An IEP is the individualized education plan, a document written for a child with a disability that identifies needs, sets goals and lists services to insure optimal educational and vocational outcomes. Often the IEP process can be intimidating and overwhelming to parents. The following will help parents become engaged participants in the development and implementation of an effective IEP.
Ask clarifying questions
• Ask participants to clarify education jargon.
• Make sure you completely understand your child’s actual diagnosis.
• Ask clarifying questions about start dates, length of services, and the procedure for receiving the appropriate accommodations.
• During each meeting, be sure to ask questions about the IEP goals that have been set and whether they are being met. If your child has not met the goals, don’t be afraid to ask what the next steps are toward meeting the goals and whether the goals should be revised.
Set Goals as a team
• Ensure that you understand, agree with, and have contributed toward the goals set for your child. For instance, during one of my daughter’s IEP meetings, I discussed my child’s quiet personality and mentioned that she needed a speech therapist who would understand the importance of developing a relationship with her before proceeding with the implementation of the goals. You are your child’s first teacher. The knowledge you have about your child should be shared with and welcomed by the IEP team in order to achieve success.
• Be sure that you, the assigned specialist, and your child’s classroom teacher are partners, working toward the same goals, and that the accommodations and services carry over into the classroom and into the home. During the IEP meeting, ask questions to ensure that all parties involved set specific dates to collaborate with one another periodically throughout the academic school year.
Understand the IEP Process and Know Your Rights.
It is of paramount importance to read up on the IEP process, become familiar with IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), and understand your rights as a parent. In addition to studying the law, many parents seek advice from an advocate and network with well-informed parents who have first-hand experience with the IEP process in their school district.
Make All of Your Requests in Writing
All requests should be made in writing to create a documentation trail that provides a history of the child’s academic needs and requests to the school district (e.g., requests for an IEP meeting, an assessment of any kind, or a classroom placement recommendation). It also allows you to state your requests in your own words. In addition, ask the IEP committee to record these written requests as part of the minutes in an IEP meeting. The IEP committee can accept or deny these requests. If the committee denies the requests, then they must follow the procedural safeguards in IDEA and provide written notice of why they are denying your request. If the request is not documented in writing, the school district is not required to provide the service. (Be Familiar with Prior Notice of the Procedural Safeguards (34 CFR 300.503))