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2024-01-18

An Abby Care Guide to Dealing With School and IEPs in Colorado

By
Team Member
Abby Care
We know, that navigating school with your little one can be quite the challenge. That is exactly why the Abby Care team has created this resource to give you a rundown on everything you need to know about IEPs, homeschooling, and advocating in school settings. We are always here to help our families, and we believe in you!

What are IEPs?

An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is a special plan designed just for your child. It’s a document that outlines specific ways to help your child succeed in school. Creating this plan is a collaborative effort, with input from teachers, professionals, and of course you, the parent. This plan is Colorado’s way of ensuring that your child receives the right support to grow and do well in every aspect of their education.

Each IEP must be created in compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and, in Colorado, the Exceptional Children’s Education Act (ECEA).

Why Should You Get an IEP?

You and your family should consider getting an IEP for your child because these plans provide personalized support tailored to your child’s unique needs. With an IEP in place, the school system can create an inclusive and supportive environment where your child can excel academically, socially, and emotionally. By having an IEP, you ensure that your child receives the necessary accommodations, modifications, and specialized services required for their educational success.

Furthermore, an IEP empowers you by giving you a voice and active involvement in your child’s education. As part of the IEP team, you have the opportunity to share your insights, concerns, and aspirations for your child’s academic journey. The collaborative nature of the IEP process allows you to collaborate with educators, professionals, and specialists to develop specific goals that align with your child’s abilities and aspirations. Through regular meetings and open communication, you can stay informed about your child’s progress, make adjustments to the plan as needed, and ensure that your child is receiving the best possible education and support in Colorado’s educational system.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

How to Get an IEP

You play a vital role in securing an IEP for your child. Here are the steps you can follow to navigate the process successfully:

  1. Contact the School. Reach out to your child’s school and inform them of your concerns about your child’s educational needs. Request a meeting with the school’s special education department to discuss the possibility of creating an IEP.
  2. Assist in Evaluation. Your child will undergo an evaluation conducted by a team of professionals, including teachers, psychologists, and specialists. This evaluation will assess your child’s abilities, strengths, and needs to determine their eligibility for an IEP.
  3. Attend the Individualized Education Program (IEP) Meeting. Once your child is deemed eligible for an IEP, a meeting will be scheduled. This meeting will include you, teachers, specialists, and other professionals involved in your child’s education. Together, you will develop the IEP, focusing on your child’s unique needs and goals. Your PCP or physical can also suggest an IEP based on a diagnosis.
  4. Participate in Review and Approval. After the initial IEP meeting, review the draft document carefully. Make sure it accurately reflects the discussed goals and support services for your child. If any changes need to be made, discuss them during the review process. Once you are satisfied, sign the document, indicating your approval.
  5. Support Implementation & Monitoring. The IEP will be put into action, with teachers and specialists working together to provide the necessary accommodations and services for your child. Regular monitoring and progress meetings will be held to assess your child’s growth, make adjustments if needed, and ensure that the IEP continues to meet their evolving needs.
  6. Take Part in the Annual Review. Every year, the IEP will be reviewed to assess your child’s progress, set new goals, and make any necessary modifications. As a parent, your participation in the annual review process is crucial, as you can provide valuable insights into your child’s development and advocate for their ongoing needs.

Remember, you are not alone in this process. Your child’s school and the IEP team are there to support you and your child every step of the way, and of course, the Abby Care team is always here for you as well. Effective communication and collaboration can ensure that your child receives the best possible education and support within Colorado’s education system.

Okay, I Will Create an IEP, But What Do I Include in It?

There are generally 3 key components to creating an effective IEP.

  • Annual Goals: Based on the evaluation in step 2, specific goals should be set for your child to achieve in the coming year. These goals should be realistic and measurable, and cover various areas, such as academics, behavior, and life skills, to help your child develop in all these areas.
  • Special Education and Related Services: You and the school’s team should outline the special strategies, accommodations, and services that will be provided to support your child’s education. This could include things like speech therapy, occupational therapy, counseling, and any other resources they may need to succeed.
  • Accommodations and Modifications: You should also address additional necessary support to ensure your child succeeds in the classroom. This might include things like extra time for assignments, sitting in a preferred spot, or using special tools or technology to help them learn.

Do research on what resources are accessible at your child’s school and don’t hesitate to ask the special needs department any questions you have. It is a good rule of thumb to ask about services you specifically want to include in your child’s IEP, even if the school hasn’t previously mentioned them.

Abby Care Family Stories

Raeinalyn

Max’s IEP includes speech and physical therapy. We also have occupational therapy to help him with all his sensitivity to touch and his fingers — he loves fidget toys. So that’s how they usually communicated with him or to calm him down if he had a tantrum. Occupational therapy is a pretty great service with his IEP.

