And Individual Education Plan, or IEP, is exactly what it sounds like: an individualized plan for meeting your child’s needs in the school system. Children who have special needs (autism, cognitive delay, or a physical disability, for example) must have IEPs that serve as a guide for educators and other school staff (administrators, therapists, nurses, aides, psychologists, etc.) who will be working with them over the course of the school year. The development and revision of a child’s IEP takes place during an IEP meeting, which parents and applicable school staff attend. For many parents of special needs children, the IEP meeting can be an intimidating, daunting, and emotionally exhausting experience. If you are facing this important life event for your child, then this article can help. Here is what every parent should know about IEP meetings:
Complete your paperwork before the big day. You may be given a mound of paperwork – mostly questionnaires about your child – before the actual IEP meeting. Do a thorough job of completing your paperwork, because your input at this stage will help shape the meeting agenda. If the school does not provide you with a questionnaire pack, then you need to sit down and write out what your own concerns, perceptions, and goals are for your child.
Review your child’s file. Ask the school for whatever assessments they have that they will be using for the IEP. Then review all of the records so that you are well aware of where the school stands in regards to your child’s educational, physical, and emotional needs. Use this information to formulate your own suggestions for your child’s IEP.
Know your rights. Keep in mind that if your child’s special needs limit her ability to receive an education, the school must – by law – provide a means with which to overcome those limitations. Special accommodations include speech, physical, and/or occupational therapy, durable medical equipment, and things like walkers, wheelchairs, lifts, and standers. It’s not unusual for parents to hear phrases like, “that’s not something we’re equipped for,” or, “we don’t have a program in place for that kind of need” at an IEP meeting. Don’t let that scare you off. Insist on the services your child needs.
Speak up. You know your child better than anyone else, and you are your child’s best, most powerful advocate. Your voice is just as important as anyone else’s in that meeting room, and you need to make it heard. If there is an item you disagree with in the IEP, or if you have a better idea of how things should be outlined in your child’s plan, then be sure to address it at the meeting until a satisfactory conclusion is met.
IEP meetings are understandably stress-inducing occasions. Fortunately, you can ease your apprehensions (and see to it that your special child get all the special attention he deserves) by arming yourself with these facts.
About the Author: Ji Nordmeyer is a single mother with 2 children, one with an IEP. She not only works with the school but hires Falls Church tutors to help both her children with their more difficult subjects. Don’t hesitate to get your child extra help if you need it!