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Secrets for Planning for a Successful IEP

If you or a family member are blind or visually impaired, you will, or already have, been involved with an individualized education program (IEP). Although it can be very beneficial, the experience can also be overwhelming. The next four posts are intended to be a primer to help demystify the process and help insure that you can make the most of the opportunity.

We’ll begin by talking about what you can expect and what you can do to prepare for the IEP ahead of time.

  • Build a positive personal connection with at least one member of the IEP team. This might be a regular classroom teacher; teacher of the visually impaired (TVI); school counselor; or school principal. There’s no substitute for a good personal relationship.
  • Be aware of the school’s obligations prior to the meeting:

1. It must notify parents early enough to insure that they will be able to attend.

2. It must schedule the meeting at a time and place that are convenient for both the parents and school officials.

3. It must explain the purpose of the meeting. If this is a routine annual meeting, there’s probably no need for any special explanation; however, if the meeting is out of the ordinary, it’s reasonable to expect an explanation of the purpose of the meeting in advance.

4. It must tell the parents who will be attending the meeting from the school. This may take the form of providing either individual names or titles/roles. You can expect that the IEP team will include

* Regular classroom teacher;

* Teacher of the visually impaired;

* School representative who is qualified to either provide or supervise “specially designed education”;

* A person who is qualified to interpret “the implications of instructional results”;

* Anyone else who has special knowledge or expertise related to the student. (Orientation and mobility and assistive technology specialists come to mind for a blind child.); and

* The student, whenever appropriate. Note that he or she must attend for transition planning sessions.

It’s important to note that the IEP is designed to be a collaborative process involving the parents and the school. In fact, Federal law requires that the parents be considered part of the IEP team. Each person is there because they have a unique perspective on the student. Note: If there are particular services you want to insure that your child gets, you should check with the school to be sure that someone with that specialty will be attending the meeting.

  • If you wish, you may bring someone else to the meeting with you. Some parents find it helpful to bring a second person to provide an additional set of ears or a different perspective. It’s best to notify the school ahead of time if you plan to do this since it may have a policy regarding other attendees at the meeting.
  • Print off and complete the IEP planning form. It also helps to know who will be attending from the school so that you won’t be surprised by who’s in the room or the process being followed.
  • Review last year’s IEP and reports from the school since then.

Involve your child in the IEP to the extent possible for his age. Remember that Federal law requires the child to be involved in all meetings that deal with transition services, and those discussions begin with the first IEP that is in effect when the child turns 16 – or younger if the IEP team finds it appropriate to do so or if the state law requires it. When he’s 18, he’ll be the adult making decisions about his own placement, so it’s never too early to include him in the process.

In the next post, we’ll look at the IEP meeting itself. For more information about the IEP, you may want to visit an excellent, readable page hosted by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services of the U.S. Department of Education.

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