What steps to take so that your child gets the services they need
At a glance:
- Understand how the IEP process works.
- Know your rights as a parent.
- Prepare wisely for your IEP meeting.
You’re in an IEP meeting. The classroom teacher has come and gone. The special education teacher gave her report, and the speech therapist gave hers. Before you have had a chance to digest all the information, they are looking at the clock and stacking up their papers.
You have the sense they made your child’s progress look better than it is. “Didn’t the teacher say something about him being ready for chapter books soon?” But you know he can barely read a four-word sentence.
You ask for a copy of the IEP before you leave. When you get your son to bed that night, you sit down to read through it. As you try and decipher the jargon, you start to feel sick. They are reducing his 1:1 literacy and math time and saying the classroom teacher will be providing his instruction (along with the other 25 students).
This is not going to help your son. What can you do?
The IEP is a legal document not designed for helping kids but for preventing litigation. But it has a structure embedded in it that parents can use to present their perspective. The IEP is designed to:
- Show thorough assessments, evaluations, and observations of a student’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance (PLAAFP) and how they compare to peers. Opinions don’t count.
- The PLAAFP is then explained through the lens of the identified disability. (It is supposed to answer the question of how this student’s disability impacts their ability to access and learn the curriculum.)
- With the areas of need identified by objective data, now goals can be developed to give supports and services to the student in order to overcome some of the obstacles noted.
- The last part is determining who, how, and when will those supports and services be provided to the student.
Now you know the basic IEP process and can use it to make your case for changing the IEP. In another article, I’ll talk about when the school team isn’t implementing the IEP; but for now, let’s walk through how to respectfully disagree and get it changed.
Parents often come to IEP meetings with nothing prepared. All the other people on your child’s IEP team have to gather evidence and report their findings. And so do you.
- Gather data. Keep a homework log for at least two weeks and include how long it took your child to do each assignment, along with whether the work was within their abilities, and also record any avoidance techniques your child uses. Keep some of their school work in your own file and be sure that it is dated. Do informal evaluations: for example, ask to do multiplication while driving to soccer practice and make a note in your log.
- Write a parent report. Try to keep it to one page with 3-5 bullet points in three categories: your child’s strengths, your child’s interests, and your child needs. If social skills are an issue, then also include your child’s friends/relationships. Prioritize so your top concern is the first thing on the list of needs.
- Get private reports. Ask any private therapists, doctors, or psychologist who work with your child to provide a summary report of the areas they think are a priority as well.
- Request an IEP meeting. It is your right to ask for a meeting at any time. They may push back and see if you can just do a parent-teacher conference, but if you want to change the IEP it must be a formal IEP meeting, which means you have to get an invitation to the meeting at least 10 days ahead. Tell the team in writing why you want to meet. You can say something like, “I disagree with the PLAAFP, and therefore, the goals and service delivery, and I have documentation to share with the team.” At that time, you can also request a progress report and ask for the data (assessments) they used to determine the levels of performance. Email the agenda items you want to share. Also request the school principal attend.
Begin the meeting by thanking everyone for their hard work and willingness to meet. No matter how you feel personally, take the high road. No matter how the process goes, you will know that you maintained a professional attitude.
State your case with the facts you have gathered. Ask the team what they think. Ask them how they know what they state. Ask if there is another way to teach your son to read (or whatever is going on). Keep asking questions; it works better than making demands.
Since most of us Solo Moms also are working moms, we aren’t able to be at all our child’s school day events or volunteer every week in the classroom. Sometimes we get judged for not being there. By presenting yourself as a professional parent, you’re showing the team you are their equal and are the expert on your child. Be on time, dress well, and prepare your report. And show your son or daughter how to respectfully disagree to get the supports and services for their success. You got this!
Image via Shutterstock.com
Anna Stewart is ESME’s Kids with Special Needs Resource Guide and the Solo Mom of a daughter and two sons on the brink of adulthood. She’s a champion for the rights of people living with disabilities and those who love them.
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