My Child's IEP is NOT Being Followed - Can you help me?
Undoubtedly the single most common reason a parent contacts me is their child’s IEP isn’t being followed and they don’t know what to do next.
The IEP process isn’t a single stop journey, it doesn’t end at “congratulations your child has an IEP and will now receive special education services”. It’s a process, an evolving process that requires monitoring and updating. You’re doing that, or you wouldn’t be here. In the process of monitoring you suspect the IEP isn’t being followed, either an accommodation or service (support) isn’t being provided or is not provided correctly.
Of course, after the effort to actually get the IEP, it irritates you that this is happening and you’re not sure how to proceed. You want to ignore your urge to spring into a finger pointing, accusatory rant and approach the situation logically.
What steps should you take?
Your first step would be to find out if your suspicion is correct. Talk to your child, ask them about the support in question. “Do you always have time to finish your work?”, “Did you see *insert teacher/therapist* this week/day?”, etc. You also want to look at the IEP and see exactly how the support is written. Wording can be super important in determining proper implementation. Is the wording ambiguous or subjective? Look for words like “as needed”, “may use”, “some/often/rarely”, “prompts/cues/encourage”, etc. Wording should be clearly defined with who/what/where/when/how/why clarity.
Your next step is talking directly to the teacher. You’ll want to approach this with the assumption they believe they are doing the right thing. Tell them your understanding of the support as it’s written and what makes you think there may be a problem with the implementation. Listen to their answers. There will either be a misunderstanding of how the support should be delivered, a missing resource or worst case scenario indifference or refusal.
Why isn't the IEP being followed and what can I do?
More often than not the issue is either a misunderstanding or a missing resource. If the issue is a misunderstanding you’ll want to contact the team to clarify and correct the IEP, this is usually done very easily and won’t require a meeting but you’ll want to follow up to make sure everyone is on the same page. If the teacher indicates a missing resource (material, time, staffing, etc.) you’ll want to ask what they need in order to provide the support and contact the team to decide how they are going to work that out. This is a little more involved but again, can usually be solved without a meeting but might take a bit of creative, out-of-the-box thinking and time to put in place.
Sometimes though you’ll be met with indifference or argument. Rarely a teacher refuses to implement the support, but it does happen for one reason or another. Your best approach is to bring the team together and have an assertive conversation about IDEA requirements and expectations. You want to remain collaborative but also let them know you understand your/your child’s rights and their responsibilities. Their refusal may be a misinterpretation of policy or law. Ask to see that written policy or law for clarification.
If the school doesn’t play nice you may consider mediation or due process. You’ll need to do more investigation to gather hard data, service logs, statements, etc. Both mediation and due process decisions are legally binding. With mediation there will be an impartial third party who will assist you and the school to come to an agreement, with due process a hearing officer will make the final decision. Neither require you to hire a lawyer but you will need to be knowledgeable about the law and process.
How do I prevent this from happening again?
Going forward there are things you can do to ensure the IEP is implemented properly and cooperatively. Make sure every teacher has a copy of the IEP, understands their responsibility, and has what they need to implement the support. Make occasional check-ins with your child’s teacher a habit. Utilize communication logs or scheduled weekly/bi-weekly check-ins. Ask your child questions, casually work it into “how was your day?” so they don’t become suspicious or uncomfortable. Communication is key!
Having hard conversations is never fun, but something we do as adults regularly and something we’ll always do when it comes to making sure our kids have what they need.. Being prepared and having knowledge are necessary to successfully communicate what we need and what we expect. You don’t have to do this alone either! If you would like guidance or support I’d be more than happy to help! CONTACT me today or schedule your FREE consultation.
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