Kayla

Raleigh is my first child, and I definitely wasn’t expecting to have a child that had special needs. So, I didn’t even know what an IEP was. I was so confused, and it was just kind of a whirlwind. I just kind of dove into it still, pretty confused about what was happening.
My recommendation to any parent new to an IEP or new to a diagnosis that has speculations that their child will need an IEP would be to just find someone who’s been in their shoes. So that they can give them advice on what to ask, what an IEP should look like, and what kind of support their child needs during the IEP just o that that new parent has a full understanding of what their child’s education future will look like.

IEPs in a Homeschool Setting

Many of our Abby Care families are homeschooling their children. We know navigating IEPs in this case might be confusing, and we want to help guide you along!

What is Homeschooling?

Homeschooling in Colorado has emerged as a powerful educational option, especially for families that have children with disabilities. Unlike traditional schooling, homeschooling allows parents to customize their child’s education to meet their unique needs and abilities. Colorado’s supportive environment further encourages homeschooling, offering resources and networks to assist families in navigating legal requirements.

Homeschooling provides families with disabled children the opportunity to create a personalized learning environment that addresses individual challenges. By tailoring lessons and accommodations, you can focus on your child’s specific disabilities and strengths. The flexibility of homeschooling allows for adaptive curriculums, therapy integration, and community-based learning, eliminating accessibility barriers. With Colorado championing the rights of families to provide tailored education, homeschooling empowers families to optimize their child’s educational experience, fostering academic growth and personal development within a comfortable and inclusive setting.

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

Colorado’s Homeschooling Rules and Regulations

When homeschooling in Colorado, it is crucial for parents to understand the state’s homeschooling laws and regulations. Colorado law defines homeschooling as a “non-public home-based education program” where parents provide sequential instruction for their child in their own home. To comply with the law, parents have three options for legally homeschooling in Colorado and can select the option that best suits their family’s needs:

  1. Homeschooling under Colorado’s Homeschool Statute: Families can choose to homeschool their children under Colorado’s homeschool statute. This option requires filing a Notice of Intent with a Colorado school district and complying with the state’s homeschooling requirements.
  2. Homeschooling with an Independent School: Another option is to homeschool through an independent school in Colorado. Families can enroll their children in a Colorado-based independent (or private) school and follow the school’s requirements for homeschooling.
  3. Homeschooling with a Certified Teacher: Families may also choose to homeschool their children with a certified teacher. This option allows for the instruction to be provided by a certified teacher in the home setting.

One key requirement of homeschooling in Colorado is to cover certain subjects in the curriculum. These subjects include communication skills (reading, writing, and speaking), mathematics, history, civics, literature, science, and regular instruction in the Constitution of the United States.

Additionally, Colorado homeschooling parents are responsible for maintaining records of their child’s education, including acquiring books, supplies, tests, and keeping permanent records. It’s important to note that there is no public funding provided for homeschool programs in Colorado.

Familiarizing yourself with the specific homeschooling laws in Colorado is crucial to ensure compliance and provide your child with a well-rounded education. By understanding the legal requirements, subject areas to cover, and responsibilities as a homeschooling parent, you can create a successful and compliant homeschooling environment.

How do I Implement an IEP in Homeschooling?

Fortunately, the process of implementing an IEP in a homeschool setting is very similar, if not the exact same, to a school setting. The key difference is you will be even more actively involved in the planning and finer details.

For parents homeschooling their children in Colorado, implementing an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is essential to ensure their child’s educational needs are met. While the process of developing and implementing an IEP may seem daunting, this step-by-step guide will provide valuable insights and actionable tips for parents navigating the process within a homeschool setting.

Photo by Eugene Chystiakov on Unsplash
  1. Assess Your Child’s Educational Needs. Begin by thoroughly evaluating your child’s unique educational requirements. Identify their strengths, weaknesses, and areas that need additional support. Take into account the specific disabilities your child has and any related therapies or interventions they may require.
  2. Comply with Colorado’s Homeschooling Laws. Familiarize yourself with the homeschooling laws and regulations in Colorado. Understand the legal requirements for homeschoolers and ensure compliance with the state’s guidelines. The Colorado Department of Education website offers comprehensive resources to support homeschooling families, which include specific information about implementing an IEP within a homeschool setting.
  3. Develop an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Work with professionals, such as therapists, special education consultants, or educational evaluators to develop a personalized IEP for your child. Use their expertise to establish measurable goals, accommodations, and teaching strategies that align with your child’s unique learning needs. Incorporate any recommended therapy sessions or specialized resources into the plan.
  4. Tailor Your Curriculum. Based on the IEP, customize your homeschooling curriculum to align with your child’s goals and accommodations. Identify suitable educational materials, resources, and teaching methods that will help your child meet their objectives. Be flexible, allowing for individualized pacing and adjustments as necessary.
  5. Document Progress. Regularly track and document your child’s progress to ensure that goals are being met. Keep detailed records, samples of work, and progress reports, which will be useful for future evaluations and if you decide to transition your child back to traditional schooling. This documentation can also help in making adjustments to the IEP, if needed.
  6. Promote Ongoing Collaboration and Support. Seek out support and collaboration among other homeschooling parents in your community. Engage in homeschooling networks, support groups, and online forums specifically for parents homeschooling children with disabilities. Share experiences, resources, and advice to enhance your child’s learning journey.

