Many parents dread their child’s IEP meetings, and often go away feeling bullied, unheard, and stuck with a subpar education for their child. They often don’t know their rights and how the system works.
Here are a few tips and tricks taken from my own experience and from online research. Remember that the school is not the enemy, but the school and parents/guardians should work together for the highest benefit of the student.
1. Believing the professionals are the only experts.
- Just as school personnel have been trained formally to help your child, you are an expert with your own child, and you often know your student better than the school. With that in mind, value the school’s professional opinions and expect them to value yours with equal respect.
2. Not making requests in writing.
- Always leave a paper trail so you have a record of communication and dates between you and the school. E-mail provides an effective avenue for this. During meetings document goals, promises, and plans that are made and follow up on them.
3. Not being familiar with Prior Notice of the Procedural Safeguards (34 CFR 300.503)
- A lot of parent information is contained in these safeguards and prior written notice serves as a record of the school’s actions and responsibilities throughout the IEP process
4. Requesting a related service instead of an assessment that supports the need for a related service.
- Just requesting the service without an assessment does not obligate the school to comply. However, if an assessment is requested and a need determined through that assessment, the school must provide the service.
5. Accepting assessment results that do not recommend the services you think your child needs.
- If you don’t agree with assessment results, know that “Under 34 CFR 300.352. Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE), parents of a child with a disability have the right to obtain an independent evaluation at public expense if they disagree with the results of the school’s assessment.”
6. Allowing the assessment information to be presented for the first time at the IEP meeting.
- The assessment results should be presented in an eligibility meeting or other team meeting BEFORE the IEP meeting.
7. Accepting goals and objectives that are not measurable.
- All IEP goals and objectives must be able to be measured objectively.
8. Allowing placement decisions to be made before IEP goals and objectives are written.
- Placement is determined after goals and objectives have been discussed. Services can’t be determined until the needs of the students have been established.
9. Allowing your child’s IEP meeting to be rushed so that the next child’s IEP meeting can begin.
- Do not feel that you have to rush. If there is a scheduled amount of time for a meeting and more time is needed, the meeting can be adjourned and another meeting can be scheduled to fully go over all aspects of the IEP.
10. Not asking a lot of questions.
- If you don’t understand something, ask. Ask as many questions as you need to fully understand what is in the IEP and what services your child will be receiving.
11. Do not sign the IEP unless you agree.
- The school may pressure you into signing an IEP for various reasons, especially to meet mandated deadlines. If you do not agree, do not sign. Remember that an IEP is a legally binding document, so your signature means you agree.
Top Ten Questions to ask at an IEP meeting
1. How and why have the accommodations in my child’s IEP been chosen?
2. How is the School collecting data to measure progress on goals and how often?
3. What are the best ways for me to stay in touch with my child’s teachers to be informed of academic or behavioral progress?
4. What type of learner is my child? Does the teacher attempt to use my child’s strengths while teaching him or her?
5. What research-based instruction will the School be using to teach my child?
Note: There are many research-based curriculums for children with all types of disabilities. Every school should be using research-based curriculums for teaching, regardless of the severity of disability.
6. If a service is not working, how can I work with my child’s IEP Team to explore better services for him or her?
7. When and where will my child’s services take place? AND What percentage of the day will my child be removed from the general education setting?
8. Are there things I can do at home to support the IEP goals?
9. Is my child on a graduation track or are they working on a modified curriculum? What are the diploma objectives for my child? What progress has he or she made towards those objectives?
10. Can you please explain that again?
Ten Common Mistakes Parents Make During the IEP Meeting *
by Matt Foley, M.Ed., L.P.C. & DeAnn Hyatt-Foley, M.Ed.
http://schools.nyc.gov/Academics/SpecialEducation/SEP/meeting/questionstoask.htm and http://www.specialeducationadvisor.com/top-ten-questions-to-ask-at-an-iep/
If you are still feeling frustrated and the school does not seem to honor your questions or requests, check out this post “How to Handle Disagreements at IEP Meetings” from wrighstlaw.com, an advocacy site for parents.