TOP TEN TIPS: IEP
While this list is meant to be helpful it is not meant to be exclusive. I publish this in the hope that parents will recognize the potential pitfalls of certain actions and belief systems and adopt more effective measures to advocate for their child. As always, this is not meant to be legal advice and should you require legal advice, I suggest that you contact a special education attorney.
1. RECORD THE IEP It is not rude or in poor taste to request that the IEP meeting be recorded. It is de rigueur and the district will almost certainly have an audio-recording of the meeting. In order to record the IEP give the district at least a 48 hour advance notice in writing. This can be included in your assessment request or can be faxed separately to the district. It is helpful to note the time on your recording device prior to asking vital questions. Should you need to refer back to what was spoken, you will not need to search the recording. The request can be made via fax to the Principal (keep the fax receipt).
2. REVIEW YOUR CURRENT IEP Before moving forward it is necessary to look back. Has your child met the previous goals set for them? Did your child receive the necessary services that were provided for in his IEP? This reassessing of circumstances is necessary in order to craft new goals. You most certainly do not want your child to have identical goals from IEP to IEP and a continued failure to meet such goals. If the goals aren’t being met than a conversation needs to be had regarding the practical attainability of those goals and/or the allocation of additional services for your child to meet said goals.
3. OBTAIN THE TESTS AND SUBTESTS PRIOR TO Under the IDEA the parents are a necessary part of the IEP team. It is recognized that in order to effectively participate in an IEP, parents must have copies of the evaluations and the evaluation report prior to the IEP. Make a written request for the tests and the subtests that are performed on your child as well as the evaluation report. Generally, a cushion of 5 days prior to the IEP is recognized as a sufficient amount of time to review the evaluation report. The request can be made via fax to the principal (keep the fax receipt).
4. PLOT YOUR CHILD’S PROGRESS If your child has been evaluated for several years using such assessments as the WISC or K-TEA, use that objective information to determine whether there has been progress or stagnation. Plot progress on a graph and be prepared to discuss whether your child’s rate of progress is sufficient or whether new services are needed to accelerate the progress. For example, if a child is in 6th grade and is reading at a 3rd grade level than goals need to be written and services provided to help the child attain more than one grade level of reading per year.
5. ATTACH ACCOUNTABILITY It can be tricky to craft goals that are aimed at addressing non-desired behavior. How do you quantify behavior? Vaguely worded goals such as “Johnny will behave in class” are subjective and unmeasurable. More carefully worded goals such as “Johnny will raise his hand during circle time in 8 out of ten given opportunities by June 2013,” are more appropriate. Be certain that accountability is assigned for the measuring of this goal. Since the teacher may be unable to practically measure “Johnny’s” goals while teaching, it is advisable to have more than one person assigned accountability to such a goal.
6. DON’T GO ALONE Even if you are a seasoned advocate for your child there are practical reasons to avoid attending an IEP by yourself. While the IEP is structured with a predictable flow of events it is very easy to overlook matters that need to be addressed. A partner taking notes, referring to a check list of issues or simply finding the relevant report can be a valuable asset at the meeting by preventing delay and keeping the meeting on course. Also, do not hesitate to ask for a “quorum” (short break to discuss). If you leave the meeting room during a quorum and have more than two people attending on your behalf, leave a person behind in the meeting room.
7. DO NOT SIGN THE IEP Do not sign the IEP without careful review. It is perfectly acceptable to request that you take the IEP home for review. There should be a separate attendance document that can be signed to evidence that you were present.
8. CONSIDER EXTENDED SCHOOL YEAR (ESY) It is easy to overlook Extended School Year when drafting an IEP. Oftentimes it is a last minute discussion with very little thought. Some children require ESY because they need a longer school year in order to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education. Whether your child receives ESY is decided by the IEP team of which you, the parent, are a member. Factors that should be considered are your child’s need to recoup lost skills or whether your child because of their disability has a tendency to regress during the spring or summer breaks. Wrightslaw has a very informative series of articles on ESY.
9. DO NOT APOLOGIZE FOR YOUR CHILD I understand the desire to empathize with the teacher or administrators. Maybe your child has behavioral issues that make the school day somewhat challenging or take away from time that teachers/administrators wish to spend meeting the needs of other children. However, I must caution against using such phrases as “I know how you feel, Johnny can be very difficult.” Such phrases will be co-opted and used to describe your child because you have given them authenticity. A better method would be to ask “How can we make this transition from a preferred-activity to a non-preferred activity easier for Johnny?” This question requires a shift in perspective. Instead of focusing on your child as “being difficult” the focus is placed on implementing a plan to assist your child. If the teacher is expressing difficulty in working with your child, perhaps the time has arrived to ask for a Behavior Support Plan (BSP) based upon the observations of a qualified behaviorist.
10. DO NOT DESTROY YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE SCHOOL DISTRICT It is very likely that you will be meeting with the people at your first IEPs for the next six years or more. Treat everyone in the room as you would treat any other professional. Do not burn your bridges with accusations or confrontational tactics. If you can, meet with a special education attorney prior to your IEP. Undoubtedly they will confirm this last tip and possibly offer methods of communicating your frustration regarding specific issues that is non-aggressive and more likely to lead to results for your child. I am not suggesting that you be any less than a zealous advocate for your child. I am suggesting that you communicate in a manner that is professional.
This article is the exclusive property of The Law Office of Janina Botchis. While this material was produced by a lawyer, it is not intended to be legal advice.