Tips for Successful IEP Meetings

Posted By on January 3, 2011

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Below is the long version of an article I wrote that was published in the latest issue of Albinism Insight.  :)


This is not a comprehensive list.  I’m not a teacher, although i do have a teaching degree.  The advice I give is based on my experience as a parent, having 2 children(ages 4 and 14) who have IEP’s and the dozens of IEP meetings I have prepared for and attended.   Over the years I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but through them learned a lot. I now go into IEP meetings with much more confidence and competence and with far less fear than I did going in to the first one.

The most important piece of advice I can give is, be prepared. Do your homework prior to the IEP meeting.  If they will be preparing a draft IEP, request a copy of the draft, proposed goals, and the results of any assessments/evaluations be given to you so you have time to review them before the IEP meeting. This is necessary in order for you to have active and meaningful participation in the meeting.  If there is another assessment that you believe needs to be completed in order to provide a more complete evaluation of your child’s needs, you have the right to request one.

Ask to observe your child’s classroom, not only to see how your child performs, but also to look for areas in which the classroom teacher may need support or additional resources.  Put together your own description of your child’s abilities and the services and accommodations you want. This information will be part of what makes up you child’s Present Level of Educational Performance (PLEP).  The information you provide would be included in Parent Concerns section of PLEP.  There is no limit to the length of this section, so write as much as is necessary to cover your child’s strengths, weaknesses, and needs.

Don’t forget to address areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum.  These include compensatory academic skills, orientation and mobility, social interaction, independent living, recreation and leisure, career education, self determination, use of technology, and visual efficiency skills.  For specific examples and more information visit the following website: http://tsbvi.edu/agenda

You can write your own list of goals, services and accommodations you want.  Goals should be based on PLEP.  They aren’t based on what is typical for other children with albinism or low vision, nor are they based on the amounts or types of services typically provided in the district. Learn how to write SMART IEP goals at http://www.wrightslaw.com/bks/feta2/ch12.ieps.pdf

Visit the NOAH CARE website (http://iep.albinism.org) for specific examples of goals, services, accommodations and modifications for children with albinism.

Maintain high expectations for your child’s achievement.  Expect grade level work.  Expect the same level of achievement as you would if he/she were not visually impaired.  Expect him/her to be able to take notes, do research, work in groups, participate in projects, clubs, field trips, etc.

Don’t be intimidated. You are an expert with invaluable knowledge about your child’s abilities and needs. Bring support to the IEP meeting.  Federal law allows you to invite anyone who has knowledge or expertise about your child.  Have the people you invite take notes during the meeting.  Bring any handouts/articles that address the specific needs of children with albinism.

If possible, record the IEP meeting. This is the easiest way to ensure you have a detailed and accurate account of everything that is said /not said and every decision that is made during the meeting.  Offer to provide the IEP team with a copy of the recording. The laws for recording meetings vary by state. Check with your state’s Department of Education.

Remember that the IEP process/meeting is not a war.  Be polite and professional.  Don’t go into the meeting with a good guys against bad guys attitude.  Keep it positive and focused. Get along with and respect the IEP team members, maintaining a professional relationship.  You will likely be interacting and working with this group for many future IEP meetings.  It’s okay to get upset. However, don’t let your emotions lead to a compromise that you wouldn’t otherwise allow.  Don’t waste time arguing. Don’t waste time attempting to defend or justify your opinions and requests.  You aren’t the one who needs to be explaining everything… they do.

During the meeting you can ask them to change anything on the draft IEP that is incorrect and add any additional information that you want to be included.  If you are confused about anything in the evaluations or draft IEP, ask them to explain it in terms that you can understand, without using a bunch of “teacher talk”, i.e. technical special ed. language and/or legal jargon.

Ask lots of questions.  This is the best way to handle disagreements.  Ask them why they are denying a request.  Ask them what research they have to support their opinions or decisions.  Ask them how they arrived at their decision. Be sure that all of your concerns and questions are addressed one by one.  If they say no to a request, they must explain why, in writing.  Federal law states that Prior Written Notice must be given to parents before they initiate (or refuse to initiate) services.  One of the things that must be included in that notice is “a description of other options that the IEP team considered and the reasons why those options were rejected;” (Regulation 300.503b6)

Take your time. Don’t feel rushed. Ask the team to reconvene if necessary, to allow you more time for you to review evaluation results, draft IEP and proposed goals. Don’t leave the IEP meeting without a copy of the revised draft IEP and any other documents that were prepared during the meeting.  You do not have to sign the final IEP document at the IEP meeting.

Know your rights.  State and district laws can expand on IDEA law and regulations, to increase services, but not to decrease rights or services. You are an equal member of your child’s IEP team.  You know your child better than anyone and the IEP team must take your concerns and opinions into consideration when writing the IEP.  Read more at http://www.wrightslaw.com/

Know where to find support if you need it.  Locate the Parent Training and Information Center for your state.  These parent centers, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, provide a variety of services and support.  Every state has at least one center.  You can call them and they can answer your questions and give you information that is specific to your state/district.  Most services are free to parents.  You can find a list of centers for each state at the following website: http://www.taalliance.org/ptidirectory/pclist.asp


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