Sunday, June 5, 2016

IEP PREPARATION: CRITICAL INFORMATION YOU NEED

By Eric Sherman

If you are a parent of a child with a disability (e.g. hearing loss, autism, dyslexia, etc.) most likely you are receiving or will be receiving services from the school through an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).  As a parent, you are an important part of the IEP team and the process to develop the best educational plan that meets your child’s needs.  

Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting can cause a lot of anxiety for people, especially if you are anxious to get services in place to help your child at school. Far too often, parents will attend meetings unprepared without the proper information to be a productive participant in the development of their child’s IEP.

While at an IEP meeting, if you let the school present reports and goals to you, you are setting yourself up for a long and a potentially stressful experience.  Depending on your child’s disability the information provided can be daunting and tough to process often leading to a very unproductive, sometimes combative and emotionally draining meeting. 

As a parent, I got defensive after first hearing my son’s assessment reports. Instead of focusing on how to help create the best education plan to benefit my child, I was angry and arguing about what was being reported about my child.

Picture from Schoolpsychologyfiles.com
Often parents go into an IEP meeting trying to guess what the school is going to present…this is a big mistake.  As a parent, you have equal rights under the law to be an active participant in shaping your child’s education plan. Too many parents go to IEP meetings without information regarding their child’s educational needs. 

Prepare yourself; if it is an initial IEP or an annual review, you have the right to review present level performance reports and any assessments, as well as request suggested goals from service providers prior to your meeting.  These goals will need to be discussed and agreed to at the IEP meeting.   

We request the school to provide us with our son’s reports and suggested goals, at least 5 days prior to the scheduled meeting.  It is customary for the IEP team members to contact us in advance to discuss our son’s present level of performance and thoughts about goals.    For us, this has been the easiest and most efficient way to create the best education plan for our son. 

Here’s a version of an email I’ve sent, copying all the service providers, requesting information:

Dear {school administer},

For our child’s upcoming IEP review {date}, we request copies of all assessments, present level performance reports and suggested goals prior to our meeting.  This information will help us prepare and engage in a constructive manner that will help the IEP process move more efficiently.  Generally, there is a lot of information presented at our son’s IEP meeting and having this information (at least 5 days in advance) will help us get through the meeting in a shorter period of time.

We invite anyone on our child’s IEP team to contact us with any questions.  We can be reached by email or phone. We look forward to receiving the requested information as soon as available or at least 5 days prior to the scheduled IEP date.

Thank you for your help in this matter.

Sincerely,

By requesting this information prior to our IEP meetings, we’ve been able to move through the IEP process more effectively. This has enabled us to spend more time addressing appropriate goals and services and less time on reading and processing reports.   In many cases, the suggested goals provided prior to the meeting were appropriate for our child.  Thus, we were able to move on to goals and services that we felt needed to be discussed further.  Other times, the reports and suggested goals forewarned us there was going to be an issue with particular services. 

IEP’s can become very adversarial and stressful, especially if you feel you’ve been blindsided by the school.  Being alerted to possible issues, allows you time to investigate a solution and to discuss with the IEP team or it prepares you to look at your options if there is going to be a disagreement.

One of the reports and suggested goals we received prior to the IEP alerted us that the school was engaging in inappropriate and unprofessional behavior that violated our parental rights.  We made certain that this behavior was well documented at the IEP meeting in case we needed to go to due process.  To become more informed and learn the specifics to what we did, please subscribe here and we will email the story to you.

Remember YOU are an essential part of developing an appropriate education plan for your child.  Requesting reports and suggested goals, prior to your IEP will help you save time; keep you focused and better prepared to discuss your child’s educational needs.   It may alleviate some of the stress and anxieties that are associated with IEP’s.  It has certainly been helpful for us.

#SPED #IEP #Hearingloss #autism #specialneeds

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