IEP Meeting: A Critical Step Towards Getting an Appropriate Education
Preparing for an IEP meeting is a very important part of your child’s education and development. It is a long and difficult process and you should be fully aware of what you are being presented. If you are daunted by the task, make certain you consult an advocate or New Jersey special education attorney who understands special education laws. It can be the most important investment in your child’s future. If you do intend to bring someone with you, notify your case manager at the school. Further, you should record the meeting. Your case manager should also be made aware of this.
Before Your IEP Meeting
- To prepare for the meeting requires that you have a notebook and highlighter readily available. You will be using these frequently throughout your preparation.
- Before, going to the meeting, you should write all your thoughts, concerns, and fears. Write down what you think your child’s needs are. What skills do you think he/she lacks – educationally, behaviorally, and socially? How is his/her speech? Is there any learning or physical disabilities of which you are aware? What do you believe are your child’s greatest needs?
- Now, you are prepared to look at the draft IEP, if one exists. If you haven’t received one, call the school and tell them that you need it before you go to the meeting. Make certain that you understand everything in it. If there is something you do not understand, or with which you disagree, make a note of it, and highlight it in the IEP. Talk to your child and the teachers. Have they experienced any academic, social, or behavioral problems with your child?
Write these things in your notes.
- One of the most important things you look for is called the Present Level of Academic Achievements of Functional Performance (PLAAPF). This usually appears somewhere near the beginning of the IEP. This section tells you where your child presently is academically. The purpose of the IEP is to help him/her get from where he/she is to where he/she should be by the end of the school year. From this point, the child study team (CST), of which you are a part, must write the goals and objectives to arrive at those destinations. These goals and objectives should provide a clear path from where your child’s evaluations and assessments show him presently to where he/she should be at the end of the year (PLAAPB). Do these goals and objectives appear to do that? Do you understand them and how they are to be measured? If not, ask questions for clarification. The CST works with these questions in their work every day. They must make them understandable and agreeable to you.
- Take notes on anything you do not understand or with which you do not agree at the meeting. Are the terms of the IEP being followed to the best of your knowledge?
- As you read through the IEP, highlight all the areas of stated needs. Do they match up with yours from paragraph 2 (above)? If not, make notes of these.
- You should examine your child’s progress reports pertaining to his existing IEP. Are the goals being achieved? We’re there any in which the progress was insufficient. Do you know why? What about his/her report card grades? Highlight them. Again, take notes and bring them to the meeting.
- It is important that you take some time, and carefully prepare a list of all of your concerns before you go into the meeting. Regardless of what happens at the meeting, your concerns must be presented verbatim, as you have written them, and placed into the new IEP.
- Review your child’s accommodations, modifications, and supplementary aids and services. Does he/she need extra time for tests, quizzes, and homework? Should his/her seat be changed? Is an aide provided? Should short breaks be provided?
- What supplementary aids and services do your child need to achieve all that he/she can? Should lesson plans be provided? Graphic organizers? Laptop computer? Will he/she need after school tutoring services?
- Prepare a letter to the child study team. This is very important! In the letter, prepare your concerns from the written notes taken from the steps above. State in the letter that you want these concerns addressed at the meeting. Further, indicate whether or not you want additional evaluations made ( behavioral therapist, psychologist, speech therapist, etc.). Finally, indicate that this letter is a “prior written notice” of those issues, concerns, and evaluation requests.
- At the meeting, first, turn on your recorder and advise everyone of this. Next, as the CST reviews the draft IEP, follow along with your copy of the highlighted one which you prepared at home. Using this and your notebook, be free to interrupt the speaker with any question or suggestion pertaining to the topic the speaker was addressing. Do not be shy. This is your child. It is important to note that even if the CST does not implement your suggestion or proposed change, it still remains one of your concerns.
- Continue through the draft IEP. In the end, you and the rest of the CST must agree on placement for your child, and the accommodations, modifications, supplementary aids and services. While it can wait until later in the year, the possibility of an extended school year (summer school) could be discussed. Does your child need special transportation? If so, will an aide be provided?
- If you and the district cannot agree on the new IEP, your child may remain in a “stay-put” situation until the conflicting issues are resolved in either Mediation or a Due Process Hearing.
- Other than the sign-in sheet, DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING at the meeting. Even if they give you a handwritten copy from the meeting, explain that you want to go home and review everything. Typographical errors can change the meaning of a sentence or make it ambiguous. You have fifteen days to sign and return the new IEP from the date you received it.
If this is an initial IEP meeting, things will be a little different. Everything above through paragraph applies to you. The major difference between an initial IEP and a follow-IEP is that in an initial IEP, your “stay-put” option is that your child does not receive an IEP until all conflicts are resolved. If qualified, however, your child can be entitled to protections under the federal 504 law.
What to do AFTER the IEP Meeting.
- Email or write a letter to the CST case manager itemizing everything that was discussed during the IEP meeting, including the items with which you disagree. Further, ask for a letter or email acknowledging what you wrote was accurate or make any corrections or additions.
- In the above letter or email, reiterate that this also serves as a “prior written notice” for all of the items you requested, but may have been denied.
- It is important that your letter is written with the knowledge of all the legal implications it carries. Again, you should seek assistance if you are unsure or unaware of the details which should be in the letter. This could be of significant benefit in deciding what services your child will receive from the district for the present and future years.
- Again, when you receive the new IEP, review it with someone who understands each of the items contained therein to determine what your next course of action should be. You have 15 days to indicate your approval or disapproval of ALL the items contained therein, including histories, evaluations, assessments, requested additional evaluations, special accommodations, goals and objectives (you can still negotiate with the case manager).
Contact us for other items related to special education including: out-of-district placements, mediation and due process hearings, IEP meetings and attendance, 504 plans, school suspension, and expulsion, harassment, intimidation and bullying of special needs children, guardianships, and special needs trusts.