Child has an IEP, but still failing: What to do?

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What is an IEP (Individualized Education Plan)?

The goal of the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) is to guarantee that children with disabilities receive adequate educational services and accommodations, so they can participate as fully as possible in the general education program. It is required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal statute that guarantees that disabled students receive a free and appropriate public education in the setting with the fewest restrictions possible.

What to do if your child has an IEP but is still failing?

If your child is not doing well in school despite having an Individualized Education Program (IEP), it is crucial to take proactive measures to improve their situation. Here are some steps you can take into consideration:

  • Check the IEP to make sure the accommodations and curricular modifications are reasonable and appropriately meet the needs of your child.
  • Assess the school’s consistency in tracking your child’s progress towards IEP goals and objectives. You should be receiving regular progress reports (at least every grading period) about these goals; if no progress is being made, ask to revise the plan.
  • Analyze the classroom’s instructional strategies and procedures.
  • Consider whether your child’s academic achievement is being impacted by emotional or behavioral issues.
  • Request an evaluation for children with learning disabilities to address specialized interventions.
  • Consider seeking tutoring, afterschool programs, or therapists for significant struggles.

Let’s look at different aspects of each of these steps you can take if your child has an IEP but still failing.

Evaluate IEP objectives

Review IEP goals to ensure realistic, achievable, measurable, and time-bound objectives for effective monitoring and progress tracking.

Determine Performance

Assess your child’s progress towards IEP goals and curricular achievement (individual classes) to determine if the current plan is sufficiently supporting their needs.

Consult School and Teachers

Set up a meeting with your child’s teachers and other school personnel to review their observations and perceptions of your child’s development. They can offer insightful opinions on whether the existing program is adequate, or changes are required.

Communicate with Teachers and Case Managers

To discuss your issues, request formal appointments with case managers and teachers. This might occur at regular IEP review meetings or parent-teacher conferences. Having set meeting times enables conversations to be concentrated. For the meeting, prepare a list of questions or issues you’d like to raise before the meeting, such as:

  • Share your observations on your child’s academic difficulties and any changes you’ve seen during recent weeks/months.
  • Give specific instances of the difficulties your child is having.
  • Ask the teacher about your child’s behavior and performance in class.
  • Teachers may offer important observations and insights that can aid in determining the root causes.
  • You may discuss your child’s progress toward specific goals, inquire about modifications or the need for better implementation of accommodations, discuss assessment results, and explore additional support offerings.

Request an IEP Meeting

If your informal meeting attempts have not been effective, request an IEP team reconvene to address your concerns and make necessary modifications to your child’s plan. Ways to request an IEP meeting goes as follows:

Contact the school

To arrange an IEP meeting, get in touch with your child’s school or the main office. You can do this by calling or sending an email. It’s recommended to send your request to the case manager or special education coordinator in charge of your child’s IEP.

Be Specific in Your Request

Specify why you’re asking for the meeting in clear detail. You can say that you are worried about your child’s development and that you would like to talk about their present academic performance and how well their existing IEP addresses their needs.

Make the Request Official

Send a written request for the IEP meeting if possible. This can ensure that your request is accurately recorded and act as documentation, if necessary, in the future. It is your right to request an IEP meeting at any time, even if it is not “due” yet or you recently met. IEPs can be changed at any time during the year it is valid for.

Propose Several Meeting Times

In your request, include a few potential meeting days and times. This makes it simpler for the school to set the meeting up at a time that is convenient for participants.

Adjust Accommodations

It may be required to modify accommodations if your child has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) but is still failing. Find out exactly where your child is having academic difficulties by working directly with their teachers and case managers. Knowing specific challenges will make it easier to decide whether accommodations require modification.

Consider whether any of the existing accommodations need to be modified or if new ones should be added. Be willing to experiment with novel tactics or concessions that you may not have thought of before. The school team might provide insightful advice based on their knowledge and skills. Seek alternative accommodations if needed. Be ready to reassess the accommodations if necessary. It’s wonderful if your child’s progress increases. If not, you might need to keep looking for more methods or modifications that can better enhance their learning.

Revisit IEP Goals

If your child is still having trouble in school or is failing despite having an IEP, revisiting the goals of the IEP might be a helpful step. You can benefit from revisiting the objectives in the following ways:

Check for Goal Relevance

Reviewing IEP goals regularly ensures they align with a child’s current needs and academic achievement, as strengths and problems may change as they mature.

