Secrets to Following Up on the IEP
It’s tempting to think that you’re finished once the IEP is drafted. It may be helpful to remember that the IEP is a means to an end, insuring that your child gets the best, most appropriate education possible, and not an end unto itself. In this final post in the IEP series, we’ll look at some things you can do to help insure that this happens.
- Consider taking the IEP home to review before signing. This is an important document and, unless you are absolutely certain you’re in complete agreement with it, there’s nothing wrong with sleeping on it and reviewing it again the next day. You’re not required to sign it if you disagree with it. In fact, you don’t even have to sign it if you’re undecided. You should, however, sign where it indicates you’ve attended the meeting.
- Pay special attention to the special services. It’s hard to generalize, but, unless your child has useable vision that promises to be stable, you should pay particular attention to how Braille, orientation and mobility (O&M), and accessible technology are addressed in the IEP. Even if their vision is stable, there will likely be special services you will want to pay attention to. The devil can be in the details. Who will be doing the instruction? How often? What specifically will be the assistive technology provided? When will it begin? Who will provide any needed instruction and what is their knowledge about the product? You would like to think that you and the school are on the same page and this wouldn’t be necessary; but, unfortunately, if the details aren’t spelled out, you can’t assume things will happen in the way you anticipate.
- Get clarification. If you’re unclear about any part of the IEP, don’t hesitate to double-check your understanding with the trusted person you brought to the meeting or contact one of the other IEP team members you have confidence in. You can always change your mind and withdraw permission for any parts of the plan you agreed to. If you have serious doubts about any portion of the IEP, put your concerns in writing and send them to the appropriate school official with the unsigned IEP. You can then request another meeting.
- Talk with your child. If he or she hasn’t been at the meeting, explain in terms they will understand what was covered. Discuss the progress they’ve made. Go over the goals for the next year so they know what they will be working on.
- Keep and review the IEP. Put it in the binder or file where you keep other school reports and notices. (You do keep this stuff, don’t you?) Mark the dates on your calendar when you should be receiving regular updates on his or her progress. This should happen at least as frequently as progress reports are provided for nondisabled students in the school. The reports should contain data documenting your child’s progress.
- Develop collaborative relationships with your child’s educational professionals. It cannot be emphasized too much that a positive, collaborative relationship with the school will not only greatly benefit your child but will also contribute to your peace of mind. If you are at war with the school, there’s a very good chance that your child will be the collateral damage. Both you and your child’s teachers benefit it you visit from time to time during the year to compare thoughts and observations.
- Who is coordinating and monitoring your child’s services? More than one professional, each having a different expertise, will be working with your child. It’s easy for the left hand not to know what the right hand is doing. Having a person in charge of overseeing that services are delivered as planned, and knowing who it is, can help insure that the IEP is being carried out appropriately.
- IEP meetings can be scheduled more often than once a year. Annual meetings are the minimum required by law, but it may be beneficial to meet more often. Either you or the school can ask to meet to revise the IEP. Goals may need to be revisited, additional resources or instruction may become necessary, and there’s no reason that these decisions have to wait a year.
- If you and the school are at an impasse. You don’t want to think about it, and it doesn’t happen often, but the law provides several mechanisms for resolving disputes that can’t be addressed any other way. Parents have the right to challenge decisions about their child’s eligibility for services, evaluation, and the services provided by the school. Your options include
- speaking with the school,
- asking for outside mediation of the dispute,
- requesting a “due process” hearing, and
- filing a complaint with the state educational agency.
Again, the need to resort to these procedures is rare, but, if necessary, these options exist.
Keeping in touch with your child’s teachers, monitoring his or her progress, informing yourself, to the extent you can, about available resources and technologies will go a long way to insure that your child receives the best and most appropriate education possible.
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