Navigating Your First IEP (Individualized Education Plan) for 3K-Kindergarten

[Disclaimer: this is in general; PLEASE follow up with your local school system and Department of Education for information specific to your school system. This is in no way legal advice.]

If you are new to special education and don’t know where to start, this blog is for you!

Do you have suspicions that your child may need additional help in the classroom or if you think that they would be a candidate for Early Childhood Special Education (3K-Kindergarten and Speech Impact), do not be afraid to ask for an evaluation from your school. It is the law (at least in WI) that every child who has a written request for an IEP must get an evaluation. It’s is also important to do your own research to know your rights as well as the school’s in order to be better prepared to advocate for your child.

If your child was diagnosed with a developmental delay, physical disability or a mental health condition that impacts their ability to learn. Or if you have suspicions that your child could have an undiagnosed condition, it may be beneficial to get an IEP evaluation.

Many families don’t know that their child has a delay or a mental health issue until the school brings it up and requests an IEP on behalf of the child. This is where regular developmental screenings are beneficial for families; if you are in Kenosha County please visit the Help Me Grow developmental screening page to complete FREE developmental screenings for children 0-5 years old. On the other hand, sometimes families are well aware of the issues surrounding their child’s educational/developmental needs and they are the ones to initiate an evaluation.

If your child is 3 years old, or going to be 3 and is not yet in school, you can contact the special education department of your school district, typically they’ll ask questions regarding your concerns, what you see or don’t see in your child and about what others (like daycare) have seen. From there, if there seems to be a deficit, the school system will schedule an evaluation.

Preparing for the evaluation: it is always good to have as much information from providers: Pediatrician/family doctor, speech therapy, Occupational therapy, Physical therapy, day care, early intervention, etc. to provide the school prior to the evaluation so they are able to get as clear of a picture as possible of your child’s functioning. It is also important to understand where your child is comparatively to his/her same aged peers. Now, this can be difficult at times; you spend so much time with your child that their mannerisms and behaviors are “normal” to you. So, when asked what you are specifically concerned about it may take you a while to come up with an answer. You know that you have a concern about your child, but you might not know how to put it into words. Just remember, YOU are the expert on your child.

The Evaluation: The school will ask to meet with you and your child to complete some testing and gather as much information as they can to complete the evaluation. This is where all the information that you prepared beforehand will come in handy. They’ll compile all the information and ask to meet with you to go over the results.

The Results: After the school has gathered all the information they need they will call you back to go over the results of the evaluation. At that point, the school will either:

A: Say that your child is not eligible for an IEP because “X, Y, Z”
B: Your child meets the eligibility criteria for an IEP

Not approved

If the school has determined that your child is not eligible you can appeal their decision. If you feel that, you need additional support you can contact the Disability Rights Advocate for your area. Disability Rights will have an intake to determine if you are a good candidate. If so, they will assist you in navigating the special education system, inform you of your rights and the School’s obligations. Be sure to keep any and all documents the school gives you, including emails. If the school has called you to discuss the reasoning why your child was not eligible for an IEP, or any other reason regarding the IEP, ask them to follow up the phone call with an email, or you could email them yourself after the phone call with the a summary of what was discussed.


If your child has been approved for an IEP then you will meet with the school to develop the IEP together; this is the time that you can voice what you think your child needs/would benefit from as well as what (if any) tips/tricks you have that work for your child. You can also ask the school for alternative ways to communicate with you, i.e.: a notebook sent back and forth to school, email, or texts. During the development of the IEP and any subsequent IEP meetings, you are allowed to have anyone you believe to be a support to you and your child in attendance, i.e. : other family, friends, any providers that you may have or any other community members. If you ever feel that your rights are being infringed upon, or if you do not think that the school is meeting your child’s needs, you have the right to contact the Disability Rights Advocate for assistance.

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
Disability Rights Wisconsin