How to ensure your child is getting the best IEP possible

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ABCs of IEPsBy Allison Eatough

Maybe you have just learned that your child is struggling in school or perhaps he has had ADHD or  learning disabilities for awhile, but the teacher is now saying he needs an Individualized Education Program. You are not alone.

Sandy Gimelstob of Arnold always planned for her son, Ross, to graduate from high school. But given his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, she knew it wouldn't be easy.

Since he was a preschooler, Ross struggled to meet academic milestones. Math and reading were difficult for him, as was focusing on individual tasks. He also had trouble with handwriting and typing.

"I thought, 'I know this is what I am seeing, but it can't be the truth,'" Gimelstob said, as she recalled her son's early academic challenges. "My child was struggling, and I had to do something."

When Ross was 3, Gimelstob turned to Anne Arundel County Public Schools for guidance.

The school system recommended an Individualized Education Program (IEP), a free, government-mandated plan designed each school year for a child with delayed skills or other disabilities.

Through an IEP, children can receive everything from assistance in academic subjects to occupational, physical, and speech and language therapy in everywhere from a general education classroom to a special school offering more intense intervention.

Overall, parents say IEPs are helpful to their children. But the steps toward implementing one can be overwhelming.

That's why experts and parents say it's important to understand the process and be an active part of the child's support team.

"If you think that your kid needs (an IEP), your kid needs one," Gimelstob said. "Trust your instincts."

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