Special Education/Initial IEP


I have a five year old in kindergarten who just completed the testing/assessment for special education.  He is a young five who has struggled in the classroom with remaining focused, seated, and refusing to write.

The school system has declined to discuss the results of the evaluation first.  So it will be a long meeting which covers whether or not he is eligbile for special education and them move on to the initial IEP.  

I requested copies of the assessments/testing to help us prepare for the meeting. We have 2 older children who have not used special education and are not familiar with the process.   I have spend the last few weeks reading books/articles and contacting special education advocacy groups for advice.  

Should we bring an advocate to the initial IEP meeting?

What are the key ways that we as parents can prepare?

Can we request to take the IEP home and review it before agreeing to it?  (the school system is in Georgia)

In desparate need of help,


Dear Newbie Sue :)

The school district is in process of reporting to you its initial evaluation findings and determining eligibility for special education.  You want to know:  should we bring an advocate to the meeting?  Can we request to take the IEP home and  review before agreeing to it?  

I guess my short answers are yes, and yes, and now let me explain my thinking. My first advice to a newbie parent, or a parent whose child is being evaluated for the first time and may be eligible for the IEP is-know the law as much as you can.  

If you are writing to me, you have a level of concern about the next steps in the IEP process that may indicate bringing an advocate or consultant to the meetings is the right thing to do, to be efficient and not waste any time getting an appropriate IEP in place, if that is the team determination.  Bringing help does not have to be adversarial and most of the time, is a great way to collaborate with the school team.  While the team has an obligation to meaningfully include you, your consent will not be needed for any IEP except for this initial IEP, so it's important to get it right, the first time.

Based on what you have told me, about your 5 year old having difficulty with writing and with being seated, and focused, it appears the team should be evaluating him in all academic areas such as reading, writing, and math, and in the areas of attention and regulation.  Sometimes, an occupational therapist can be helpful in evaluating regulation and sensory processing issues.  At an early age 5, we have to be evaluating your child with developmentally appropriate tools and taking into considerations his unique strengths and needs.  

If you have any questions about the evaluations, ask them, and seek a second opinion outside the school system if you have further questions that have not been answered by the school team.  

It will be helpful for you to know the law, if possible, and get help interpreting it as needed.    Do you know all the definitions of the disabilities you suspect for your child?  Based on the evaluations, the team is going to ask itself 3 questions:  1--does your child meet the definition of one of the disabilities defined in IDEA?  See this link at eligibility categories:


2--is there an adverse effect of that disability or disabilities on his access to the curriculum or his functional performance in the classroom? and 3--therefore, does the child need specialized instruction and related services?

For this meeting, I think you will want to review 'independent educational evaluations at public expense', and 'free appropriate public education', and 'procedural safeguards'.:


It looks like Georgia would like you to try to use a mediation and issue a complaint using this process

OK, now that I have given you some resources, I would like to describe my experiences and offer some suggestions for where you are in the process.   I feel that my Special Needs Advocacy Resource Book would also be a great resource for you.  It is basically all the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act boiled down to what you need to know, in chapters laid out in line with the special education process.

If an IEP is developed, then you will provide the most important consent for your child's special education career.  The only consent that you can really provide is for the first or initial IEP.  After that, the changes to the IEP will be made, and the IEP will be implemented, even if you do not agree or consent.  For the purposes of IDEA and special education, consent and agreement are two different things.  In part, your state #and federal IDEA# regulations say this about parent consent #signature indicating approval for the service or evaluation to begin#:

(a) At a minimum, informed parental consent shall be obtained before:
1. Conducting an initial evaluation to determine if the child qualifies as a child with a disability; [34 C.F.R. 300.300(a)(1)(i)]
2. Conducting any re-evaluation of a child with a disability; [34 C.F.R. 300.300(c)(1)(i)]
3. Providing initial special education and related services to a child with a disability; [34 C.F.R. 300.300(b)(1)]
(i) Consent to provide special education and related services is the consent for any special education and related services described in the IEP to provide FAPE
(ii) annual decisions about what services are to be provided are made through the IEP process and are not part of this consent requirement."

So if the team finds your child eligible and develops an initial IEP, you should feel free to take it home and even have others review it and make suggestions, which the team must consider.  Anything the team disagrees with should be documented in a written notice, and the district should have an obligation to tell you why it disagreed and what information it relied on for its decision.

I think that will give you a good start, and if you need anything else, feel free to follow up.  Thanks for using this site, thanks for contacting me, and I wish you all the best in your upcoming meeting!

Connect with me!  http://www.linkedin.com/pub/michelle-r-davis/12/58/36b  

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Michelle R. Davis, M. Ed.


I can answer questions about disability definitions and criteria for services, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004, No Child Left Behind, 504 plans, how to craft an IEP that drives the appropriate services, school placement, dispute options, and least restrictive environment. I worked in the public school system as a special educator and am now in private consulting practice where we assist parents as they navigate the special education process. I have expertise in all educational disabilities except blind/visual impairments and deaf/hard of hearing. This includes ADHD and other health impairments, medical conditions, dyslexia and learning disabilities, Autism, emotional disabilities, language processing problems, and interfering behaviors.


10 years as special educator and administrator in public school system; Director of ABCs for Life Success since 1998; Expert services such as analysis and testimony; Author: Special Needs Advocacy Resource Book: What you can do now to advocate for your exceptional child's education; Special Needs Advocacy Training Institute; internet radio show Teach Your Children Well: Hot Topics in Education; author School Success for Kids with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders released March 2010 (Prufrock Press).

Masters in Special Education with Emphasis on Inclusive Education (Johns Hopkins University); B.S.in Special Education (James Madison University); Conduct training for Universities, public and private schools, parent groups. Adjunct professor current George Washington University and prior George Mason University.

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