What are the benefits of EHCP and IEP? What is the difference and how to choose the right plan for your special needs child?

First of all, many of you reading this might be asking, what is an EHCP? This is an acronym for a “Educational, Health and Care Plan.” It is the same as an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) in the sense that it outlines any special educational needs a child has, and the provision a local authority must put in place to help them.

They are both legally binding documents, which means whatever is placed in them, must be abided by. This can be as small as carrying snacks in their bookbags and as large as therapies that are to be provided.

In addition, an EHCP enables a child to take priority for admission to a mainstream school over other applicants, and it allows that child to be considered for schools where you are out of catchment or even in another borough. 

The Good Schools Guide

The main difference between the IEP and EHCP is that the IEP is determined entirely by the school and the EHCP is determined by the law. Most times, and IEP is established first and THEN, if the school is not complying, you can transition to the EHCP. 

An EHCP can provide for additional funding from the local authority to support the child’s needs, beyond that which a school must supply out of its own budget. It is usually vital to have an EHCP to gain entry to a special school.

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How Do I Get An EHCP or IEP? 

If your school is supportive and knowledgeable about special needs, they may start off the process for you. These people are typically called the Child Study Team. This team is made up of social workers, psychologists, speech-language pathologists, and learning disability consultants. 

Even with all of these professionals, you can request one yourself, simply by contacting your school’s special educational needs department and requesting an assessment for an IEP (some have a form to complete on their website).

If your school is dragging its feet, or contesting your view that the child needs extra help, you may find yourself being the one to drive the process and may then need to contact your local authorities for EHCP. The EHCP will need to be filed through your local borough so you’ll need to check out their website for more information regarding that process. 

In order to be evaluated for an IEP at my district, a parent needs to write a request to the director of special education, who will inform the Child Study Team of a referral. Nothing can be conducted until that written request (either by the teacher or parent) is received. 

What Should I Expect with the EHCP or IEP Process?

Once a referral is made to the Child Study Team, evaluations will start to occur. Your child might receive cognitive testing (performed by the psychologist), a speech and language evaluation, and a social history of the family will also be performed. If your school has occupational therapists and the evaluation is warranted, this could be another evaluation added to the list. 

The Child Study Team members have 60 days to complete and send a report to you for your review. There will then be another meeting, called an eligibility meeting, where the reports are discussed and either the recommendation is made for classification or not. 

You can always appeal the decision of the Child Study Team. There will be a bigger meeting that may include the school’s principal in order to discuss the results of the evaluations and any concerns that you might have.

Typically, it is very hard to appeal evaluations as they are standardized and are “black and white.” However, you can decide to add or change modifications and classes that are being proposed if you feel they are not adequately meeting your child’s needs. 

What If My Child Doesn’t Have an EHCP?

If you feel that your child needs one, then you should go through the process of getting a document implemented. Again, attempt getting an IEP first. If there is a diagnosis, such as Autism, then your child should have something in place for social/pragmatic skills.  Having an IEP in place will not only help your child transition throughout middle and high school and may entitle them for benefits in college. It will also ease their frustration and will allow for higher academic success. 

My whole philosophy is that it never hurts to have strategies and modifications in place. If after a year or so there appears to be no need, the document can be modified or your child can be declassified.

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