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Preparing for an IEP

from: National PTA
 
Preparing for an IEP Meeting

by Marie Finnegan

The Individual Education Plan (IEP) details goals for a student and methods used to reach those goals, written by the student's parents and the school during a special meeting. No matter how many other professionals are present at the meeting, the parents are a critical part of the IEP team.


BEFORE the meeting

  • Meet with the teacher to discuss your child's strengths and weaknesses. Review your child's complete records and progress.
  • Contact the people performing preliminary evaluations for the IEP meeting. Ask for a copy of the evaluations and report, an explanation of the scores, and any recommendations that are to be presented. The school district has standard tests upon which they base an evaluation. Inquire about additional testing if you feel the tests administered do not seem to identify an area of concern. Consult with a specialist and obtain a second opinion if necessary.
  • Keep a file of past test results, assessments, IEPs, report cards, and relevant correspondence regarding your child's disability, education needs, etc. Bring these items to the IEP meeting.
  • Request that the school district director, who assesses IEPs, gives you the attendance of any personnel (regular or special education teacher, therapist, guidance counselor, etc.) whose presence you believe will affect the IEP development.
  • Develop friendships and network with parents by attending SEPTA/SEPTSA (special education PTA/PTSA) meetings. You may meet someone who has gone through a similar situation.
  • Bring a spouse, relative, friend, outside agency representative, or other advocates (such as a doctor or therapist) to the meeting if you feel necessary. It is within your rights to bring anyone you wish.

IDEA

On June 6, the U.S. House of Representatives Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing on special education and unveiled their new website, "Great IDEAs About Special Education Reform." The website gathers comments from teachers, parents, and others for the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

National PTA has actively lobbied for mandatory full funding of IDEA and has sent letters to the President's Commission on Excellence in Special Education. Visit the PTA and Washington area of www.pta.org to learn more, and to join a letter-writing campaign encouraging Congress and the president to increase their funding commitment.

DURING the meeting

  • Be attentive and listen to all information presented. If you do not understand something, ask for the information to be repeated or explained until you clearly understand it.
  • Express yourself clearly and base any comments on the facts that you have accumulated in advance. Avoid getting sidetracked.
  • Treat the other meeting participants as partners. Developing an IEP is a team effort.
  • Speak up if you feel that a recommendation is not warranted, information that you have is conflicting, or if you have alternative recommendations.
  • Review the goals in the previous and proposed IEPs. Consider the impact of services and/or modifications. Are they effective in achieving the IEP goals?

AFTER the meeting

  • Request a copy of the new IEP and review it for accuracy. Contact the school district representative if there are any discrepancies.
  • Contact the appropriate personnel involved in your child's education to confirm their knowledge of the IEP. The IEP should be easily accessible to school personnel, and you should notify the school district office or principal if it is unavailable.
  • Check with your child to confirm that services and modifications are being administered within the time period as stated on the IEP. Contact the school principal or designated caseworker if the IEP is not implemented.
  • Contact the school district's office to request another IEP meeting at any time during the school year if you feel that the IEP needs revision. Any changes of services or modifications require formal approval. Waiting for an annual review is not required if adjustments are needed in the interim.

Marie Finnegan is the mother of three children and officer at the Wantagh School District SEPTA. She also is editor of the Wantagh SEPTA Scoop, which is dedicated to educating the public and advocating on behalf of students with special needs. Finnegan may be reached by e-mail at anteek4me@yahoo.com.

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