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Adapting Curriculum 10 IEP Mistakes IEP Adaptations IEP Planning

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

  Tips for getting what your child needs 

People looking at papers in surprisePrepare for meetings - AVOID "SURPRISES"

  •  Find out who will be attending
    • Make sure key people are attending.
      • regular, and special education teachers, therapist, etc.
    • Ask for a person trained on inclusion and adaptations to facilitate the meeting.
    • It is legally required that parents receive a written invitation to IEP meeting
      •  Meetings should be held at mutually convenient (a/k/a mutually inconvenient) times.
  •  Ask exactly what the meeting will cover
    • "Get to know you" meetings can end up being evaluations and IEP's
    •  Talk to individual staff about what will be covered in meetings
  •  Make sure enough time is allotted
    •  Be sure there are start and finish times, and that key people will be attend entire time.
    •  Some IEP's are broken up into several shorter meetings.
    •  For a child with significant needs, planning can take 16 hours or longer
      •  Total time should not be limited, keep rescheduling if not finished in the session's time limits
  •  Get copies of reports or evaluations that will be discussed, prior to the meeting
    •  Nothing can throw off your ability to think clearly then having people over analyze your child.
    •  Many professional's have not shifted to using strength based evaluations
    •  Listening to reports that describe what is wrong with your child, what he or she can't do,  and how that compares to others can be very emotionally overwhelming.
  •  Plan to make the meeting festive, bring food, color and music
    • Your not planning a funeral, your planning for your child's success, make it fun!
  •  Prepare a vision statement for your child's future
    •  Refer to the vision during all of your planning
  •  Write a draft version of the IEP
    •  Plan on collaborating with the team
    •  Include family, friends and others who know your child to help you prepare
  •  Write priorities
    •  Decide what services, or supports etc. you feel you must get for your child
    • Decide which areas you may be willing to compromise if needed.
  •  Organize copies of laws, information and resources that address your child's needs
    •  Include State and Federal laws covering special education services
    •  Have copies of interpretations of the laws
      • Example in Pennsylvania - BEC's or Basic Education Circulars
    • Bring resources and information on assistive technology that may help your child succeed
    • Provide information on inclusion, adaptations and trainings
    • Phone numbers for support or clarification
      • Education Law Center, Consult Line, advocates, Protection & Advocacy etc.

