It’s that time of year again – Spring, time to get ready for end-of-the-year Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings. There are a lot of things to remember as you go into this meeting.
Here are a few:
- Make sure the team players are all going to be there. For example:
- TEACHERS – not just last year’s teacher, but the teacher (or representative) for next year’s proposed placement should also be in attendance.
- ADMINISTRATOR – there should be someone in authority present who has the power to approve any changes which will be discussed. If you are going to ask for anything new at the IEP, let them know in advance so they can be prepared.
- OTHER PROFESSIONALS – If your child received speech therapy, occupational therapy, or behavioral therapy or services during the last year (or if you are going to ask for one of these for next year) make sure the Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) or Occupational Therapist (OT) or Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) or other specialists or assistants representing these fields, will be in attendance. Again, if you are asking for any of these services for next year, let your child’s case manager know well in advance so they can arrange to have someone at the IEP who can answer your questions and address your concerns in these areas.
- NEW SCHOOL, COUNTY OR DISTRICT – If there will be a change in school site or services, such as transitioning from a county class to a district class, or moving from one school to another within the district, ask to have a representative from the new or recommended school, district or county.
- Bring a positive attitude. Remember you are all on the same team, and everyone wants what’s best for your child. Also bear in mind that the schools must operate under certain constraints (financial constraints, for example) and may not be able to provide everything you might want for your child. They are, however, legally obligated to provide a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). And that is what they are there to do. Listen to what they offer with an open mind.
- If you want a new service that your child has not yet received, such as Adaptive Physical Education, Augmentative Communication Services, Speech or Occupational Therapy, don’t just ask for the service. Ask for an assessment to determine whether or not your child requires the service. The schools don’t typically have the power to just hand out services to students who don’t need them; however, if your child is assessed and found to be eligible for those services, that will open doors.
- When you request an assessment, put it in writing, and get it date stamped to show the date they received your written request. Within 15 days the school will provide an assessment plan for you to sign. If not, they will provide, in writing, the reason why they will not do the assessment. Usually, schools say yes when parents ask them to assess. Once they get the signed assessment plan back from you, they will complete the assessment and schedule a meeting to share the results with you within 60 calendar days. An exception to this rule is when the assessment goes over the summer break, in which case they will probably offer you an IEP within the first 30 days of the new school year. Try to plan your request to give them the largest assessment window you can, so that they can do a thorough job and the assessment will give good information about your child’s true abilities. If you wait until the last day of school to make the request, they will only have half the time to do the assessment within the first 30 days of the new year. Your child may not be at their best for testing during those first few weeks of school with all the adjustments and changes this brings. When in doubt, talk to your child’s case manager and team about when would be the best time for you to make your assessment request, so that all the necessary players can be ready to complete a thorough evaluation.
- When it’s time to set goals, make sure they are measurable goals. Remember, being “able to” do a thing is not the same as actually doing the thing, and being “exposed to” or “introduced to” subjects or tasks is not the same as mastering those tasks. How will the team know your child actually mastered the tasks outlined in the goals? Make sure it is clearly spelled out.
- Be sure to ask questions about anything. If you think you might forget something, write down your questions in advance. Ask, any time you are not sure about anything that’s been presented, or that hasn’t been discussed that you would like to talk about. Don’t worry that these professionals are too busy to answer, or that your questions are “dumb,” or that you should already know the answers. The way to know the answers is to ask the questions, and that is what your team is there for. Ask away!
If you don’t already have one, it’s a good idea to put together a binder to keep all your child’s IEP paperwork, assessment reports, and medical information all in one place. Then it’s easy to pick it up and go when it’s time for the IEP.
Remember, you are your child’s best advocate, and your child’s IEP team shares your desire for your child to have everything necessary to succeed in school. Go into that IEP meeting calm, collected and prepared.
You’ve got this!