Whether your child is transitioning from the Early Intervention program to the public school system, or they have recently qualified to receive services through the school, it is important to set them up for success by advocating for them at their annual Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting.
What is an IEP?
An IEP, or individualized education program, is designed to create a plan to ensure your child receives a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment (LRE), as is mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). A meeting is held once a year at your child’s school to create, review, and or adjust this plan to best serve your child’s learning needs.
What can I expect?
There may be several professionals at the meeting including your child’s teacher, the special education teacher, your child’s therapists, the principal, and a representative of the school district. The team (which includes you!) collaborates and shares your child’s present level of development and what progress has been made in the last year. They discuss goals for the coming year and what services and accommodations may be beneficial and necessary.
What can I do?
1. Ask questions if you do not understand something. Every profession has their specific jargon, and it is easy for professionals to slip into the alphabet soup (IEP, LRE, IDEA, OMG!). Read over your copy of your rights that they provide and have the team review any portion you do not understand. Understanding the jargon and knowing your rights sets you up to successfully advocate for your child.
2. Bring ideas with you to the meeting about what you want for your child. This will help keep the goals relevant to your child rather than using goals that are too generic. You are a valuable and necessary contributing member of the team since you are the expert on your child. They need more from you than just your signature on forms. They need your input about your child’s strengths, areas of challenge, and what has or has not worked in the past.
3. Voice your concerns. This applies to during the meeting and also throughout the year. If you feel something is not working after an appropriate amount of time, ask to brainstorm other strategies and approaches. Remember that the laws say your child should lean more towards inclusion in a typical classroom (LRE).
Questions or concerns?
If you have questions or concerns about your child’s IEP meeting, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 773-332-9439.
Becky Clark, MS, DT
Reference: Cheatham, G.A., Hart, J.E., Malian, I & McDonald, J. (2012). Six things to never say or hear during an IEP Meeting: Educators as Advocates for Families. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 44(3), 50-57.
Wrightslaw (2007). IDEA 2004 Roadmap to the IEP, IEP Meetings, Content, Review and Revision, Placement, Transition & Transfers.http://www.wrightslaw.com/idea/art/iep.roadmap.htm
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