Provision for Individual Education Plans (IEPs) is in the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act (EPSEN) of 2004. Unfortunately only parts of this act have come into force and provision for IEPs was not included. Government policies support the use of IEPs in both primary and secondary schools.
… a restriction in the capacity of the person to participate in and benefit from education on account
of an enduring physical, sensory, mental health or learning disability, or any other condition which results in a person learning differently from a person without that condition.
This definition of a special educational need is also used in most government policies concerning children with special needs. This SEN definition does not require a specific diagnosis or list particular problems or conditions which fall into this category. So even if your child has yet to receive a specific diagnosis, she may still qualify as having a special educational need and be entitled to appropriate supports.
IEPs are legally required in other countries including the United States. They are also recognized as good practice when educating children with special needs. The EPSEN Act is very specific about what to include in the IEP as well as who to involve in the process. Since these provisions have not been enacted yet, parents need to look to guidelines to find out what the current IEP process is in their school.
An Individual Education Plan is used primarily for children with special needs or learning difficulties, but may also be used for gifted children. The purpose of an IEP is to provide a personalized learning plan for a pupil. It is unique and adapted for the particular student involved.
Generally the IEP sets out short-term target areas that the school is going to work on with your child.
These targets or goals are different from what the general class is being taught. It is important to note though that the overall goal is one of inclusion, so these objectives or goals should be incorporated into the mainstream classroom as much as possible. An IEP is not a static document. It should be reviewed several times throughout the school year.
It records the teaching and learning strategies to be used and sets out the role of mainstream and
additional teachers, support staff and parents in the pupil’s education.
and review is facilitated and welcomed.
Your involvement in the IEP process is very important. You know your child the best and can provide valuable information to the team putting together your child’s IEP. Furthermore, you want to make sure the goals that the school sets for your child in the IEP are agreeable to you and consistent with what you think your child needs.
The best time to approach the school about the IEP is at the beginning of the school year, but it is never too late to get involved in the process. Just remember that you want to foster a spirit of cooperation with the school. It is okay to be assertive but not aggressive.