Preparing for an IEP meeting can be intimidating. While it can often feel like it’s a group of professionals against one parent, most teachers truly want what is best for the student.
Unfortunately, there is no perfect placement for a student with disabilities. Every setting has it’s pros and cons. For instance, public schools have a lot of protections and programs, but they also have a lot of bureaucracy that can difficult for parents to navigate.
However, there are some things parents can do to be prepared while navigating the public school special education system.
1. Know your rights as the parent.
Every year you’ll be given a pamphlet full of rights and responsibilities as the parent. Most parents look over them once and then never touch them again. In my experience as an educator, when parents have issues, they forget all the rights that they have to settle the issues. Educators typically will tell you your rights, but if there’s a sticky situation, it’s possible that they will not offer up all of your options.
Read your rights here: http://www.parentcenterhub.org/parental-rights/
Stay up to date on federal special education laws here: https://sites.ed.gov/idea/
2. Know the parts of the IEP.
Each section is a legally binding contract. As the parent, you should know what the IEP is stating to your school’s interaction with your child. Click HERE for break down of the IEP parts. If you need help understanding the IEP, feel free to email me for personalized help.
3. Know where your student is at academically.
Schools are supposed to send progress updates through out the year. How frequently progress reports are legally shared is dependent on the IEP. The “reporting period” is typically a very tiny box on the IEP or right after a goal. Make sure you check how often progress will be reported.
I have seen some really terrible progress reports in my teaching career. If you are ever unsure of whether your child is making progress, make sure to ask for that data. You have the right to ask to see the actual hard data, not just some report. If you are unsure about the progress, it’s hard to give a real stamp of approval on the year long goal.
4. Research district policies for special education. (SO IMPORTANT!!)
School districts are not created equal. For instance, in Provo, my classes were divided by grade level. That meant I had kids of various abilities all in my room at once. However, I had the flexibility to teach with whatever curriculum, or create my own curriculum, whenever I wanted. The great part of that environment was that I could really tailor to the student’s needs. The bad part was that student’s usually only worked directly with me for 10-15 minutes. The other time they were on software or with a paraprofessional.
Another example was in Winston Salem. Here my kids were grouped on ability, but I had to use a specific 2 or 3 curriculums for my students. The great part of that environment was that I spent maximum amount of time working directly with each student. The bad part was that I often had to squeeze kids into groups and use curriculum that might not have been a 100% fit for them.
Make sure to ask the school district or school directly these questions:
- Do you require students to use a specific curriculum?
- How are students assigned groups?
- What if my student doesn’t respond to that curriculum?
Last, there is room for interpretation in the special education law. For instance, the federal law mandates that parents are invited to the meeting at least 3 times before the meeting can be held without a parent present. In Utah, professionals had to physically meet 3 times without the parent’s attendance before the IEP meeting could be held without a parent present. Ohio and North Carolina only required 3 INVITATIONS. That meant I could just send 3 invitations home and if the parent was not in attendance at the meeting, we held the meeting without them.
Now, while that might sound alarming, remember parents can request to re-hold an IEP meeting at any point during the year. Missing the first meeting is not preferable because, if staff are swamped, you could be waiting a month or more to actually meet with the team. To avoid messy situations, know what the policies are. Then use them. If you did not receive an invitation, tell someone.
5. Know who is going to be at the meeting and look into bringing support with you.
Schools should send out an invitation to the meeting. In the invitation it will state who will be at the meeting. If you don’t recognize a name, or don’t know why someone is coming, call the school and ask.
Bringing up a concern in a meeting is easier if you are not alone. Consider bringing a parent advocate, a friend, a spouse, or another professional.
Looking for more help to get ready for the IEP meeting? Contact me directly or leave a comment.