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Do you need IEP tips?
For many families, IEP day looms large on the calendar. Indeed, the day you finalize an Individualized Educational Plan, or IEP, for your child can have the potential to be a stressful, intense day.
If your child has a new diagnosis, then you need to request an initial assessment or evaluation from the school district where you live. The district has 15 days to respond to your request, and if they agree to assess, another 60 days to complete the assessments. After the assessments are completed, an IEP meeting is held to determine if the student qualifies for special education services.
Once your child has qualified for an IEP, team must meet at least once per year to review and update the goals and services.
Every third year, an annual IEP is replaced by a triennial IEP, which usually involves a full assessment of your child.
Whether you are planning for your initial, annual or triennial, here are some IEP tips to help make it more manageable. (I am not a lawyer, but I am an experienced parent and career educator. For more specific legal IEP tips, check out Wrights Law.)
1: Bring Treats
Start the meeting on a positive note by walking in the door with treats. Morning meeting? A coffee traveler and a loaf of quick bread is a great plan. After school? Bring some high-protein fuel like nuts or cheese and crackers, and also something sweet for a late-afternoon pick-me-up. No matter what the discussion is about, everyone will be more focused with a full stomach. And showing up with a bag or basket of goodies will help convey to the team your appreciation for their ongoing work.
2: Request Reports in Advance
You may typically request access to supporting reports (not the actual IEP) in advance of the meeting. For example, if your child receives speech, occupational therapy and behavioral services, you may request a report from the speech therapist, occupational therapist and behaviorist in advance of the meeting. Typically, a psychological report is only completed (and thus available) at a triennial IEP. If you are concerned about the findings, this is especially important to do. But even if your child’s eligibility is not in question, reviewing the reports in advance can streamline the actual meeting.
3: Record Every Meeting
Be the family that records, that way, when things get tense, you are not recording as a reaction to that tension, but simply because you are “the family that always records.” Check your local and state policies- many school districts require 24 hour notice that you will record a meeting. To provide that notice, simply email your child’s teacher or case manager at least 24 hours before the meeting is scheduled, and state that you will be recording the meeting.
Over the years, we have found that recording the meetings makes everyone much thoughtful about what is said. We have only had one occasion when we needed to reference the recording to address a challenging situation. Because everyone knew that the meeting was recorded, we didn’t even need to cite the exact line before we were able to regain momentum in the IEP process.
4: Take Notes – Before, During and After the Meeting
About ten days before the IEP meeting, begin noting concerns from each of your child’s providers. As you sit in a private OT session or email with your family’s speech therapist, then ask what they they think needs to be included in the next IEP. Ask if there are skills that they are working on that need to be reinforced by the school team. Or ask if there are goals on the existing IEP that they think are too easy (already met) or too hard (need to be reframed).
During the meeting, even though you are recording it, take notes of items that need immediate action. Like more changes of clothes at school to support a toilet-training goal, or packing a certain type of food in each lunch to support requesting it on the AAC device. And after the meeting – see below for how to continue the process.
5: Don’t Sign the IEP in the Meeting
No matter how good the IEP seems in the meeting DO NOT sign it the day of the meeting. At the very least, you should “sleep on it” and then read it through from start to finish the next day. If it still seems perfect, you can go ahead and sign it, but I still recommend one more thing before doing so…
6: Phone a Friend – or do the IEP Equivalent
After the meeting, send relevant portions to your home-based team for feedback. Close the loop, and excerpt the speech goals and share with the speech therapist. Run the behavioral goals past your BCBA.
What are your IEP tips? Please share in the comments below.
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