IEP Process and Timeline

  1. Before you can get started, you need a referral. This can come from any school employee (teacher, aide, principal, etc) or it can come from a parent or legal guardian.
    • To make a referral yourself, you should make sure that it is in writing (letter or email). This is so you have documentation for when you submitted the request and so there is no confusion that you are referring your child for services.
    • Send the referral to the teacher, principal and the district exceptional children’s director. If you are in Wake County Public Schools, more information can be gathered by contacting individuals referenced here.
    • Your referral letter should include your child’s strengths and needs and any diagnostic information you may have.
    • If someone else referred your child, it should be explained to you why and you must give your consent for evaluation and services.
    • There will be a referral meeting to determine the next steps. The process in Wake County Public Schools is explained here.
  1. Once your referral has been submitted, the school system has 90 calendar days to respond. By the end of this period, the school must have evaluated your child, had an IEP meeting to determine eligibility, and (if your child is found eligible) an IEP needs to be written. This 90 day timeline cannot be extended by parent or by the school. It specifically refers from the day the referral is made, not when you have authorized evaluation. The timeline also continues to apply through the summer and other school breaks.
  2. Next, your child should receive an evaluation through the school system. This is at no cost to you. You must consent to this initial evaluation before it can happen.
  3. An eligibility meeting will be held to determine if your child’s evaluation scores mean that special services are required. There are 14 areas of eligibility. The meeting will determine if your child falls into one of those areas, if the disability negatively impacts your child’s educational performance, and whether the disability requires special instruction at school. The meeting will also make sure that the determination isn’t due to lack of appropriate instruction or Limited English Proficiency.
    • Make sure that you ask questions! If you don’t understand something, it is a requirement that explanations are given so you can understand. Don’t feel that you are putting anyone out. People who have been doing this for a long time may forget that you don’t know everything they know. There are a lot of acronyms and abbreviations that may be confusing. There are things that don’t make sense. You are an active member of the team, and you are the expert on your own child and have the best information about him or her.
  1. IEP Development: After an eligibility determination has been made, an IEP meeting will be held. An IEP is an Individualized Educational Plan and will explain your child’s strengths and needs, give goals to meet, and discuss related services that your child may receive. There are tons of resources out there to help navigate this step, such as the Autism Society’s IEP Toolkit. In North Carolina you can request a facilitated meeting, though you and the school must agree to do this.
  2. Service Provision is the final step of the process. You must agree to services based on the IEP, and then your student will start receiving the agreed upon services.

Disability Rights of NC has a sample referral letter and more information about the process here.

If you need additional information about your rights related to this process and are in Wake County Public Schools, you can go here.

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