10 "Monstrous" Myths About the IEP Process

1.    A child’s intelligence is directly related to their eligibility for an IEP. 


The truth is: Intelligence is in no way related to eligibility for special education and related services. Many twice-exceptional students have talent or gifts in academics and a disability or challenge of some kind. It is the duty of the school to evaluate students they or the parents think may qualify for special education, regardless of how those students might perform on an IQ test.

2.    Teachers and service providers in the child’s school should only receive the section of the IEP that relates to their class or services, due to confidentiality issues. 


The truth is: The Family Educational Rights Privacy Act ensures that educational records stay private. FERPA, however, does not exclude school personnel from receiving a child’s confidential information. It is appropriate for each of the teachers and service providers who work with a student to receive a full length copy of the student’s IEP. Why would this be important? There is a difference in receiving accommodations like being seated at the front of the class because of attention issues and because of a hearing impairment. It’s important for the people in a student’s life to understand their accommodations and services in context. IDEA and FERPA provide for this; schools should too. If the school does not give all personnel a copy of the IEP, the parent can do so. 

3.    The IEP team does not include the child’s parents. / Parents are not members of the IEP team. 


The truth is: Parents are incredibly important members of the IEP team. I recently read that parents are the only “permanent members” of their child’s IEP team, and how true this is! It’s important to remember that the IEP team is a collaborative group meant to provide the best representation for the student. Parents are crucial to the IEP team, especially since the majority of the student’s time is spent with their parents! 

4.    Children must attend IEP meetings. 


The truth is: It is entirely dependent upon the parent and child to decide whether it is appropriate for the child to attend IEP meetings. For some children hearing about their disabilities in the raw context of an IEP meeting could do more harm than good. Legally, students must be invited to all meetings that discuss transition and life after school. Students must also attend the IEP meeting once reaching the age of majority (unless they waive their rights to a guardian). Outside of these two scenarios, it is up to the parents and child to decide whether or not attending an IEP meeting will be helpful to the child.  

5.    Attendance is a precursor to receiving an evaluation. For example, if a child has not been in school, they cannot be evaluated for special education and related services. 


The truth is: It is very possible that a child who is missing school could benefit from the accommodations and services an IEP would provide. If, for example, a child is struggling with anxiety, then accommodations to help reduce the student’s triggers or services to help the student address their anxiety would very likely increase their attendance. To qualify for an IEP, a child must have had adequate instruction—their time at school is not necessarily related to the quality of instruction they have received.

6.    Once a child is performing at grade level, they no longer need an IEP. 


The truth is: The supports that have gotten a child to grade level are very likely to continue to help that child succeed. Why take away assistance once someone starts succeeding? The only reason a child with a disability should be taken off an IEP is if they are tested and found to no longer have a disability. 

7.    A child must have a working diagnosis to qualify for an IEP. 


The truth is: Schools are unable to diagnose students. As such, there is no need for a child to have any kind of diagnosis in order to receive special education and related services. On a related note, Specific Learning Disability is actually a misnomer. It does not mean a child is struggling with any specific learning disability- it means that the child’s disability has been determined to fall within a standard range of learning disabilities.

8.    The child’s evaluation should be copied and pasted directly into their IEP.


The truth is: The IEP is supposed to be written in language parents can understand. Raw data makes the IEP difficult (or impossible) for parents to understand. Summaries of the evaluations will help define their purpose. In addition to summaries, the child’s strengths and weaknesses should be highlighted in the IEP with evidence from the evaluations. For example: “Sara’s score on Evaluation X demonstrates her example of Learning Difference. Because of this difference, Sara will work best in example learning environment.”

9.    When there is an issue with the IEP or with disciplinary action, a student should be unenrolled from their current school until the issue is resolved. 


The truth is: The “stay put” provision in IDEA allows for students to stay in their current placement until any issue or dispute has been resolved. The provision was set up so that student’s educational programs wouldn’t be interrupted for the duration of due process (which can take months or years to complete). When in doubt, stay put.

10.    There can only be one IEP meeting per child, per year. 


The truth is: The IEP is a “living, breathing” legal document. If changes need to be made, calling an IEP meeting is the best way to ensure that a child’s IEP continues to provide the free appropriate public education they deserve. If for some reason the accommodations, modifications or services in an IEP are not helping the student succeed--- an IEP meeting can be called and the IEP can be changed. 

Related Resources: 

Building the Legacy - IDEA 2004 

A Guide to the Individualized Education Program

Center for Parent Information and Resources