The IEP Process
Early diagnosis and intervention are protective factors for a child with an FASD according to the CDC website. However, having a diagnosis of an FASD in California does not automatically qualify your child for an IEP. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is not one of the 13 named categories for special education eligibility under federal law. In California. FASD is also not named as a specific health condition for Other Health Impaired, one of the categories under which a child can be found eligible for special education. Obtaining an IEP for a child with FASD is not necessarily a straight forward process.
There are set timelines and procedures for all of the steps in an IEP, but often there are bumps along the way. FASD is misunderstood and even if your school has good intentions, they may struggle to understand your student. The importance of an FASD focused assessment cannot be stressed enough. Once your child qualifies for special education, be sure to check out the Accommodations and Strategies section to make sure the IEP is written in a way that will most benefit your student. Remember that you know your child best and that it is okay to voice your opinion, you are part of the team.
Upkeep of the IEP is a yearly annual meeting to go over progress on goals (which is reported throughout the year usually accompanying report cards), current levels and write new goals. Your child will be reassessed for special education every 3 years and a Triennial meeting will be held. In addition, anyone including caregivers can request an IEP meeting at any time should concerns arise. When a meeting is requested in writing with a date and signature, the school must schedule a meeting within thirty calendar days. Notes from the meeting should be provided to you and if they are not, ask for them. It is important to read them and make sure your concerns are documented accurately. You are allowed to record meetings as long as you provide the school district prior written notice 24 hours before the meeting.
The IEP team will constantly change - yearly teachers, staff changes, placement changes - you will remain the constant. Keeping good records is vital to success. Having a system that keeps track of IEP paperwork, correspondence, incident reports, report cards and progress reports is a great start. Good documentation gives you a timeline to refer back to when necessary.
Below are documents and organizations that will help you understand and navigate the IEP Process.
IEP "Must Haves"
Request in writing for an assessment to be conducted for special education eligibility. Within the letter, you will state the difficulties your student is facing and why you do not feel they are able to access the curriculum to receive FAPE. Check out our Understanding Assessments page to get ideas on how to explain difficulties your child may be having and refer back to it once you get your assessment plan.
The school has 15 days to provide an assessment plan or provide you with prior written notice as to why they will not do the testing. They are required to do the assessments within calendar 60 days. If the school denies your request for assessment, SERR can be a useful resource. Make sure you agree that the plan addresses all of the concerns that you noted on your request letter before signing.
An IEP meeting is held to discuss the results and determine eligibility. There are often a lot of people at these meetings and you may find it helpful to bring someone with you for support.
If the school reports your student does not qualify and you do not agree, you may request an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE), at the school's expense. The school's option is to either agree to an IEE or request a due process hearing.
Once it has been determined a child qualifies for Special Education, a meeting must be held within 30 days to write the IEP. Find information on what to expect at the IEP in our resource section.
published by Disability Rights California gives a step by step guide on the IEP process, how to initiate one and what to expect along the way.
Wrightslaw is a comprehensive resource that parents, educators, advocates, and attorneys come to for accurate, reliable information about special education law, education law, and advocacy for children with disabilities.
Special Education Acronyms and Glossary by DREDF, is invaluable for someone starting out. Special Ed folks use a lot of abbreviations which can be disorienting to parents. Don't be afraid to ask if you don't understand something at an IEP meeting. DREDF is also a great place to call with advocacy questions.