I have two kids on IEPs and I am a Special Education Advocate for kids in Foster Care.
Today I'd like to speak about what to expect at an IEP meeting.
- Get letters from Drs. and Specialists to state how much services your child needs. For example: If you believe your daughter needs 3 sessions of PT make sure a Ortho. can write a letter on your behalf. Also very important to get letters if you feel your child needs a one to one aide. In that case get a letter from the child's Pediatrician and other Specialists.
- Look over the request for evaluation forms. Make sure they have all the tests that your child needs. Sometimes the school may not do an evaluation but cut a service. Sometimes all it takes is a reminder to them that they need to do an evaluation before a cut in service. Once they do that most times they find that the child still qualifies. If your child has behavioral issues you also want to request a Psychological Evaluation.
- I always ask for evaluation reports before the Team Meeting. The school is required to provide these to you two days prior to the meeting. Make sure you put your request in writing with a date. If they don't get the reports to you and you feel that you really need them prior you can ask them to reschedule the meeting. I only do this if its absolutely necessary since it puts off the meeting and services. Also, they need to tell you in advance if a team member can't make the meeting. If you go to the meeting and find half the team not there you may want to ask for another meeting. It is one of your rights.
- Bring a Picture of your child and keep it in front of you. This is your focal point during the meeting for when you get nervous or when you need to speak up for a service. Also, try to bring one person with you to the meeting for support.
- You should go into the meeting with goals and vision statements. Also, have a sheet of paper that says: Concerns, Addressed How and Responsible Party, Resolved, Yes ,No in columns. During the Meeting write what you speak about. Ask that the sheet be attached to the IEP.
- Listen to the teams reports and evaluations.
- Offer Suggestions for Goals.
- Bring up your concerns that you may have. The Infamous "Service Grid". Make sure you advocate for services and timeframes on the grid. OT, PT, SPL are they group or one to one (specify), are they 30 minutes, 45 minutes etc. and how many times a week. Do you need a consult from different specialists to home or the classroom? Will the therapists make up time if the child is out of school for how many days?? Will the services be provided by a therapist or therapy assistant. Many times a parent assumes that their child will be getting PT two times a week. Come to find put they are getting PT from a student assistant two times a week overseen by a PT and its in a group setting.
- Discuss Extended School Year. A topic all on its own. Boy have I learned a lot about ESY. It doesn't actually mean that your child will regress to get services. It means that the time delay between services will be prohibitive for them to progress. Also, I learned that any time a child has emergent skills they will find that summer services are even more important. Think, times when a child is learning to read, do math etc..
- Discuss Transportation Needs.--Does your child need working AC and Heat on the bus?, Does your child need an aide on the bus?
- Placement can only be determined after all the service needs are discussed. At this point in the meeting you can say: based on the evaluations and service needs what type of program modifications for the classroom/alternate setting do you suggest? They should have some ideas in mind. Ask them to visit those classrooms to see if they are appropriate.
- Never sign the IEP at the meeting. Ask to look over the draft when they send it to you. Make sure the goals are meaningful and measurable. Some IEPs offer goals that are very watered down and not measurable. It will make it easier in subsequent years if you have goals you can track. Make sure all the services you requested are in the IEP. If you have a strong opposition or can't agree on a service sign off on the IEP but reject the portion you don't agree with. That way they can start with the services you do agree with. I have only rejected an entire IEP once and that was because most of the team did not show up, the facilitator was a substitute and never sent the information along to the person drafting the IEP. Most times I work with the school to compromise on services. A few times I had to reject a portion of the IEP, a couple times we had a meeting that settled the issue and once I needed to go to mediation.
I have tons more information on IEPs but this is just a basic list to get the topic going. It is my hope that a lot of people will blog with their suggestions etc...