Veronica With Four Eyes

Seven Myths About IEP Students

While I didn’t hear the word ableism until I was in college, I remember there were many times in middle and high school where I would notice people around me that had their own ideas of what a student with an IEP should do and how they should act, rejecting or shunning students who do not fit this stereotype. Alternatively, these people would try to imply that these students who deviated from what was expected were actually faking or greatly exaggerating their disabilities, which lead to myths about IEP students being perpetuated even further. Here are seven myths about IEP students that I saw perpetuated in my school, with my own perspective on why these things couldn’t be farther from the truth.

You can’t be in the general ed classroom if you have an IEP

When people first think of special education services, they often imagine a self-contained classroom that students with disabilities sit in all day, where they only interact with other students that have disabilities and take modified classes. While this is the case for some students, a major component of IEPs is that students are placed in the least restrictive environment for learning, which means that IEP students should be included with other students as much as possible. The majority of students with IEPs, especially those with print disabilities, will spend all or part of their day in the general education classroom, interacting with their peers and learning the same material.

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There is no IEP category for low vision

When I started receiving IEP services in 8th grade, there was a lot of discussion about which of the thirteen categories should be listed for me to receive services, as they were unsure what to select for a student with low vision that had no other health issues (at the time). My friends in other parts of the United States said that they had the same experiences with people not knowing what to select for a low vision student, and their IEPs were listed under categories such as Other Health Impairment, Specific Learning Disability, and Multiple Disabilities. However, there is actually a category that fits my educational needs perfectly, and it’s the one that was finally selected for my IEP- Visual Impairment, Including Blindness.

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Students always get their accommodations

While the IEP is a legal document that is protected by federal law, it doesn’t mean that it will always be followed perfectly, or that accommodations will be consistently implemented. In some cases, teachers may choose to ignore the IEP entirely, leaving students vulnerable to experiences involving academic ableism. This isn’t to say that having an IEP is pointless, but rather to show that it is important that students practice self-advocacy and learn for themselves how they receive accommodations.

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IEP students have a certain grade point average

Some staff members will insist that students who are gifted or who make high grades do not qualify for IEPs, as they are doing well in school- this was the case for me until I failed a math class due to not receiving large print or accessible materials in the classroom. The reverse can also be true, where IEP students are not expected to be gifted or make high grades, solely based on the fact that they have a disability. When accommodations are followed, IEP students can absolutely make high grades and be on the honor roll, as IEPs are designed to help students to reach their highest potential.

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The case manager follows the student around

Case managers have several students on their caseload, so they do not follow individual students around and check to see if their accommodations are being implemented or if a student remembered to turn in their homework. While I knew where to find my case manager if I needed them, they rarely showed up in my classes or otherwise made their presence known to other students, and my teachers didn’t talk to them unless there was a problem with implementing accommodations or if they were asked an IEP-related question.

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Having an IEP will hurt college admissions process

Colleges will not know that a student has an IEP unless the student discloses it themselves, and having an IEP does not affect the college decisions process or the application process in any way. IEPs expire the moment a student graduates from high school, so the accommodations will not automatically be implemented when a student goes to college.  If students wish to continue to receive accommodations in college, they will need to get a Disability Services file.

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It’s easy to tell if a student has an IEP

By law, teachers and school staff keep IEP information confidential, so they cannot discuss details of accommodations or even confirm if a given student has an IEP with other students or unauthorized staff. Again, no one will know that a student has an IEP unless the student discloses it themselves, though some students may notice that a student receives accommodations that are obvious, such as large print.

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Summary of Myths About IEP Students

  • Students with IEPs are placed in the least restrictive environment for learning and typically spend all or part of their day in the general classroom with their peers, not in a self-contained classroom
  • The most-used category for  IEPs related to low vision is “Visual Impairment, Including Blindness”
  • Students will need to develop strong self-advocacy skills when possible, as accommodations are not always guaranteed
  • IEP students can be on the honor roll and in advanced classes
  • The case manager does not generally interact with students or teachers on a daily basis
  • Having an IEP has no impact on the college admissions process
  • Other students and staff have no way of knowing that a student receives an IEP, unless the student discloses it themselves

Seven Myths About IEP Students. Seven myths about IEP Students, including who qualifies for IEps, how IEPs are implemented, and what a student with an IEP can expect, from a student who used to have an IEP