign it and return it promptly.
  • If you are not satisfied, do not sign it. You may challenge it through the due process procedures.
  • Make sure you receive a copy of the entire IEP document that is created at the meeting, including the notes page.


Q. Do parents have to agree to the entire IEP as written?

A. No.

  • Parents do not have to agree with the entire IEP.
  • You may note on the page which you sign the areas with which you disagree. All areas with which you do agree must be implemented promptly by the school district.
  • This district uses a computerized IEP. In order to have your parent comments incorporated in the IEP you need to write your comments into the IEP under the Parent Comments Section on the computer and not on a separate blank piece of paper.


Q. What happens if I do not agree with part or all of the IEP?

A. If your child already has an IEP in place, and you disagree with the new IEP then . . .

  • The old IEP will remain in effect.
  • If only part of the new IEP is not agreed to, that part will not go into effect until the issue is resolved through the due process procedures.
  • There is place on the IEP document under consent where you can state the part of the IEP you do not agree to.


Q. Does a teacher, therapist or coordinator have the authority to extend time for therapy (e.g. speech) during an IEP?

A. This decision needs to be made based on student need and the concurrence of the IEP team.



Q. How can I help my child transition from one level to the next (e.g. pre-school to kindergarten, elementary to middle, middle too high, and high to post-secondary)?

A. You should make sure that a staff member (preferably the teacher) from the new school your child will be going to attends your child’s IEP before you transition. It is important that the receiving school representative is familiar with programs and placements for your child, and can make sure that goals are written such that they can be implemented by the receiving school. This meeting should take place in the Spring prior to the transition meeting. You should then plan to visit the receiving school with your child and get to know the campus. Visit the office and introduce yourself to the staff. See if you can arrange to visit the classroom where they want to place your child.



Q. How can I make sure the IEP is implemented?

A. The IEP team meeting is only a beginning. The IEP is implemented once you approve it, then you can monitor your child’s educational progress. To do this, you can:

  • Maintain regular contact with your child’s teacher(s) and other professionals involved.Checkers game board with checkers on it
  • Ask the teacher(s) if he, or she, is aware of the new IEP, especially if your child is in a general education class.
  • Inquire as to when you expect it to be implemented.
  • In addition, you may find there are things you can do at home which reinforce the work that is being done at school. Ask your child’s teacher(s) for suggestions. This enables you to assist your child to achieve his or her IEP goals.
  • Ask to review the progress report to see if your child is making progress.
  • If there is a delay, and the reasons for the delay are unsatisfactory to you, or if the IEP is still not implemented, you may file a complaint by writing a letter to the school principal, and send a copy to the Coordinator of Special Education responsible for your child’s school, requesting prompt implementation of your child’s IEP.


Q. What do I do if I think my child needs a change in services?

A. If you are not happy with the services your child is receiving, there are a few steps you can take.

  • Make a request in writing to the teacher of record for an IEP team meeting to discuss your concerns.
  • If possible, you should provide documentation (test results, examples of classwork, independent evaluations, etc.) to substantiate your request.
  • This may be done as often as you or the district believes is necessary. If you request additional meetings to amend the IEP, the district must hold the meeting within 30 days of your written request (not including school holidays).
  • You may also amend an existing IEP without holding a full IEP meeting other than placement.



Q. What do I do if a problem arises?

A. The first thing you should do is speak directly with your child’s teacher. If the problem relates specifically to an area covered by a specialist, then that person should be contacted. Speak with the school principal if you do not get an adequate response. If further assistance is needed, contact the Special Education Department Coordinator.

Complaints can be filed by writing to the Special Education Division at the California Department of Education:

California Department of Education
Special Education Division
Procedural Safeguards Referral Service

1430 N Street, Suite 2401
Sacramento, CA95814

Further information on parent rights and procedural safeguards is contained in a separate document produced by the district, Tri-City SELPA Notice to Parent/Guardian/Surrogate. You may request this document from your child’s school, or from the Office of Special Education.


Q. Can I file a complaint with any other agencies?

A. If you believe that your child has been discriminated against due to his or her disability and you have been unable to resolve the problem at the school level with the principal or at the district level with the director of special education, you may file a complaint under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The Office of Civil Rights investigates 504 complaints. They can be reached at:

San Francisco Office
Office for Civil Rights
U.S. Department of Education

50 Beale Street, Suite 7200
San Francisco, CA94105

  • The OCR must investigate and rule within 120 days of your complaint.
  • The school district has 60 days to rectify the situation if it is found to be out of compliance.