Individualized Education Program (IEP)
 Tips for getting what your child needs 

Prepare for meetingsAVOID “SURPRISES”

  • Find out who will be attending
      • Make sure key people are attending.
      • regular, and special education teachers, therapists, 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 is start and finish times, and those key people will attend the 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 within 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 than having people overanalyze 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
      • You’re 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.
      • Make a request for evaluations to have 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 it’s 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 a 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 advantage 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.
      •  If assistive technology is needed, check that full-time access is written into the goals.
  •   The system never determines your child’s program
      • What your child needs is not determined by what is available, it’s 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 your 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 training, ordering devices?
        • Who will be looking at daily class activities and determining what they 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
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