Although we go into detail in our book, we didn’t want to leave you high and dry with nothing on walking into your first IEP. So, this is what it is, and 5 tips to survive the process.
First, the IEP is the Individualized Education Program that is mandated by the IDEA Act of 1990 and each state implements it a little differently. What does that mean to your child? Well, in a nutshell, it’s a contract between you and your child’s school on their special education. This contract is specific for your kid. It’s part of the Free and Appropriate Education for your child. Again, what’s that? It means you shouldn’t have to pay for these services out of pocket at a public school. If you send your kid to a private school, however, it does not work that way. Those, well, you do have to pay. And if you’re like most of us, you don’t have a ton of extra cash just laying around for that sort of thing. However, it will not necessarily transfer state to state or even school to school, you will need more information on that, and we do cover it.
- You will get a notice from your child’s school, with a date and time for the IEP. Make sure you can go on that date, and put it in your calendar. There should be a box to check that you plan to be there. Do not let them have it without you! We get it, we all have jobs and commitments, but this is one you need to try and take the time for. If you need to, make them reschedule so you can be there.
- Show up. Yeah, we know, it seems a little obvious, but you’d be surprised how many times Assistant Principals tell us the parents never bother to show. Again, what goes on (or doesn’t) with your kid’s education is something you are going to have to live with for a very long time. Make it count.
- Read all Reports and Get copies. There are a lot of people involved with an IEP. Read the reports they have written.
- Do not sign the IEP when you are there. We’ve heard horror stories from parents that they’ve been coerced or threatened into signing an IEP before leaving the meeting. You do not have to do this. This is a binding contract. READ it before you sign! Like with any contract, it may have typos, or something other than what you agreed to in the meeting. It doesn’t matter if it’s not written in that document, so make sure. We had an IEP where the computer program kept deleting sections – and if we had signed it, our kids would have been completely stripped of services – due to a technical glitch.
- Follow up through the year. See how it’s going. Is the plan working for your child, or do you need to modify it? In most IEP’s, goals are incremental for your kid to make progress throughout the school year. You should at least get a progress report from your child’s teacher every quarter. (preferably a meeting, if you can.)
That’s the short and sweet of the IEP. As much as I hate to just say read the book, it does go into much more detail. But honestly, whether anyone ever buys the book or not, being able to help your kid is what’s most important, and these tips can help you do that.