Ultimate IEP Parent Guide
Summer break is passing so quickly at my house, as I’m sure it is for a lot of you as well! It’s got me thinking about the start of a new school year and how I can be best prepared for a smooth transition back in to the routine. One thing that will help is having a solid IEP plan, one that will carry me through the whole year and I thought I’d share the love with all of you!
Your Ultimate Back to School Plan
These are going to be the key steps for prepping your IEP for back to school.
- A few weeks prior to school starting do a thorough review of your child’s IEP. Make notes about any changes that happened over summer break that may affect your child’s present levels. Is there anything that may need tweaked in the goals or supports areas of the IEP? Write out a summary of your child’s current strengths and weaknesses, list any specific strategies or motivators that are working with your child. Go through the SDI and accommodations in the IEP and jot down examples or clarifications that might help the people delivering the instruction or support. If you want help with the review you can find that HERE!
- Write a letter to the team. This letter will serve as an introduction to yourself and your child for his/her new teachers, include anything you want them to know about your child (likes, dislikes, strengths, hobbies, etc) and a picture if you'd like. Ask them to forward a copy of your child’s schedule, an updated contact list and anything that might be useful to know prior to the first day. You may even ask for a tour of the classroom or pictures to share with your child to lessen stress about the unknown. Keep all your concerns or requests for later.
- Within the first couple days back to school establish a preferred communication schedule (are you going to want a weekly check-in by log or email, etc?) Add this to the IEP, all documentation will assist you in requesting changes to the IEP if needed.
- Once you know who the team members are, then you can send them each an email with your written summary you completed before school started. Make sure the “specials” teachers are getting a copy and that you’ve included anything that may help them specifically since they may not have a complete copy of the IEP or prior knowledge of your child.
- Go over the IEP with your child, as appropriate by age and ability to understand. With younger children, keep it simple and hit the highlights regarding their goals and what they can expect from their teachers and school. Older children should also know how and when to self-advocate, they might also have valuable input regarding strategies and goals. Involving your child in their IEP management can help prepare them for their future.
Tips for the IEP Meeting
This is your Ultimate Guide for the IEP meeting, prep through follow up.
- Request an IEP draft and any documentation that will be discussed prior to the meeting, preferably when you respond to the invitation. Schools are not required to prepare a draft but IF they do then they are required to share if you ask. Important to remember - a draft IEP IS NOT a completed IEP, it's simply a rough draft that will be changed during the meeting. So if the draft has something that you don't like just make note of it to discuss at the meeting.
- You are part of the team, a very important part, so you should dress and behave in a professional manner. Now, I don't mean you have to wear a business suit and carry a briefcase or speak in a way you aren’t comfortable with. This simply means to respect the other members by arriving on time, dress neatly and appropriately, have your documents and notes organized and available, and save your colorful language for later in the car or after the cameras are off.
- Keep emotions out of the conversation. If you know you are going to be discussing a sensitive matter, take some time prior to the meeting to write out anything you want the team to hear. It is easier to read a prewritten statement than to think on the fly in a stressful meeting, this ensures your point is made clearly and completely. Believe me, I've shed my share of tears in meetings but it really does help to have your points outlined to stay focused on the important stuff.
- Prepare your parental input statement to include in the IEP. This is called different things in different states but is a section in the IEP that addresses your concerns, what you want for your child, what you want from the team, strategies that work for your child, or things that don’t work and any other information that will help the team to write the goals and choose the services and supports for your child. Include the statement, in its entirety, in the final IEP. You can learn how to write your Parental Input Statement HERE!
- Enlist a support person for yourself. This can be a fellow IEP Mom, a friend or family member. This person can help you take notes, keep you focused, or just simply be a silent companion through the meeting. Just let the IEP team know ahead of time that you will have someone with you to be polite.
- If you do not understand the process, are intimidated by the team or just feel you need a little extra support then hire an advocate or an IEP Coach who is trained to offer this type of support. Set up your FREE Consultation with me HERE.
- Do not allow the team to set time limits on the meeting. If you feel you are going to need more time then ask them to reschedule for a time that is less restrictive or to anticipate setting another meeting soon to allow for completion.
- Ask questions! Request data that supports statements and decisions. Ask for clarification or rephrasing if you are unclear about anything discussed. As an equal part of the team you are entitled to equal information. If the team is using language that is unclear to you, they need to present the information clearly.
- If the team refuses something or says "we don't/can't do that here", ask for the written policy or regulation they are referring to that says they can not provide what you've requested.
- When having discussions regarding placement and you aren't sure whether what is being provided or offered is appropriate, ask to see the "full continuum of placement".
- When deciding on goals make sure they are SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relative, Timely
- DO NOT feel pressured to make a decision at the IEP table. If you don’t feel comfortable with something, or feel you need a little extra time to consider it then just tell the team you would like some time (be reasonable about the length of time) to think about or digest the info and research your decision. Once you have done that send a letter to the team with your decision and ask for the final copy of the IEP to be sent to you or ask for another meeting (whichever is needed depending on your state and local guidelines).
- Make sure everything discussed is written in the IEP. If they suggest “calming strategies” have them list the things that will be used. The IEP is a legally binding document that must be followed precisely so having details is very important and helpful.
General Tips for keeping up with your IEP plan
These tips are going to ensure you are leading the team and keeping the IEP current and relevant going forward.
- Educate yourself on the laws and your rights in advance. This doesn’t mean you have to become a Special Education Law expert. Read your copy of Parental Rights the school gives you, keep them handy in your IEP Binder Kit. I also highly recommend All About IEPs, Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About IEPs from Wright’s Law. It’s a quick and easy read that covers the highlights of the IEP, get yours from Amazon here.
- Take the time to reach out to your child’s teachers and therapists to make an introduction. Showing you are interested in who is instructing or supporting your child goes a long way.
- Keep all copies of progress reports. I keep 2 calendar years personally. This will help you keep track of what goals are met and consistent and which ones are not.
- Keep yourself organized with this valuable IEP Binder Kit. You’ll have everything you need easily and neatly stored in one spot. BONUS, it’s convenient to carry to meetings with you and quick to change out year to year.
- Volunteer in the classroom, join the PTA, attend school sponsored events and activities. This gives you insight on how your child interacts with peers and teachers. It also builds your relationship with the team which can only benefit your child in the end.
- At any time throughout the year you can ask for a meeting! You do not have to wait for the annual meeting. Do not feel guilty about requesting new services, supports, accommodations and modifications, or placement. You are the parent and know best what your child needs!
- Have access to an IEP Coach or Advocate throughout the year. Contact me to learn how!
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