Are You Ready for an IEP Update?
The start of a new school year often means working with teachers and staff who are unfamiliar with your child’s special needs and Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
Schools are required by law to meet with parents at least once a year to review their child’s IEP. The beginning of the school year is a good time for this review. You can not only establish goals for the school year, but also meet new members of your child’s education team.
Before the Meeting
The Parent Information Center of Delaware, which provides educational help and info to families with special needs, suggests asking yourself the following questions as you prepare to revise your child’s IEP with the school team:
- Did your child meet last year’s goals or benchmarks? If not, what can be done to encourage improvement?
- Have your child’s needs changed since last year?
- What does the IEP team need to know about your child that will help make better decisions about services?
- Do you need to ask for a behavior support plan?
- Have you explored assistive technology?
- Have you looked for new educational techniques for your child’s disability?
The Parenting Information Center provides an Online Resource Center to help parents understand and improve their child’s IEP. The Center also holds seminars and provides individual consultations. www.picofdel.org
Learn More about IEPs
To be effective advocates, many parents of kids with special needs research their child’s disability. Similarly, learning more about the IEP’s components and process can help you be a more effective advocate. These sites can help.
- The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities website provides a detailed IEP overview at www.nichcy.org/EducateChildren/IEP
- The New Jersey Statewide Parent Advocacy Network provides IEP checklists and resources at www.spannj.org/pti/resources.htm#iep
- The Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PATTAN) website includes detailed IEP information at http://parent.pattan.net/iep
- The U.S. Department of Education has a downloadable IEP Guide at www2.ed.gov/parents/needs/speced/iepguide
Know Your Rights
To more effectively advocate at IEP meetings, you are entitled to bring a relative, friend or advocate. Special needs advocates and attorneys can help you understand the IEP, suggest forms of assistance you might be unaware of and attend the IEP meeting to push for additional services. You’ll find resources in the Advocacy and Legal categories of the MetroKids SpecialKids Guide.
Relationship-Building Is Key
Jacqueline Chambers, a psychologist at Lenape High School in Medford, NJ and a veteran IEP team member, emphasizes the importance of building strong relationships with teachers and school personnel. Doing so requires cooperation, patience and involvement.
“Know what you are entitled to but try to come across as collaborative and not demanding,” Chambers advises. Working cooperatively, with mutual respect, helps to create better IEPs.
Along with revising the IEP, Hazel Cole, a counselor at the Parents Information Center, suggests becoming an active member in parent teacher associations and other volunteer school positions. “When parents or the extended family are involved in students’ education, students have positive attitudes toward school, are motivated and value education,” she says.
Amy Stansbury is a MetroKids intern and Temple University Journalism student.