IEP Eligibility IS Not Only Based on Academics

This resource provides quotes/information from the US Dept. of Education regarding IEP eligibility for students who are denied due to education evaluations/assessments indicating average or above average intellectual abilities, and/or academic achievement.

Students with Tourette Syndrome (TS) are often denied Individual Educational Programs (IEPs) because they achieve well academically, score high on IQ evaluations and/or meet state standards. IEP teams occasionally mistake federal law, believing that students are ineligible for an IEP if academics are not impacted. This resource provides information and quotes from the US Department of Education regarding services for social, emotional, behavioral and/or functional needs.

If you are considering an IEP for your child, it may be wise to attach this resource to your request, as well as the functional deficits for which your child requires support. Providing the IEP team with the federal guidelines, may prevent uncomfortable discussions regarding IEP eligibility during the IEP meeting.  Working as a team is always best.

  • Purpose of Individual with Disability Education Act (IDEA) under which IEP’s are provided
    • IEP’s are developed in order to meet the ‘unique needs’ of a student who meets the IDEA definition of ‘a child with a disability’.
    • IDEA Section 1400(d) “The main purposes (of IDEA) are…to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment and independent living” and “to ensure that the rights of children with disabilities and parents of such children are protected……”
  • Other Health Impairment
    • Important: IDEA lists several categories for definitions for a Child with a disability. Just because a child has a diagnosed disability does not automatically make them eligible for an IEP. The definition (aka classification) which is specifically designates students with Tourette is Other health impairment.
  • Other Health Impairment in IDEA is defined as:
    • “Other health impairment means having limited strength, vitality or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment, that: (i) is due to chronic or acute health problems such as asthma, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, and sickle cell anemia, and Tourette Syndrome; and (ii) adversely affects a child’s educational performance

Clarification of ‘educational performance’ and IEP eligibility

  • The following exerts are from a U.S. Department of Education, Special Education Guidance document.

Office of Special Education and Programs (OSEP) Director Alexa Posny:

  • “It remains the Department’s position that the term “educational performance” as used in the IDEA and its implementing regulations is not limited to academic performance. …Therefore, IDEA and the regulations clearly establish that the determination about whether a child is a child with a disability is not limited to information about the child’s academic performance.”
  • In addition to grades and standardized tests scores, schools must consider how a child’s emotional, health or other conditions adversely affect his non-academic performance in social, behavioral and other domains as well.” Explanation of a student’s disability “adversely affecting educational performance.”
  • IDEA quote regarding ‘education performance’ and what IEP team must consider when determining IEP eligibility and services:
  • Development of IEP § 300.324 Development, review, and revision of IEP.
    (a) Development of IEP—(1) General.
    In developing each child’s IEP, the IEP the Team must consider—
    (i) The strengths of the child;
    (ii) The concerns of the parents for
    enhancing the education of their child;
    (iii) The results of the initial or most
    recent evaluation of the child; and
    (iv) The academic, developmental,
    and functional of the child.
  • Federal education regulations define ‘functional’:
    • Commentary in the Federal Register, page 46661
    • “It is not necessary to include a definition of ‘functional’ in these regulations because we believe it is a term that is generally understood to refer to skills or activities that are not considered academic or related to a child’s academic achievement. Instead, “functional” is often used in the context of routine activities of everyday living.”
      • It is not unusual for students who succeed academically to have deficits that meet the definition of ‘functional needs’.

If a parent/guardian is considering an IEP, it may be wise to attach this resource with your request as well as the functional deficits for which your child requires support. This provides the IEP team an awareness of the Federal guidelines regarding eligibility for students with TS and may prevent an uncomfortable discussion during the IEP meeting.  Working as a team is always best.