This article was contributed by Teresa Mebane, an Autism Resource Specialist in the Wilmington region and an autism mom.
Now that school is back in session, it’s time to think about your child’s IEP. Do you ever feel your concerns are not being heard? Have you left an IEP meeting with unanswered questions? Here are a few tips that might be useful.
Prepare for the IEP meeting
First, always ask for a draft IEP a few days in advance of the meeting. This way you have information about how the school perceives your child’s “Present Level of Educational Performance.”
Then write a list of what you consider to be important to be included in the IEP. You will also want to write down any questions that you may have about your child’s special educational programming. This will also help you come up with what to put into the “Parent Concerns” section of the IEP. This section is not only for concerns but for documentation of things that may not be documented elsewhere in the IEP, for instance, other diagnoses, outside therapies, or how your child is doing at home. You will want to make sure that all of your major concerns are listed in this section, but do not let it become too cumbersome.
Your proposals must be documented
As a full participating member of the IEP team, you have a right to make any proposals that you feel are important. For example, if you want a social skills goal added, then you may make that proposal. This doesn’t mean the team has to adopt your idea, but they do have to consider it. There is a section in the IEP that is part of “Procedural Safeguards/Prior Notice of Proposal (DEC 5)” where there has to be documentation of options proposed or refused. This section should include a summary of all decisions made as part of the IEP meeting. There must also be a rationale for why those decisions are made. So again, let’s say you asked for the social skills goal and the team rejected the idea; it must be documented as to WHY they decided not to include this goal. This is powerful information should a parent choose to dispute that decision through mediation or due process.
It is a good idea to have someone read aloud the “Parent Concerns” and “Procedural Safeguards/Prior Notice of Proposal” sections at the end of the meeting. This will help ensure that all of your concerns and proposals have been adequately captured.
Signing the IEP
Keep in mind that unless this is an initial IEP, your permission is not required. Signing the IEP only indicates that you participated. It is the school’s responsibility to make a FAPE (free and appropriate public education) proposal even when there is parental disagreement. If the “Parent Concerns” and “Procedural Safeguards” sections have been adequately filled out, then those areas will indicate when you are not in agreement. If you strongly disagree with the decisions made, then it is your right to pursue some type of dispute resolution. But I hope that with a little bit of knowledge under your belt, you and everyone else will leave the meeting feeling satisfied.
Teresa Mebane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-332-0261.
For more information on IEPs, browse the ASNC Bookstore, in the category “Classroom Management, Inclusion, IEPs.” We also recommend these expert picks:
Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition: This updated resource breaks down the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) into terms that a parent can understand.
Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy: This guide will help parents and caregivers become better advocates for their children. Parents will learn how to communicate more effectively during IEP meetings by focusing on what children need based on present levels of performance and evaluation results.
Wrightslaw: All About Tests & Assessments: In this easy-to-read book, you will find clear, concise answers to frequently asked questions about assessments, evaluations, and tests.
The IEP from A to Z: This step-by-step guide on creating meaningful and measurable goals and objectives provides a helpful overview of the IEP process.Tags: ASNC, Asperger Syndrome, Asperger's Syndrome, autism, autism education, autism iep, autism society of NC, Autism Society of North Carolina, IEP