IEP stands for individual education plan – it’s a basically a written plan that outlines your child’s goals for the year and the method’s your child’s school will use, I.E. how they will adapt the curriculum to enable your child to meet these goals.
The format for IEPs will differ from school to school but to be effective your child’s plan should state clear, immediate goals and time-frames, be written in language that everyone understands (including parents) with details of who is responsible for implementation and coordination and state how progress will be assessed and monitored.
As your child’s parent and advocate you should be involved in the yearly IEP planning and review process. The school may understand the curriculum, but you can help them understand your child better, give guidance on how best to work with them and also provide input to goal setting and prioritisation.
The IEP process and meetings can be difficult for many parents but you should not feel intimidated – you are the expert on your child, their abilities and their needs! Here are some pointers to help you get the most benefit out of the process.
If your child already has an IEP make sure you review it before the meeting so that you’re aware of where things stand currently and see the progress your child has made against the goals.
You are most likely having ongoing conversations with your child’s teacher and any aides at the school but make sure you have current updates from them before the meeting if you can so there are no huge surprises.
Gather any background information and reports that you feel might be useful. It also helps to have a list of your child’s strengths as well as their weaknesses and areas where you feel they need support. Due to the nature of an IEP you may spend quite a lot of time focusing on what your child can’t do but don’t be disheartened by this.
- Also prior to the meeting, write down any questions, concerns or suggestions to take with you. IEP meetings can often feel rushed so if you have notes to refer to you won’t forget to discuss anything important.
- If your child hasn’t met the goals from their previous IEP, be prepared to ask why they were not achieved and also see if you can provide input on ideas. Were the appropriate supports in place to help them achieve their goals? Or were the goals not realistic in the time-frame? What road-blocks were there throughout the year?
- Have an idea of what you would like your child’s goals for the current year to be. Remember to include academic, behavioural and physical goals.
- At the meeting, make sure that the goals being set are achievable and measurable, make a note of any resources required and time-frames.
- Explain what you are doing at home; is there anything that works that could be implemented at school – visual routines, social stories etc?
- If there is anything you don’t understand, ask for clarification, especially if the conversation veers into ‘education jargon’.
- Choose your battles carefully. You do not want an all-out war on everything at the meeting. The goal is for the school and you to work together for the benefit of your child. It’s not about rolling over or staying silent but look at what’s winnable and worth fighting for. Also, have an open-mind. Be prepared to consider proposals that you may not have thought of previously.
- If you feel very worried or intimidated, ask if you can take a support person with you to be an extra set of ears and to help you remember what was discussed.
- Bring tissues and wear waterproof mascara. Discussing your child in great detail can be an emotional experience. Don’t be afraid to cry – it’s okay – you’re only human!
- Don’t feel pressured to sign off an IEP there and then at the meeting; take it home to review and sign. It’s a lot of pressure at the meeting and you don’t want to forget to include anything.
- Remember that an IEP is there to help your child reach their full potential. Everyone is working towards the same goal, so be prepared, but not nervous.