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What Happens After My Child Graduates With an IEP?

If you have a child with an individualized education program (IEP), you are already an experienced advocate for making sure your child receives a good education. As your child gets older, you may be wondering about their educational opportunities after high school. If your child is thinking of attending college or a vocational program, you want to make sure they get the support they need.

The IEP does not apply past graduation

The law that creates IEPs for children with disabilities is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). An IEP tailors a program to a child’s specific needs regarding special education services. This is the program that allows for spending school resources for the child’s support. This may include a special education class or case manager. The IDEA only applies to students through high school. Therefore, your child will not have an IEP after they graduate.

Another common program to assist students with disabilities is the 504 plan. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination against students for disability and allows for the creation of the 504 plan. A 504 plan identifies accommodations the school can make to help put the student on a level playing field with other students. For example, they may receive longer testing times or written outlines of a lesson. The 504 plan does not follow a child to college, however.

Accommodations are still available

Although your child will not have an IEP or a 504 plan after high school, that does not mean they are left on their own. Under the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), colleges still must provide accommodations to students. Schools must prevent discrimination against students and provide them equal access to an education. Here are a few tips for making sure your child gets the support they need in college:

  • Register as a student with disabilities – If they do not do this, they will not be eligible for assistance. The school will likely ask to show documentation of the disability, so have your paperwork ready. This also applies to college admissions exams like the SAT and advanced placement tests your child may take in high school.
  • Be prepared for self-advocacy – You may want to start working with your child now on self-advocacy. Your child will not have a case manager to help them navigate their day-to-day needs. Nor will you still receive updates from the school. In addition, colleges do not conduct their own evaluations for learning disabilities.
  • Check out the services offered by different schools – You will find that schools vary in their level of support. Some schools will allow extra time on tests, audio recordings of lectures or taking exams in a quiet environment. But some schools go well beyond that. Make sure to compare school offerings.

Preparing for life after high school may seem like a daunting task. But it is also a time of excitement and growth. Just because your child is leaving their IEP or 504 plan behind does not mean they won’t succeed in their future education. With careful planning and research, you can find the right school to accommodate your child’s needs.