Implementing an IEP within a homeschool setting for children with disabilities in Colorado requires careful planning, collaboration, and adherence to legal guidelines. By assessing your child’s needs, developing a personalized IEP, tailoring the curriculum, documenting progress, and seeking collaboration and support, you can provide your child with a rich and supportive homeschooling experience that caters to their individual requirements. Remember, as a parent, your dedication and commitment play a vital role in empowering your child’s educational growth within a homeschool environment.

Advocating for Your Child

Photo by Vanessa Bucceri on Unsplash

Your Best Opportunity: The IEP Meetings

IEP meetings are an integral part of your child’s academic career. In Colorado, IEP meetings should occur at least annually, but you can request a meeting at any time when you believe changes made to the IEP are necessary. The meetings provide the opportunity for you, teachers, and school administration to work collaboratively to develop an IEP that meets the specific needs of your child.

In general, IEP meetings are essential to review your child’s progress, discuss goals achieved, and set new goals based on their needs. A comprehensive IEP should include measurable goals and objectives, accommodations, and teaching strategies that align with the child’s unique learning needs.

When scheduling an IEP meeting, you should consider factors such as your child’s academic progress, scheduled evaluations, and any upcoming transitions, like moving from middle to high school.

The best way to make the most out of an IEP meeting is through active participation and advocacy. As your child’s primary advocate, you play an essential role in the IEP process. Before the meeting, you should review your child’s current IEP and make a list of questions or concerns you would like to address. You should come prepared with information about your child’s academic progress, medical history, and any recent evaluations.

During the meeting, you should be engaged and proactive. You should ask for clarification on any decisions made and ensure that the IEP team’s recommendations align with your child’s individual needs and goals. You should also be aware of the resources available to them, such as community-based organizations and supportive services offered by the school district.

You are the key advocate for your child’s education and should use IEP meetings as an opportunity to work collaboratively with the school district to help your child achieve success and overcome any challenges they may face.

Advocacy in Schools

Your advocacy helps ensure your child’s IEP is truly effective. These plans are made specifically for each child, focusing on their individual needs to help them learn and be included in school, but sometimes, the paperwork and meetings for IEPs can be confusing and overwhelming. That’s when advocacy comes in handy. It allows you to take an active role, working together with teachers and other professionals to shape your child’s education.

Photo by Mapbox on Unsplash

By talking openly and sharing your unique insights with educators, you contribute important information about your child’s abilities, strengths, and challenges. This helps create a better understanding of how to best teach and assist your child. With effective advocacy, IEPs become stronger and more personalized, focusing on goals and strategies that are just right for your child.

Advocacy also goes beyond just IEPs. It can help you navigate other systems and get the services your child needs. In Colorado, having good advocacy skills can help you ask for and receive additional support and resources through waivers including the CES and CHCBS waiver. Being able to advocate well means you can understand and work through the complicated world of disability services.

It’s a win-win — when you advocate for your child, you become more knowledgeable about laws, guidelines, and supports related to disabilities. This knowledge gives you the confidence to stand up for your child’s rights and ask for the right services in different areas, like healthcare, community involvement, and employment. As parents become better advocates over time, they become strong voices for their children. This has a positive impact not just in school, but in all aspects of your child’s life.

Parent advocacy is extremely important when it comes to creating and carrying out IEPs for children with disabilities in Colorado. When you participate actively in the IEP process, you bring valuable insights that make the plan more effective and personalized.

Tips and Tricks for Advocacy

  1. Know Your Rights. It’s important to know what the laws and regulations are when it comes to special education and IEPs. This can help you advocate for your child and ensure their rights are being upheld.
  2. Stay Organized. Keep track of paperwork, meetings, and important dates related to your child’s IEP. This can help you stay on top of things and advocate better for your child.
  3. Communicate Effectively. Effective communication is key to advocating for your child. Be clear and specific about your child’s needs and share your insights and observations with educators and professionals.
  4. Attend Meetings. Attend IEP meetings and other events where you can share your ideas and insights about your child’s progress and needs. This shows that you are invested in your child’s education and committed to their success.
  5. Build Relationships. Build positive relationships with school staff and other professionals involved in your child’s care and education. This can help create a collaborative environment and make advocating for your child easier.
  6. Research Services and Resources. Do your research to identify services and resources that can support your child’s needs. This can help you better advocate for what your child needs in their IEP.
  7. Be Persistent. Advocacy takes time and effort. Don’t be discouraged if things don’t go smoothly at first. Keep advocating and working to find the right solutions for your child.

We know advocacy takes a lot of courage and determination, but we know you’ll be able to do it!

Your Next Steps

✅ If your child doesn’t already have an IEP, call their school and book an appointment to get that process started. If your child does have an IEP, find 3 things you would like to improve in the plan and schedule a check-in meeting.

✅ Put the next school IEP date in your calendar and come up with 3 questions you would like to ask the staff and/or teachers.

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