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Now Is the Time to Update Your Child's IEP

The new school year is a good time to meet with your child's teacher about any changes needed.



Back-to-school time always has a nervous energy to it. Will my kid’s BFF be in my daughter’s class? Will my son like his teacher? Did my daughter get a good teacher? Will my son adjust and do well in this grade, or will it be too hard for him?

When your child has an IEP there is another level of concern. For a child who struggles with change and transitions, this can be a particularly tough time. Here are eight tips for parents who have a child with an IEP.

1. Make the most of what the school is offering.

Whether it’s a meet & greet, end-of-summer picnic or back-to-school night, don’t blow it off. Go and, if appropriate, take your child. Meet the teachers and introduce your child. Take the building tours even if you’ve been in the building before. Walk your child through his day and show him where he will be.

2. Use a Snapshot IEP.

I have a post on my blog that discusses this concept at length and a template to follow. But a snapshot IEP is a one-sheet, high-level overview of your child and her IEP. It is by no means a replacement for the full document, but it is a way to introduce your child’s IEP to the teacher. It is a brief overview of strengths, needs, goals and accommodations and strategies.

3. Read the whole IEP again.

Yes, beginning to end. Grab a cup of coffee, a pen, a notepad and head out to your patio. Make notes of what you think needs to be changed, goals of importance, strategies and services. Note on your calendar when you should be receiving your progress-monitoring reports, report cards, IEP-renewal time and other information.

4. Make a plan.

If you have concerns that you want addressed sooner rather than later, do it. Write the letter, request the meeting. Then you can put that note aside and schedule a reminder to send it on September 15 or 30. I say this because everyone is overwhelmed and busy during back-to-school time. You don’t want meetings with school personnel who do not know your child yet. Give them a couple weeks to get into a groove, then ask. The IEP process timelines are slow enough on their own, so you don’t want to delay too much. But you can still do all the prep work now.
   

5. Go with your gut.

Too often, parents are talked out of going with their gut instinct. But moms know! Evaluate situations objectively and go with your gut. If something isn’t right, work on fixing it. As an example, using the Pennsylvania guidelines, the IEP evaluation process could take more than 100 school days to complete, from requesting the evaluation to having an IEP.  If your gut tells you that changes need to be made, start the process. Don’t agree to “wait and see” as that can only delay the process and allow your child to fall further behind.

6. Ask your child.

Talk with and involve your child to the maximum extent possible. The earlier you start growing those self-advocacy skills, the better. Ask her what her concerns and apprehensions are. Help him to troubleshoot and find solutions to his concerns. Discuss what her strengths and interests are, and how those strengths can be used.

7. Stay positive.

8. Seek help and support.The IEP process can have a lot of negativity surrounding it. Learn the IEP process and use it to handle concerns and disputes. Focus on what you can control and never assume the intentions of others.

You don’t have to do this alone. There are many resources available.

Lisa Lightner is a West Chester, PA special-education advocate who blogs at A Day in Our Shoes and is a contributor to MetroKids.com’s MomSpeak.

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