The IEP process is one of the parent'(s) most stressful and emotional experiences. Whether the child is severely challenged or slightly developmentally delayed, the process requires patience, knowledge, confidence and perseverance.
Three lessons helped me:
- I know my child better than anyone else
- No matter how many people are at the IEP, I am an equal partner with 50% of the power. It can be very intimidating to have seven or more professional educators and therapists at an IEP. REMEMBER, THEY have ONE share and I have ONE share.
- Ask to take the IEP home to review before signing. The IEP Review Conference can last two to five hours. The mind is MUSH by then. Take the document home, put it on the shelf and read it the next day. Ask your child's therapist, pediatrician or other professional to review it objectively. You are especially looking for things that do not ring true in your heart and needs that have not been addressed.
The following checklist, provided by the Learning Disabilities Association of Hawaii is a terrific resource.
- If possible, plan a convenient time when both parents can attend.
- Take an advocate or friend, if you wish.
- Make a list of your child's strengths and weaknesses.
- Make a list of questions you would like answered.
- Tell the school who will be attending the conference.
- Ask for copies of tests prior to the conference to prepare your questions.
- Request an agenda for the meeting.
- Request that all caregivers', therapists' and teachers' names, credentials and experience be incorporated into the IEP.
- If any professional therapists, doctors or psychologists are treating your child, provide copies of their reports to the Department of Education.
- Introduce yourself and your friends.
- After the test results are explained to you, ask for any clarifications.
- If you feel tests are not adequate enough to develop a program you may request further testing.
- Describe your child's skill level as you perceive it.
- If you disagree with the evaluation findings and it cannot be resolved at the meeting, ask for in writing an independent evaluation by a professional outside of the DOE who has no DOE subcontracts.
- Wait for an agreement on the evaluation before developing the IEP.
- State the skills you believe are most important for your child's program.
- After the school suggests goals and objectives, ask for an explanation of any you question.
Placement decisions and related services
- State the placement (inclusion or concentrated program) that you believe is appropriate.
- Be sure the necessary related services are included: speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy, counseling, transportation.
- If there is disagreement with placement, do not sign any documents. Ask for guidelines for mediation and/or due process and call an advocate for assistance.
- State how often, in what ways you want to communicate with the teacher.
- If necessary, work out a gradual transition into school.
- If willing, indicate desire to volunteer in the classroom.
Download "Individual education Program: Parent Preparation and Planning" Brochure (80KB)