An individualized education program (IEP) meeting can be a stressful event for many parents!
As parents, we only want our child to receive the tools they need to succeed – but when our child has a learning difference, the tools can be more difficult to identify. IEP teams are most successful when parents and school staff work together in the best interest of the child’s education, so below are some tips I share with parents to help them feel prepared to participate as an IEP team member.
Ahead of time:
- Read the Evaluation Team Report (ETR), or other evaluations.
- The ETR is important because it summarizes the findings of the Multifactorial Evaluation and guides development of the IEP. Goals and accommodations should flow from a deficit or area of weakness identified in the ETR. Even if the ETR wasn’t conducted this year, I find it very helpful to review the data and recommendations, and to consider how they might relate to current issues. ETRs must be updated every 3 years.
- If you have had a diagnostic evaluation conducted with an outside agency, those data and recommendations should be considered when determining IEP goals and accommodations.
- Request a draft copy of the IEP ahead of time.
- Try to let the team know that you want the draft ahead of time, then take the time to review the document. Think about the difficulties your child is having and how the goals and accommodations presented will address these things. Do the goals and accommodations reflect the ETR?
- If you see that the proposed goals, interventions, and accommodations may not address difficulties identified in the ETR, ask about it.
- Try to understand your child’s diagnosis, how it impacts his or her performance at school, and the evidence-based interventions available to help your child achieve academic success.
- I suggest writing it out:
- In this flow chart, I started with the problem (manifestation – difficulty transitioning), then thought about the child’s diagnosis (autism spectrum disorder, ASD) and what diagnostic symptom this problem falls under (a symptom of ASD is inflexible thinking). This should lead me to an array of interventions to help a child become more flexible in their routines or thinking, such as a utilizing a visual schedule and/or counting down to transition.
- Draft goals for your child ahead of time, including interventions that you think might help your child reach those goals.
- It can be helpful to discuss these with other professionals in your child’s life (such as their occupational therapist, private speech therapist, tutor, psychologist, counselor, etc.) for feedback and suggestions. Have them write letters with current diagnostic information, current progress, and/or intervention recommendations for the IEP team.
- Make sure to send these drafted goals and interventions to the IEP team ahead of time so they can review them and include them on the agenda.
- Be familiar with the programs available within your district, as well as those outside of the district, that may be helpful to your child and would support your drafted goals.
At the IEP Meeting:
- Discuss how frequently progress will be assessed and how frequently it will be reported to you.
- If you want more frequent updates than at report card time, request it at the meeting.
- Pay attention to the who, what, where, when and how of the IEP goals and objectives.
- It should be clear who will be in charge of a goal and intervention; what the goal is and what the intervention will look like; when and where the intervention will take place; and how the intervention will be administered.
- The goal and objective should be written in such a way that you clearly understand, and should be easy to follow for the responsible school staff member.
- It is easy to stray from the ETR, but you can help keep the group on track if you refer back to it during the meeting.
- Take notes, clarify, ask questions, and take your time!
- It is important that your child receives thoughtful consideration, and that you understand the interventions and goals proposed. Try not to feel rushed, and if you need more time to consider the IEP draft, ask for it.
The IEP team is one of the most important teams you will be on as a parent. Get to know the members, show your appreciation for their contribution to your child’s development, and actively engage with them.
If you feel like you need assistance in advocating for your child at the IEP team meetings, many school districts have Parent Mentors who can help. Parent Mentors are trained to understand the process of obtaining and managing an IEP for a child, and also have personal experience with IEPs and their own children. They are there to help you navigate this situation.
If your district does not have a Parent Mentor available, try contacting the Ohio Coalition for the Education of Children with Disabilities (OCECD). They can identify a Parent Mentor or OCECD Information Specialist/Trainer in your area.