​Special needs and the school system: IEPs and IPRCs

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The process of creating Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC) can be confusing. This article shares details and tips on how to navigate the process and useful links to information for caregivers.

How the process works:

  1. Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC) meetings are placement meetings that can happen anytime throughout the year.
  2. The IPRC will review a student’s strengths and needs, determine whether a child is exceptional, make a placement decision and make recommendations regarding a special education program and special education services. You will either be invited to an IPRC or can request an IPRC from your child’s principal (in writing). Within 15 days of receiving a written request or giving the parent notice the principal must respond with an acknowledgement, approximate date of IPRC and a document that guides you through the special education process at your school board. IPRCs are reviewed annually and parents can request a review after three months.
  3. If you do not agree with the IPRC findings you can request another meeting or an appeal. Click here for more info.
  4. Individual Education Plans (IEPs) are developed in conjunction with the parents. The IEP includes specific educational expectations, an outline of the special education program and services that will be received. IEPs for students who are 14 years and older will also include plans for transitions to post-secondary activities (work, further education, community living). IEPs should contain information that is specific and measurable.
  5. Parents are invited to support the development of the IEP, usually in writing or at an IEP meeting. IEPs are reviewed regularly throughout the school year and parents are informed through parent-teacher meetings and report cards.

Be informed:

  • Read through your local school board guide to special education. You will find these in the useful links section below.
  • Know your and your child’s rights under the Ontarians with Disabilities Act and Education Act – Ontario. They are long, complex documents but contain the detailed information you need to be informed.
  • A memorandum focused on categories of exceptionalities sent from Barry Finlay, Director, Special Education Policy and Programs states that “All students with demonstrable learning based needs are entitled to appropriate accommodations in the form of special education programs and services, including classroom based accommodations.” This is a helpful document to print out and take with you to meetings.

Tips for parents:

  • Be specific when you describe your child’s strengths, needs, accommodations, supports and strategies your child needs in place to succeed.
  • Document everything in writing. Even phone calls and face-to-face conversations can and should be summarized in writing.
  • Read documents in full and understand them before you sign. Remember that you can take them home to review and then return back to the school. You don’t need to sign them during the meeting.
  • Learn the lingo. IPRC meetings and IEPs often use very specific language and acronyms that are not familiar to those outside of the education system. If you have a question during any of your meetings or about content on a document be sure to ask for clarification.
  • Ask for an interpreter or translator if you need it. Even if your English is good, the conversations can be complicated and use language that is unfamiliar to those outside of the education system. It can be helpful to have some support.
  • Take a photo of your child to meetings.
  • Ask for any assessments your child needs during the IPRC process.
  • When schools talk about safety, this includes emotional safety. Be sure that your child’s school team is taking this into account.
  • Try to ensure your child’s IEP is in “people first language.” This type of language ensures the person is placed before the disability (e.g. using the term “child with autism” vs. “autistic child”). It helps to reinforce that your child is a student and a child before they are a label or a disability.
  • Remember that you know your child best.
  • Do your best to foster a positive relationship with your child’s school team. If a member of the team does something particularly well it can be helpful to express your appreciation.
A special thanks to Lynn Ziraldo and Judy Anderson for their previous workshops on working with your child's school teams and sharing their expertise for this article.

Useful links: Ministry of Education Links: