For many of our client’s at KEBM and The Sensory Spot, the beginning of the school year includes IEP meetings. Many families have expressed concerns and confusion regarding what they can and can’t say, do, or request. Hopefully this article will be a good starting point to help you handle the aversive dread that usually comes with having an IEP meeting.
Know your rights!
When you attend your child’s IEP meeting, they will give you papers explaining your rights. It’s usually long and written in small font, and a lot of people simply don’t read through it. While this is not a full explanation, basically, …
You have the right to participate in the decision-making process. This is why you’re having a meeting to begin with. You CAN request changes to be made to goals and services. For example, you can request a 1:1 aide, or an additional support, such as having tests not timed, having instructions given differently, or being able to leave class to talk to a counselor.
You can request an additional assessment/evaluation be run. These additional assessments and evaluations ensure your child’s deficits are being adequately addressed.
You can request an independent evaluation, from a professional not employed by the school district. This allows for your concerns to be addressed if you disagree with what the school district’s views are.
What should you be asking during an IEP meeting?
Beyond what is being told to you, there are some common questions you may want to ask during your child’s IEP meeting.
What are my child's strengths and weaknesses?
At times you will see different strengths and weaknesses at home versus at school. This can help make adjustments in each environment by seeing what does and does not work for each.
What are the goals for my child's education?
Some goals may not seem necessary, or too easy to accomplish, while some may seem unobtainable during one school year. This will help you be better informed and opens the door for you to make suggestions.
How often will I receive updates on my child's progress?
Are the teachers open to email? Some classrooms use apps such as ClassDojo to update parents on their classroom.
How will my child's progress be measured and reported to me?
Are they just doing beginning and end of year assessment? What is being tracked and how?
What services and accommodations will be provided to help my child meet their goals?
Does your child need a communication device, 1:1 aide, speech therapy, OT, or a behavior plan?
Are there any additional services or resources available to support my child's education?
If you don’t know a service are needed or available, this is an easy way to find out what may be available. It sounds like a given you’ll ask, but many people don’t ask.
What if you don’t feel heard during an IEP?
If a parent feels that the school is not listening to them during an IEP meeting, they should first try to communicate their concerns with the school team. This can be done with a follow-up email. Also, as many IEP’s are now held virtually (Zoom, Teams, etc.), they will send you a copy to sign and agree to. This can be your chance to reread the document and make sure what you want, or agreed to, is in the actual IEP. If it’s not, or you don’t agree, you can let them know then, before you sign.
If this does not resolve the issue, you can seek support from a child’s rights advocate or an attorney who specializes in special education law. Additionally, parents can file a complaint with their state's education agency or request mediation or due process to resolve disputes with the school. It is important for parents to understand their rights and options for resolving conflicts with the school to ensure that their child's needs are being met.
In conclusion …
Hopefully you found this article helpful, or interesting enough to recommend to a friend who may need it. IEP meetings can be stressful, and you may go into them thinking you know everything you want to ask, and then your concerns don’t end up resolved. Take time to write down any specific questions you want addressed, services and supports you want, or goals you would want to have. And just as important, remember that the teachers and professionals want to see your child succeed. They didn’t get into their careers just for a check, and they deal with a lot of parents that talk and act disrespectfully toward them. Being a nicer parent often times can help you get a more positive and helpful outcome for your child.