A Mother’s Journey with an I.E.P. Process: What All Mama Bears Need to Know!
This mother learned this the hard way.
(IEP=Individual Education Plan)
MOTHER: My struggle started the day I walked into my younger sons IEP meeting alone. My understanding of a regular IEP meeting is that is consists of three to five school staff members and the parents. Remember this is the districts IEP team. So it can consist of a lot of people. My son’s IEP meeting had twelve staff members, the District Psychologist and members of a program my child was never in.
Background: My son had participated in his school districts early education program and had an IEP since age 3 years for speech delay. His speech delay was diagnosed by an outside speech therapist whose services were paid for by our family. This clinical evidence assisted in him being accepted in the school district’s IEP program. We also have an older son who does have ADHD. However, this doesn’t mean my younger son has it by default.
Meeting: The IEP meeting room was filled with unfamiliar faces. The school district psychologist introduced themself and told me [paraphrased] “my child has depression and ADHD. Medication treatment should be considered by parents and immediate placement in a behavior program as soon as the following week were recommended. This was surprising since our child presented as a happy now talkative bright child. They also did not have a physician who was a fellowship-trained child and adolescent psychiatrist evaluate our son before making medication recommendations. Please recall he had a speech delay that required IEP supports and he was now talkative.
I was overwhelmed with this process. Not knowing the amount of people that would be present in the room diminished my ability to feel supported. It felt the opposite i.e. intimidated, judged and angry. We were not convinced with their recommendations. It was too much to take in at one time.
Developed by the Illinois State Board of Education
Educational Rights and Responsibilities: Understanding Special Education in Illinois is a document, developed by the Illinois State Board of Education for parents and others to learn about the educational rights of children who have disabilities and receive special education services. (Updated 6/09)
What is an IEP?
Once it is determined that a student meets the criteria to receive special education and related services, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) will be developed. An IEP is a written statement of the educational program designed to meet the student’s needs and is developed by a team. The IEP includes a detailed description of what will be done to give the student the extra help needed. The IEP will change based on the student’s needs—it is like a road map showing where the student is and where he or she is going
Who is on the IEP team?
The following individuals are required to attend all IEP meetings:
• Parent(s) - Parents are equal participants.
• Student – The student may attend and participate if the parent(s) decide he/she should be present.
• General Education Teacher - The IEP team must include a general education teacher who has knowledge of the curriculum and may be responsible for implementing the IEP, if the child is, or may be, participating in the general education environment.
• Special Education Teacher - There must be a special education teacher on the IEP team who is responsible for implementing the IEP.
• School Administrator - This person must know about the general education curriculum and be able to ensure that the IEP is implemented and has the authority to commit resources.
• Evaluation Personnel - This person must be someone who can explain evaluation and/or test results.
• Others with knowledge or special expertise about the student - The parents or the school may bring other people to the IEP meeting such as community service providers, advocates, lawyers, a friend for support etc. The law says these people must have some knowledge or special expertise about your child, but the determination of whether the person has special knowledge is up to the parent.
Required members may be excused from part or the entire meeting only if you and the school agree in writing. If you agree to excuse a member, that person must give written input to you and the team before the meeting.
IEP Timelines to Remember:
• The IEP meeting must occur within 60 school days from the date of the referral i.e. the date of written parental consent for evaluations.
• The IEP meeting must occur within 30 days after the team determines that the student is eligible to receive special education and/or related services.
• The IEP must be reviewed at least once a year; however, an IEP meeting can be convened at any time to discuss changes or revisions.
• Parents must be informed of their child’s progress on IEP goals at least as often as parents of nondisabled children.
School Districts are Required to:
· Ensure parent participation in the:
o Discussions regarding their child’s evaluation.
o Meetings to determine eligibility and plan the child’s IEP. This means that the local school district must contact parents in a timely manner to set a meeting time that is mutually convenient. There are different types of meetings that are held for different reasons—Evaluations, eligibility determination meetings, annual reviews to develop the IEP for the coming year, transition, change in placement, and others.
Before the Meetings:
• Tell the school if you have difficulty speaking or understanding English or if you are deaf and could use an interpreter or translator to understand what is said at the meeting.
• Prepare a folder to take to the conference that contains: (a) your child’s current IEP and progress report, (b) information you want to share about your child; (c) questions, (d) paper on which to take notes, and (e) any other information you want to discuss.
• Review your child’s school records, reports, IEPs and any other information you have that will be helpful during the meeting. Ask your child about his/her concerns and suggestions too.
• Request and review copies of any evaluations or draft goals that may be discussed at the meeting.
• Write down questions, concerns, and any suggestions you have regarding special education, related services, or placement.
• Prepare a statement about your child, including positive things that he /she can do. Sometimes your child is able to do certain tasks at home that have not yet been demonstrated at school.
• Plan to have your child attend the meeting to speak about what he/she likes about school and what he/she would like to learn. If 18 years of age or older, your child has the right to decide if he/she will attend, unless you have obtained legal guardianship.
• Invite other people to the meeting who might help you feel at ease or who have important information to share about your child. It often helps to have someone with you to take notes at the meeting, so that you can focus on the meeting itself. Let the school know whom you have invited.
During the Meetings
• Introduce yourself and your child. Give your child a chance to talk about what is important to him/her. Make certain that you talk about your child’s strengths and needs. You may want to read a prepared statement, mentioned above.
• Ask the other IEP team members to introduce themselves by name and job title. You have the right to ask that any person present who was not listed on the school district’s meeting notice be excused from the meeting. Please note that the district does not have to honor this request if the person is relevant to the discussion.
• Maintain a positive attitude.
• Try to stay focused.
• Take notes on discussions, recommendations, follow-up items, and scheduled dates/ appointments.
• Ask school personnel to explain terms, language or statements that are unclear.
• Set a regular time to contact the teacher to discuss your child’s progress.
• Ask to schedule an additional meeting if your questions and concerns cannot be answered in one meeting.
After the Meetings:
• Follow through on any commitments you made during the meeting.
• Add documents from the meeting to your files.
• Contact the teacher periodically to see how the program is going.
• If you are not in agreement with what occurred at the IEP meeting, be certain to write a statement of disagreement to be attached to the IEP. Illinois State Board of Education, June 2009
This mother gathered her resources for the IEP process. She had her child meet with a Psychologist at least four times and each session lasting for two hours resulting in opposite finding from the school IEP team i.e. still having speech difficulties and slow processing skills with possible ADHD which might resolve over time due to the delayed learning skills. He tested higher than children his age in reading and math.
in Mediation Process
A Sweet Result for Parents, Son and District.
After months of negotiations the school district & parents agreed upon an official IEP!
Mothers Final Words:
1. Our son is a funny, smart and happy child who has many friends and is liked by his teacher.
2. He is now receiving the IEP services he needs and his Parents are always informed and asked about their input into his IEP needs.
3. It is best to be prepared and know your child’s rights. You are his or her parents and you know your child better than anyone.
4. Have all of your loved one’s documents organized and available if needed e.g. (tests, school work, addendums to services etc.). There are many people trying to do the same thing you are doing. It is a very daunting process for all concerned. The more organized and prepared you are then the more likely you will have a good outcome.