Hello SLPs, Teachers and Parents -
The 2021-2022 school year is upon us and it looks like, at least to start, we will be working with kiddos in person 🙏.
Unfortunately, one of the byproducts of the pandemic, and school shutdowns over the last 18+ months, is that many students in need of services have not been properly serviced.
Many schools will be "catching up" on getting students evaluated for various needed services.
WHICH MEANS INDIVIDUAL EDUCATION PROGRAMS (IEPs)
There will be a flood of IEPs and, because things have been shut down for so long, they will be more crucial for our under-served kids than ever.
As a Speech-Language Pathologist, I have always tried to adequately prepare parents before they fight for services in an IEP meeting.
I think it's important to let them know that they are a valuable part of this IEP team. PARENTS have the POWER . The team members might be experts in specific areas of education, but parents are the true experts on what their child needs.
Remind your parents to trust their instincts and get what they need to set their child up for a successful school year!
Now as a means of preparing parents for that all-important IEP meeting, here is my list of the
TOP 10 THINGS PARENTS SHOULD KNOW BEFORE ATTENDING THEIR FIRST IEP MEETING!
1. GET A HARD COPY OF THE IEP IN ADVANCE. Always request a DRAFT version of the IEP 5 days in advance, so you have time to read it. If you have a professional (physician, neurologist, advocate, attorney) on your team, ask them to review it prior to the IEP meeting. Preparation is key!
2. REQUEST ANY SCHOOL EVALUATIONS IN ADVANCE. Always request a DRAFT copy of all evaluation(s) results, 5 days in advance, to review with any professionals you deem necessary.
3. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO SIGN THE IEP AT THE MEETING. Don't feel pressured to sign it on the spot. Take the time to review it. There are always changes made based on discussions at the meeting. The school can have everyone sign the IEP and provide parents with a DRAFT version without the last page. Once you've had time to read through and agree with changes made, return it and sign the last page. Once you've signed it, services will begin. A final copy will be given to you after everyone has signed it.
4. ALWAYS CREATE A PAPER TRAIL. It is imperative that you document everything including all correspondences, including all your request and follow-up letters on important issues (i.e., specific items promised, discussed requests for evaluations or follow-up).
5. BRING AN ADVOCATE TO THE MEETING. Don't go in solo. It can be an intimidating experience and the stakes are high. It's your kid after all. Bring someone who's on your side. A private therapist, a teacher, etc. Bringing a person who can “speak the same language” as the SPED Team can help get the point across regarding your child's needs. It's also great to have support on your side of the table. Parents sometimes feel a bit "outnumbered" at these meetings.
6. TAPE RECORD THE MEETINGS. Bring a good digital tape recorder to the meeting. You must let the IEP team know in advance that you're bringing one. If you're recording the meeting, you don't have to worry about jotting down notes constantly. This way you can be "present" in the moment and make eye contact with everyone. You'll be an active participant in the meeting and not just a stenographer.
7. GET A COPY OF YOUR CHILD'S IEP TO THEIR TEACHER. Email your child's teacher a copy of the IEP. They should have a copy but .....they are sometimes unaware of what supports or modifications/ accommodations ARE REQUIRED. Get them on the same page.
8. KNOW THE TIMELINE. Starting from the date the district receives written consent for an assessment, they have 15 days to respond. The assessment must be completed and the IEP developed at a meeting within 60 calendar days unless the parent agrees to an extension in writing.
9. DON'T HESITATE TO CALL FOR AN IEP REVIEW IF NEEDED. If you see that something is not quite working with your kids, (i.e., grades drop, the IEP is not being followed, supports are not put in place or sporadic, etc.) IMMEDIATELY request an IEP meeting. Send a letter to the Special Education Director (Copy the Principal, Assistant Principal and classroom teacher) to request a meeting. Provide an explanation of why, and suggest what dates and times work for you. They have to respond. Some parents think IEP meetings are only once a year. Not true. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT to call for them as needed
10. OUTSIDE PRIVATE EVALUATIONS. If you want to get an outside evaluation performed to bring to the meeting (i.e. vision therapy, physical therapy, music therapy). These services are typically not offered at a school but would be paid for by your district if your child qualifies for the service.
Prepare your parents for what to expect. This could help them get their kids what they need and make the experience less daunting.