Individualized Education Program for Children after an SCI

When your child sustains a traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI), so many things immediately change. Their physical abilities become limited or eliminated and their emotional and psychological state is likely to change as they try to come to terms with their injury. With children, the higher and more severe the spinal cord injury, the greater an impact the injury will have on their lives and their chances of recovery.

Add to these challenges another difficulty that many parents face in this life-altering situation: finding a way to continue providing an education for their children after an SCI.

What Is an Individualized Education Program?

These early years of life are important to the growth and development of your child. If they miss weeks or even months of their education due to their injury, they risk falling behind. This can have a significant impact on their future academic and professional success later down the road.

Thankfully, there is legislation in place to help parents of children with disabilities with this challenge: the Individualized Education Program (IEP), or the Individualized Family Services Plan (IFSP). The first is for children ages 3-21; the second is for families with disabled children younger than age 3.

The IEP, which is made possible through the U.S. Department of Education’s (DOE) Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), governs how states and public agencies “provide early intervention, special education and related services to more than 6.5 million eligible infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities.”

In addition to any special education services, this plan can address your child receiving other related services, including:

  • Medical services for evaluation and diagnostic purposes;
  • Physical and occupational therapy;
  • Psychological services;
  • Recreation or therapeutic recreation;
  • Rehabilitation counseling;
  • Speech pathology and audiology; and
  • Transportation.

IDEA is the most comprehensive law in terms of addressing a child’s right to a free, appropriate public education (FAPE). Ideally, children with disabilities would resume their education at their regular school with their classmates. However, should the nature of their disabilities prevent attending regular classes, their education will be offered in the least restrictive environment such as their care facility.

Benefits of an IEP for Children after an SCI

An IEP is a collaborative effort between you, your child’s teachers, and their school administrators. It is an individualized education plan that is designed to meet the unique needs of your child based on:

  • The extent of their physical injury,
  • Their level of achievement, and
  • Their potential functional and academic growth.

In addition to helping children with SCIs continue their education as soon as possible after their injuries, an IEP also helps them feel a sense of normalcy. Learning is a major part of their lives, and by resuming their education, it can help them feel like they are returning to as “normal” a life as possible.

How to Establish an IEP for Your Child

To ensure that your child is able to continue their education as quickly as possible after their spinal cord injury, we recommend that you speak with their school principal early on. This will help you get the referral process started early, preferably during their recovery or as early as when they receive their SCI diagnosis.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are 10 steps to this process:

  1. Your child is identified as possibly needing special education and/or related services.
  2. Your child is evaluated in all areas regarding their disability.
  3. You and a group of qualified professionals will review your child’s evaluation results to determine eligibility as defined by IDEA.
  4. Your child is found to have a disability and is eligible for special education and related services.
  5. Your child’s school system will schedule and hold an IEP meeting.
  6. The school system conducts the IEP meeting and writes the IEP with you and your child (when appropriate).
  7. The school provides services as outlined in the IEP.
  8. Your child’s progress toward annual goals is measured and reported to you.
  9. The IEP is reviewed at least once a year and revised as necessary.
  10. Your child is reevaluated every three years to determine whether they remain a “child with a disability”

To learn more about spinal cord injuries and how to care for children after an SCI, be sure to check out our free parent’s guide. Click on the image below to download your resource today.


Topics: Caregivers, Resources, Education

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