Are you a parent of a child with a learning disability? The deck is stacked against you for achieving a quality, special education IEP. Learn how to get the best possible program for your child.
What is an IEP?
The special education IEP (Individualized Education Program) process was created by the Federal law called IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) to ensure that students with learning disabilities would receive an appropriate education. The IEP process can be confusing, stressful, and sometimes terrifying to parents. The process comes to a head at the IEP meeting, so this is often the most stressful part of the IEP process.
Why is this process so difficult for parents? Through a series of 3 articles, we’ll look at the IEP process, why the deck is stacked against parents, steps to take to even the odds, the IEP success method to follow for an effective IEP meeting, and how to prepare for IEP 911.
What are the IEP Process Steps?
Identify that a problem exists and it cannot be solved
Educate yourself about the IEP process
Assess and test the student
Analyze the test results
Prepare for the meeting / get and give input in advance
Meet to review information and create (or deny) an IEP
Evaluate the plan and alternatives
Execute the plan or alternative
Repeat the process, at least annually
The IEP - Why are Parents at a disadvantage?
1. You are usually outnumbered.
2. The other attendees are speaking a language that is difficult for you to understand-educationese, legalese, and medicalese.
3. Your child is one of many students. This is their job, but your child. This sets you up for emotional reactions.
4. Because you are emotionally involved, it is harder to be objective. You feel you have more to lose; it’s easy to become defensive or lose your temper.
5. The people sitting across from you are people you learned to respect, obey, and / or fear as a child. Principals, medical people, teachers. You may not see yourself as an equal.
6. You are asking for something. It is implied that anything you ask for will take away from another student.
7. Some of these people attend dozens of IEP meetings every month. You may go to one or two a year. They have experience on their side.
8. The school personnel earn a salary while they attend these meetings. You may give up some salary to attend.
9. The school district has an attorney. You may know of an attorney!
10. If the school rejects the IEP, you may feel as if you have just lost your lifeline.
11. If you have argued before, threatened legal action, complained about an IEP and on and on, the relationship inside the room might have moved over to confrontational or adversarial. The above are true even if you are in a cooperative, collaborative meeting and all working together. You can continue the list from here if you have moved over to an adversarial meeting!
12. You may not be sure what is “wrong” with your child.
13. You have no way of judging if the school’s recommendations will help your child or not.
14. If your child attends the meeting, hearing certain things may upset your child, then you.
How do you even the odds?
1. You need to prepare for the IEP meeting and review test results before the meeting.
2. You need to be organized and to have everything written down.
3. You need to study negotiating before the meeting.
4. You need to bring a short list of topics you want to discuss such as a particular teacher / problem, etc.
5. You need to come ready with a written plan (See Part II and III).
6. You need to cite or quote the evidence and experts as proof of the validity or correctness of your plan and follow the IEP Success Method in Part II.
7. You need to understand the legal basis for what you are asking for.
8. You need to stay calm and bring someone with you to take notes so you can focus on the meeting.
9. If the meeting focuses on negatives, you need to redirect the meeting by pointing out your child’s strengths. Discuss successes your child had outside of school.
10. If necessary, you need to bring an advocate or a relative with you who can be less emotional but is acquainted with your child.
11. If you are confused or not happy with the entire IEP, you need to remain calm and state that you need time to review the IEP before you sign.
12. If there is any area you are unsure of, you need to postpone decisions you are unsure of until you do the research.
Next: Part II will discuss the special education IEP Success Method and IEP Meeting Mottos.
Linda Simpson, MBA, is the parent of learning disabled children, specialist on Special Education IEP, and the author of A Bigger Boat: Surviving the Treacherous Waters of the IEP Process, A Parent’s Workbook. The IEP book order form and other helpful special education IEP information is available at http://www.biggerboat4iep.com .