How to Prepare Now for a Successful IEP for Your Child
Planning your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) can be very stressful for parents. What often causes the most stress having to sit through very long meetings and listen to educators tell you what your child can’t do, instead of focusing on what your child will be doing for the next year.
This process can often cause feelings of sadness, anger, or isolation. However, if you learn to change your mindset about your child’s IEP and realize that YOU are your child’s expert and that YOU have rights can be extremely empowering. Sometimes educators need a little reminder that a parent’s feedback is the most important feedback.
Also, keep in mind that the IEP process doesn’t have to be a you vs. them process. Everyone should be playing on the same team, and that is your child’s team. Below are five helpful tips that are designed to encourage, empower, and change your mindset around the IEP process.
1. Come to the IEP meeting prepared
Often I work with clients that have no idea what their child’s current IEP goals are, and they have not observed their child at school. Before any IEP meeting, observe your child in the classroom so you can see how they function in a school environment. It is also very important to review your child’s current goals and assess where they are.
Highlight the goals that your child has met in one color and in another color highlight the goals your child hasn’t met. For the goals that your child hasn’t met you need to ask why and what is the plan for next year to get your child meet those goals.
2. Set the standards high
When creating an IEP, make sure you are setting the bar high for your child because your child CAN and WILL accomplish any goal you set. I was a part of an IEP for a client that was going to be entering kindergarten. One of his goals was: JP will be able to expressively identify five letters during the school year.
Five letters? During a school year? Last time I checked, there were 26 upper case letters in the alphabet, and that doesn’t include the lower-case letters. The standard for JP’s classmates were to learn all 26 upper and lowercase letters. Needless to say, we changed the goal to meet the same standards as his classmates. By the end of the year JP learned all upper- and lower-case letters along with all the sounds of each letter.
Always assess where your child is at and where you would like your child to be within a year. If you feel that the goals are too low, they probably are, and it is your role as your child’s advocate to push for more.
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3. Goals need to be measurable
Many times, goals are either very vague or so broad that one cannot measure and take data on them. After your child’s goals are written, I encourage parents to go over each goal and ask these four questions:
i. What is this goal measuring?
ii. When and where will the data be taken?
iii. How will data be taken?
iv. Who will be taking the data?
If you can answer all these questions, then the goal is a keeper!
4. Know YOU are your child’s expert and advocate
Even though you are sitting in a room with professionals, it is essential for parents to remember that YOU are your child’s expert. You know what is best for your child and if you feel like something isn’t right, trust that feeling and speak up. You have rights, and the school district needs to honor those rights.
5. Review and assess the EIP before signing it
Keep in mind that an IEP is a legal binding document so before you sign it review and asses it, even if it takes you a couple of days. Make sure you agree with all the goals, classroom placement, and services being received. When you are 100 percent comfortable with everything on the IEP then sign the document.
The IEP process can be very overwhelming, however, if you as a parent feel empowered, the process is less daunting. Remember that knowledge is power. The more you know about your child’s rights, your rights, and your child’s current skill level and where you would like them to be within a year the more successful the IEP process will be.
Every child deserves a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment, and YOU are expert and advocate that will get your child’s needs met!
This article was featured in Issue 91 – Great Back-to-School Strategies