Episcopal Center for Children Offers Advice to Help Parents of Children Coping with Special Needs
Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings are very important for children coping with special needs. These meetings outline goals for the child’s education and treatment, and it guides how services will be provided. These meetings are very important because the IEP guides how the child will be educated and outlines goals for the child, interventions, and any accommodations and services that will be provided.
It’s important to review IEP meeting documents in advance before the meeting. An IEP meeting brings together the entire IEP team assisting your child – educators, treatment providers, parents, the Local Education Agency (LEA) representative and others. Parents and guardians are an important part of that team. You are there to be an advocate for your child.
It’s important for parents and guardians to ask the right questions before, during and after an IEP meeting.
Here are some questions to help:
Question #1: When is the IEP meeting and how will I participate? At least 10 days before the IEP meeting, you should receive a letter of invitation. As soon as you can, RSVP for the meeting in writing. Inform the school if you will attend the meeting in person or by phone. If you are not available to attend the meeting at the proposed time, suggest alternative dates and times, as well as locations.
Question #2: What documents will be discussed at the IEP meeting? At least 5 business days before the IEP meeting, you should receive draft documents. These may include the IEP, a behavior intervention plan (BIP), or evaluations of your child. Review these documents carefully before the meeting.
Question #3: Does this plan address my child’s education and treatment needs? Are the goals and objectives clear? Before the meeting, carefully review draft documents and write down your questions and notes. Review the diagnosis and examine the plan carefully to see how it addresses your child’s needs. Ask for clarification of education or treatment jargon if needed. Goals and objectives should be clear in the plan.
Question #4: When will services be offered? Make sure you understand start date(s), how long services are offered, and the procedures involved. Determine how frequently services are offered.
Question #5: Is my child progressing toward a goal in the plan? And will the plan help my child progress? If your child is not progressing toward a goal as you had hoped, ask how this will be addressed, or if a goal should be revised.
Question #6: When will I be updated on my child’s progress? The plan should indicate when you will be updated. If you want more frequent updates on progress during the school year, you can request additional updates be added to the plan for you.
Question #7: What else can be done to assist my child? If you think something else might help your child, come prepared to discuss it. Write down any proposed changes to the IEP and any information you would like to add.
Question #8: Should anyone else attend the meeting? Invite additional people to the IEP meeting if you want them there and think they can contribute. An IEP meeting takes a “team” approach to helping your child. Take the initiative to invite individuals who have relevant knowledge or expertise regarding your child (such as, family members, coaches, community support workers, social workers, attorneys, advocates, etc.). Let the school team know additional people will attend the meeting.
Question #9: How can I have a healthy working relationship with the school, treatment providers, and the entire IEP team? Developing healthy and professional relationships with the school and treatment providers can help your child. Be open to discussing issues promptly, directly, honestly and courteously. Ask questions and listen carefully to answers. This will allow you to respond appropriately and avoid misunderstandings.
Question #10: How can I support my child at home? Ask what you can do at home to support and reinforce what your child is learning at school. Realize that home also needs to be a place of respite – a place to recover from the hard work that may have occurred at school.
About the Episcopal Center for Children
The Episcopal Center for Children (Center) is a nonprofit, non-denominational school and treatment program for children contending with emotional challenges from the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Building on strengths within children, the Center partners with families in treatment and focuses on enabling its students to access and become their best possible selves. More information is available at eccofdc.org and on Twitter and Facebook @ECCofDC.