Identify Gaps

Examining the goals may help you find any gaps in the support being given to your child. If your child is having difficulty, it may be a sign that the existing goals are not sufficiently addressing all the necessary topics.

Ensure Measurability

Make sure the updated goals are precise and quantifiable so that development can be efficiently tracked. Setting attainable, quantifiable goals makes it simpler to determine whether your child is improving.

Aligning goals with a child’s learning style and needs

A potent strategy to enhance your child’s academic performance is to match the objectives in their Individualized Education Plan (IEP) with their needs and learning style. This can be made possible through understanding the learning style, identifying strengths and weaknesses, by consulting teachers and specialists, using multi-sensory instructions and addressing learning disabilities.

Seek Help from a Special Education Advocate

If the school is unwilling to address your concerns, you should contact a special education advocate who can help negotiate your child’s needs with the school-based team. Keep thorough records of all correspondence with the school, including letters, emails, and meeting minutes. This documentation will demonstrate your attempts to address the issues.

Review the IEP

Examine your child’s current IEP carefully to make sure the objectives, programming, and services are suitable for their needs. Your case for taking legal action is strengthened if you think the IEP is insufficient or not being implemented correctly.

Consult with an Education Attorney

Ask a lawyer with experience in education law for advice. They can aid in your understanding of your alternatives, rights, and necessary legal actions

Contact Your State’s Department of Education

You can register a complaint with the state department of education in your state if you are unable to resolve the issue with the school. They might investigate the situation and try to find a solution.

Stay Persistent

Legal procedures can take a while, so it’s important to be persistent and dedicated to fighting for your child’s rights at every step of the way.

Additional Resources and Support

You can also explore following avenues to seek additional support for your child:

Tutoring Sessions

Consider signing up your child for tutoring sessions, either through the school or through for-profit tutoring facilities. Tutors can offer specialized training and aid in your child’s understanding of complex ideas.

Special Education Initiatives

Look into specialized educational initiatives that assist kids with learning requirements. These programs frequently provide focused interventions and approaches that might address the difficulties your kid may be facing.

Educational Therapists

Professionals with training in working with children who have learning challenges include educational therapists. They can offer unique techniques and approaches to raise your child’s academic performance.

After-School Programs

Investigate after-school initiatives that emphasize academic support. These programs can supplement classroom instruction by offering extra practice and direction.

Parent Support Groups

Join parent support groups for kids with learning difficulties. As you guide your child through their educational journey, these groups can provide helpful insights, advice, and emotional support.

Can a student with an IEP fail?

A quality IEP, implemented with fidelity, should provide the supports necessary for a student with a disability to access their education. Consider the following if your child is underperforming academically:

  • Some students with IEPs could experience severe learning problems or difficulties that demand for a lot of support and intervention to advance academically.
  • It is possible that the IEP does not adequately address the student’s unique learning needs or does not contain the necessary accommodations and curricular modifications.
  • The student may not perform well if the IEP is not consistently or effectively being implemented in the classroom by a highly qualified educator trained in special education techniques.
  • Academic performance can be greatly influenced by non-academic activities that could be because of anxiety, emotional issues, external stress or personal circumstances.
  • The IEP team may need to consider additional supports and follow the district’s continuum of services for an alternative curriculum or placement if a student is not successful despite a well-developed (and implemented) IEP.

Working together with parents, teachers, specialists, and the student may be necessary to properly address these issues. The likelihood of academic achievement for students with IEPs can be considerably increased through regular communication, progress monitoring, and IEP modifications based on the student’s changing needs.

Understanding the Legally Binding Nature of an IEP

An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is a legally enforceable document that specifies the educational services, accommodations, and supports that a student with a disability is entitled to receive under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Parents and students are given IEP procedural safeguards at each IEP meeting to outline their rights and the process by which it may be necessary to escalate concerns about a student’s education. An IEP protects students with disabilities and guarantees a free and appropriate public education in the student’s least restrictive environment. Because the IEP is enforceable, the school is required by law to offer the services and programming specified in the plan. Parents have the right to file a lawsuit to demand compliance from the school if it violates its IEP commitments.


In general, being aware of the IEP process and advocating for a child’s needs guarantees that they get the right support, have access to a top-notch education, and can succeed both academically and socially. The child, parents, and entire school community gain from the cooperative effort. Parental support and encouragement significantly increase a student’s success while navigating special education services. Your tenacity and commitment to meeting their needs can have a very positive effect on both their academic performance and general wellbeing.

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