At IEP meetings

  •  Never go to a meeting alone!
    •  Take an advocate, an informed parent, family member, friend or neighbor
    •  Sometimes meetings can end up emotional, unclear or even out of compliance, Its good to have others on your side to help listen, clarify and support you
    •  If possible spouses should always attend together
    •  The child should always attend when appropriate
  •  Reschedule if the key people are not present or there are other surprises
    •  Let everyone know you asked ahead of time for this information
    •  To be productive you need the right people and information to plan
    •  Simply pick up your things and tell them to reschedule when it can be done right
  •  Begin IEP meetings by reading your child's vision statement
    •  Hand out copies of your vision, if possible include a photo
      •  This helps everyone get on the same page
    •  Goals need to be based on achieving this vision, not deficits nor life skills.
  •  Have the facilitator write notes on large flip chart paper
    •  This way everything discussed is clear and visible to all participants.
    • Begin with one sheet for each area
      • ex: reading, math, social, self-help, behavioral.
      • Draw a vertical line and begin by listing strengths on the left
      • Needs and goals can be listed on the right, use as many sheets as needed.
  •  Be clear in describing what you want and why
    • You can expect more collaboration when others understand exactly
      what it is you are asking of them and why.
    • Don't just describe a service or device, tell how it will help your child learn and progress
    • Give a clear visual picture of what you think a situation will look like with your child having this.
  •  Be a good listener
    •  Allow others to finish what they are saying, even if you disagree
    •  Repeat back a summary of what they said to avoid miscommunication
    •  Once they agree that you understand them, then go ahead and state your views.
  •  Get issues out in the open
    •  Don't play mind games, get anything and everything that concerns you out on the table.
    •  Most people can't read minds, be upfront, confront the issues and be proactive.
    •  If you think that a teacher or school doesn't want your child in the regular class, tell the team this.
    •  You'll be surprised how much relief you'll feel by getting the issues out.
    •  Begin your statements with 'I feel", "I think" etc. to help open up lines of communication.
  •  Avoid arguing over issues that are not leading to planning your child's success
    •  Don't get drawn into other issues such as funding, training , etc. first write an appropriate IEP
    •  Jot a note to place in front of you at the meeting, "Does this topic lead toward my child's success.
      •  Glance at this note throughout the meeting and if you find a topic isn't appropriate interrupt and ask to get back to planning for your individual child's success.
  •  Take a break
    •  If information is overwhelming, emotional or confusing take a ten minute break.
      • Use this time to reorganize, refresh, energize, make phone calls,
        collaborate with others helping you attend the meeting.
      • Decide if you can go on, or need to reschedule.
  •  Insist on positive language used to describe your child
    •  Parents are team members and have a right to suggest terminology used.
    •  Reports need to state what your child "can do" and then what is expected
    •  IEP's are for individuals, comparative information to others is not needed.
    •  For evaluations have the language rephrased positively, or file a dissenting opinion.
  •  Every service and support needed for your child must be written in the IEP
    •  IEP's are legally binding contracts. If its not in there they don't have to provide it.
      •  If told something doesn't have to be in writing, explain, you are protecting your child's rights.
      •  IEP's must be implemented in reasonable time, usually considered 10 days, including providing assistive technology that is listed
    •  You could allow flexibility to show that you are willing to work with the team, but don't get taken advantaged of.
  •  Have periodic planning meetings written into the IEP
    •  Plan on the front line staff, those working directly with your child, to meet regularly.
    •  Start out with weekly meetings and if all is going well move to bi-weekly, then monthly.
  •  Behavior plans must be a part of the IEP
    •  If a child's behavior interferes with his or her learning, a behavior plan is required
    •  Have training and supports for staff included in the IEP.
  •  Review the IEP before accepting it
    •  Be sure the goals are realistic, achievable, objective, measurable and academic in nature.
    •  Make sure all areas are addressed, including extended school year, transition and supports.
    •  Check that if assistive technology needed there is full time access and it is written into the goals.
  •   The system never determines your child's program
    •  What your child needs is not determined by what is available, its based only on your child.
    •  You don't have to accept statements like, we don't have the funding, training, or staff for that.
    •  Special education is a service, not a place. Services follow the child.
    •  It doesn't matter what is being done for any other child, you are only planning for you own.
    •   If the team will not write down something your child needs, you must be given a Notice of Recommended Education Placement
  •  Get it in writing, who is responsible for implementing each part
    •  Who is going to coordinate all team members in addressing your child's goals?
    •  Who will be making adaptations and modifications, scheduling trainings, ordering devices?
    •   Who will be looking at daily class activities and determining what it will look like for your child?
  •  Before people leave schedule any necessary follow-up meetings
  •  When all goes well, (It can happen!) give positive reinforcement to team members
    •  Thank everyone for attending, and working toward your child's success.
Written by Colleen F. Tomko, copyright 1998
This material may be copied for non-profit use only. (May be linked but not copied on to other websites)
Please notify us of your intentions.

This is still a rough draft, and will be updated with more ideas.

Go to Rights to Regular Education

"If" you tried your best to collaborate, listen and explain, point out the laws and specify what your child needs and "why", and you can not agree as a team, then you need to take further action. There are several things you can do. All parents are required by law to receive a copy of their rights that explains the due process procedures. It should also provide contact information for local agencies and organizations that can provide information and support. Let the team know "You want nothing more then to work together toward your child's success, and it is nothing personal, but you will need to take further steps to ensure that he or she receives an appropriate education." After you have tried your best, choose your battles, but are still not able to get your child's needs met, then you should file a complaint with the state and takes steps to due process. Many parents feel that although this sometimes rectifies the situation and definitely needs to be done to document the issues, it is not always enough.

Another suggested step is to write out your child's story, include a photo at the top of a cover letter summarizing the issues. Submit and carbon copy this letter to every local, state and federal offices of education and special education (This includes principals, superintendents, etc); your state and US legislators (committees on education); your state's governor's and policy office; your state's departments that provide disability services (such as Offices of MH/MR or Developmental Disabilities); The President's committee on disabilities; local, state and national organization's of the ARC, UCP, TASH; ACLU, your state's Protection and Advocacy organization, other disability law centers that exist in your state and The Office of Civil Rights (OCR requires complaints on official complaint forms). Get started here!

If a school employee has been malicious or negligent then you must also file a misconduct complaint with the state, this is separate from IEP issues and directed toward the inappropriate behavior of an individual and will initiate an investigation of that person.

Written by Colleen F. Tomko
Material Copyrighted 1996 Kids Together, Inc.
This material may be copied for non-profit use only. (May be linked but not copied on to other websites)
Please notify us of your intentions.

Links to Information and Resources about IEP's

In Pennsylvania

Help for Families and Advocates
Call the ConsultLine 

Pennsylvania Department of Education Bureau of Special Education
(Regulations & Complaint system)


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Last modified: 06/29/10

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