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Lesser-Known Facts about IEPs | Texas Youth2Adult Feature

TexasYouth2Adult seeks to link special needs families in the State of Texas with critical support tools and information to help teens and young adults successfully make the transition from the world of childhood to adulthood.

Over 10 percent of Texas students qualify for Individualized Education Programs—yet many families know little about how these work. You know that any student with a disability has the legal right to an IEP. You know that the IEP’s purpose is to define the best learning accommodations for a student. You may know from hard experience that an IEP in practice often differs from an IEP in theory—and that finishing just the “theory” part can be an uphill battle.

Here are a few things you may not know. Understanding them can take some “uphill” out of the battle.

  • An IEP is a formal contract, not just a suggestions list. If a school doesn’t follow the plan, you can file a complaint with the district or the state.
  • IEPs include a “supports for school personnel” section that defines the training teachers need to work with a student. Don’t ignore this part: besides covering what you need, it helps you win teachers’ support by speaking up for what they need.  
  • “Accommodations” make it easier for students to learn via standard curricula. “Modifications” adjust requirements to fit student abilities. Always choose accommodations: it’s much better practice for independent living.
  • You have a legal right to prior written notice (PWN) whenever the school changes an IEP—or decides not to include a change you asked for. Insist that the school put everything in writing, including specific reasons for their decisions.
  • At each IEP meeting, the school should offer an updated copy of your legal rights. Always read it, even if you’re sure you already know the contents.
  • Unlike accessibility rights, IEP rights do not apply to higher education: it’s up to you to define college goals. However, IEPs for older students are required to include transition plans with long-term goals for independent living. Take advantage of that—and make sure the student has a say in his or her own goals.


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