Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Resources for IEP Season

Students who receive special education and related services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act  (IDEA) must have their Individual Education Program (IEP) reviewed at least annually. Schools tend to do this in the spring, as the academic year comes to a close and all parties can see how the student did during the school year. At this point in the year, schools are pushing to get all their students' IEP's reviewed and often have meetings scheduled back-to-back-to-back each day.

For parents, the annual IEP meeting provides an important opportunity to sit down with the key players in their child's education and to help shape their education for the next school year. It is a process that should not be rushed, and parents should make sure that the school gives them adequate time to take a serious look at their child's performance and goals and to carefully consider plans for the coming year.

The Wrightslaw website recently devoted an issue of its newsletter to tools and suggestions for parents as they prepare for and attend IEP meetings. While these tips are helpful, there are other things we suggest that parents do when attending an IEP meeting. They include:
  • Bring your child. This will depend, of course, on your child's age and level of understanding, but even children in late elementary school -- and certainly those in high school -- should become knowledgeable and comfortable with the nature of their differences and what the school plans to do to to help them. Don't let your school discourage you if you believe your child has the understanding and maturity to handle this kind of meeting. 
  • Whether or not you bring your child, you should also bring another adult. If you are attending as a husband/wife or partner team, that may be sufficient. But even the least contentious IEP meeting can be stressful for parents and it can help to have someone with you to take notes, kick you under the table, or to help you to express your views. You are entitled by law to bring with you anyone you want, although schools should be notified in advance if you plan to have a physician or other professional attend (in person or by phone or webcam) because the school may want to have someone there who can understand and discuss the professional's recommendations and will seek to adjourn the meeting if they do not have notice.
  • Learn and use the vocabulary that governs your child's entitlement to services. Your child is entitled to be educated in the least restrictive environment. Her education should provide FAPE - be appropriate to her needs and publicly funded. He is entitled by law to a sufficient transition plan if he is 15 or 16 (this varies under state laws). 
You probably would not shop for an important dinner without a list. The lists suggested by the Wrightslaw newsletter and the tips included here should help you and your child to obtain an IEP that meets his or her needs. And if you are dissatisfied with the services, setting or other aspect of your child's IEP, you have the right to seek a hearing before a State Hearing Officer. Sometimes, just mentioning that you hope you don't have to "go to a hearing" on a sticking point may be enough to get the school's attention and push them towards a compromise. On the other hand, in tough economic times some districts, like the New York City Public Schools, are taking a tough stance against IEPs that contain services or settings that can be expensive to implement.

Photo used under Creative Commons from Voka - Kamer van Koophandel Limburg

No comments:

Post a Comment