The wiki so far covers almost everything you may need to know about your child's disability, and/or resources to help you find out more. Some of the biggest things a parent needs to do for their child is advocate, know their/their child's rights, and be prepared. When the time comes for your first IEP meeting as a parent, we don't want you left in the cold! In this section, we will break down the IEP process. Our goal is clear the fog, ease the nerves, and prepare you to be the best advocate you can be.
So, you have heard of an IEP before, but what does it mean?
- "The IEP is a legal document the describes a student's instructional needs and identifies the special education services the school will provide to meet those needs"(NYASP.org). The role of the IEP, according to Wofle & Hall, is to guide the program planning and instruction for the student.
- In a nutshell, an IEP, or Individual Education Program, is a legal document that says the school is BY LAW required to give your child the support he or she needs to be successful.
Does your child get every accommodation?
- No, the accommodations your child will receive is based on their disabilities and what they need to be successful. So who decides this?
- Your child will be assigned an IEP Team, which consists of Parents (That's you!), your child (only when it is appropriate), a special education teacher, a general education teacher and an administrator. In some cases, the team may also include specific therapist, for example Speech or Occupational - again, this is dependent on your child's specific needs.
As an advocate, you should be always make yourself aware of all the laws surrounding your child. The wiki covers many of the laws. All of these laws are in place to protect you and your child, and fall under federal and state education laws. "These rights include procedural safeguards (due process rights that serve as protection against discrimination and assure parent involvement), which include protection ( such as timelines for service), assurances of confidentiality, and guarantees of informed parent consent prior to any special education service or placement." Basically, the school cannot discriminate, go back on its word, breach confidential material, or exclude parents from being involved. KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!! These safeguards should be reviewed with you at your IEP meeting. Below is a short list of safeguards developed by the National Association of School Psychologist:
- Written notice: This ensures that the school provides you with written notice whenever the school plans to conduct an evaluation or reevaluation, develop an IEP, or change your child’s placement (where your child is educated; e.g., general class, resource room).
- Parental consent: The school must obtain your informed consent to conduct an initial evaluation or reevaluation, or provide initial special education services.
- Access to educational records: You are always entitled to review your child’s special education records.
- Due process hearing: A due process hearing is a formal, legal procedure, so it is like a mini-trial. You
- have the right to a hearing when you are not able to resolve a disagreement with the school
So what is actually is in an IEP? I am happy you asked!!
- "The IEP is a blueprint of the major educational goals for your child and a description of what the school will do to help your child achieve those goals. The IEP is in effect for a specified period (currently 1 year), but it can be reviewed and revised earlier at your request or the school’s" (NYASP.org). It is important to understand the the IEP is INDIVIDUALIZED. No IEP should ever be the same, just like no child is ever the same. The IEP should be based on your child's strengths. So, it is helpful to attend the IEP meeting with a pre-made list of your child's strengths, as well as a list of concerns about education and progress, school related or not! "Sometimes, those non-school strengths can help the teacher develop an appropriate IEP."
- The first section of an IEP is the PLAFFP (Present Level of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance.) Its function is to provide a clear picture of how the student is currently performing in relationship to their grade-level academic content standards.
"...It includes a statement of the student's performance within the general education curriculum including: the impact of the disability, statement of academic strengths, statement of academic weakness, and statement of functional abilities. PLAAFP tries to establish documents in positive statements for IEP but it is essential (and necessary) to document the areas of weakness. " ([Minnesota DOE, 2012 PLAAFPS])
So why is this PLAAFP thing important?
- Because, it allows the team to have a clear understanding of your child's achievement in relation to the expected grade-level content standards. Knowing where your child is allows us to know where he is going!
What does the IEP include?
The IEP includes the following: The Instructional Plan, Special Educational Services, Related Services, Adaptations or Modifications, Special Education Placement, and an Extended School Year. I'll give you a brief rundown of each!
The Instructional plan includes the present level of educational performance, long term goals, and short term objective and benchmarks. Every IEP should start by stating where the child presently is academically, socially, etc.. This is where his/her strengths come into play. What CAN your child do well!? It is important that their strengths are recognized. Maybe a strength would be that your child loves to laugh, or ties their shoes well. You still recognized positives about your child. From here, we can create long term goals. Each long term goal should include at least two short term objectives or benchmarks.
Objectives become the backbone to the IEP. If written correctly, objectives are specific and are not open to interpretation. Any teacher should be able to read an objective and immediately understand exactly what the goal is. How do we know the objective is clear? Because it tells us exactly what your child should do, under what conditions they should do it, at what level of mastery they’re expected to do it, and how frequently it should be done.
It is crucial to write a goal/objective that is specific because as teachers, we want to be sure that whoever reads the I.E.P. next (an important team member of the I.E.P. team or another teacher) is able to figure out who the learner is, what he/she is expected to do, how he/she is expected to do it, and when the goal is considered to be mastered. This will make the responsibility of the observer clear; to identify whether the learner has met the goal or not. The A-B-C-D Method of writing goals is designed to make data collection simple. What also makes the goals/objectives more specific are the short term objectives which lead to mastery of the desired goal. (Pages 11-12 of Data Without Tears)
Your child's IEP will also include a Special Educational Services ( What services in the classroom are necessary?), Related Services ( what other services does your child require? ), Adaptations or Modifications ( Does your child require changes in the physical learning environment - adaptation. Or does she require changes in the materials that are being taught- modification), Special Education Placement (Where is the least restrictive environment?), and an Extended School Year (Do the service need to continue after the tradition school year is complete?).
Do you have a say in your child's IEP?
Parents are required by law to be invited to the IEP development meeting. When notified of the meeting, the school must include the following: the purpose of the meeting, the time and location of the meeting, who is invited to the meeting and an invitation for the parent to invite others who have previous knowledge or expertise about their child or their child's disabilities.
Remember, advocate for your child! You are allowed by law to help develop your child's IEP. In the IEP meeting, the school may not place a time limit on the meeting, so take your time, ask questions and be sure to leave satisfied that your child will be receiving the education he deserves!
The meeting to create a child's IEP is required to be held within 30 days of the approval for special education services.
Parents must agree, in writing, to the guidelines set forth in the IEP before any accommodations can be made in school.
A child's IEP must be reviewed and edited at least once every 12 months.
Below are some resource to help you (The Wonderful Parent!) get the full, in-depth scoop about IEP's: