How can a parent prepare for the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) so that it does not become intimidating or cumbersome?
Parents should ask for the draft in a timely manner so they can review it and request changes where necessary. Read the present levels of performance carefully, since this drives the IEP. If you know that your child has difficulty with written expression and you want goals addressing it, or if you know that your child’s lack of executive functioning is impacting his or her ability to access the regular education curriculum, ask for further testing from the district. If you disagree with testing, ask for an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) prior to the IEP meeting. Once you have that information, it should be included in the present levels of performance and then student-specific goals and objectives can be formulated. Make sure that the goals are relevant to your child’s ability to access the regular-education curriculum. If you need to have goals added, make that request in writing as soon as you can, prior to the IEP meeting. When you get a new draft, make sure these goals are included. If they aren’t, send a written query as to why.
Pay close attention to direct services and related services. This section determines the type of service, the amount of time of the service, the frequency and the location. Parents have the right to request scientifically researched based strategies in the setting they feel their child will do best for the appropriate amount of sessions a week for the child to make progress.
The services provided must be what is necessary for your child, regardless of whether or not these services are available directly from your district. This is one of the greatest achievements for students from IDEA in 1975. Until that point, schools were completely within their right to offer only services currently available at their school. Whether it was appropriate for the student or not, the parent would have been so appreciative of having any extra services, they wouldn’t realize there was no benefit to the student. Unfortunately, newer educators lack this understanding of the evolution of IDEA in FAPE and tend to try to put the students into the pre-existing programs without regard for the unique, individual needs of the students.
An often overlooked section of the IEP is transportation needs. Parents may request that the method of transportation be changed. For example, if a student is on the bus for 90 minutes, because there are other students and an aide who are picked up, but the trip could be made in 30 minutes for that child, an accommodation may be necessary.
Keep in mind, parents should advocate all year. Families can request a meeting at any time during the school year or even during the summer to discuss warranted changes to the IEP. Keep the lines of communication open. One of the most common complaints we hear from parents is, “I don’t know what my child is doing.” When discussing progress reporting at the IEP meeting, parents should be aware of how progress will be determined and communicated. Parents can also request ongoing weekly communication. The important thing to keep in mind is that there is not always a single reporting arrangement that will work for everyone. Depending on what else is going on in the student’s life, sometimes a daily phone call is necessary for a week, and after that, a standard nine-week reporting cycle may be all that’s needed.
The key to a successful IEP is communication. Communication between parents and educators, between student and parents, student and educators, and even communication on paper to clearly and concisely convey what needs to be done, what is being done and what has been done. Clear communication throughout the whole process eliminates misunderstanding and anxiety, and ultimately leads to a successful educational experience for the student. Never forget that each situation and child is unique. The one constant is that every parent is entrusting their precious child to educators.
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