Pre-IEP Meeting: Parents Responsibilities

Part one of the IEP meeting series covered the school’s responsibilities before the meeting. In this post, I will address what your things parents should do before the meeting.

Most IEP meetings are scheduled in early spring around April or March, so now is a great time to start thinking about your plan for the IEP meeting before you actually receive the invitation for the meeting in the mail.

First, gather all of your student’s past IEP’s. If you don’t have them all, at least having the current one at hand is a start. Read through it. Write questions on sticky notes on each page so you don’t forget them.

Next, take time to think, reflect and pray. This is the most important step and one we often skip or hurry through. Block off time in your calendar, hire a babysitter for siblings, go out to a special supper together; whatever it takes to get this done. Write a list of your child’s strengths: academic, positive character qualities, physical, talents, etc. Reflect on the blessing your child is to your family and the positive ways in which s/he has impacted you. If you believe in prayer, thank God for those things and ask Him to direct your next steps. I find it is helpful to do this alone, then with your spouse/other parent, and finally with your child. By coming from a place of strength, talents and blessings, you can better determine what goals you have for your child. If your child is old enough, have him or her make the same list. If you hire Education Champion for a file review, a short survey is conducted to direct this part of the process.

After this, write a list of what challenges your child faces. Again, have your spouse and child do the same. See which of those are the same and focus on those. 3-5 things you would like to see your child accomplish is sufficient. These may be goals the school shares, or they may be goals you end up working on at home. Specific academic goals will usually be determined by the school, but this does not mean that you do not have input on such goals. Thinking through these things provides focus, now you will need to come up with a plan to accomplish those things.

Much of this will be done at the school level, but those goals you need to work on at home will be your responsibility. Some may overlap, such as homework accomplishment goals. Write out the ways in which you will work together as a family and with the school to see those goals met. Using the homework as an example, you may decide to hire Education Champion to come in and put everyone through a homework boot camp.

You will then take the academic/school parts of your family’s goals with you to the IEP meeting. There will be a part of the meeting, usually close to the beginning where parents are asked for input and their thoughts are recorded on the computer, so it is always best to be prepared. You may say something like “We would like to see Stanley improve his reading goals, learn to control his aggressive behaviors when frustrated, and participate more in PE class.” This will be typed into the computer and all parts will be addressed throughout the meeting. Any questions you have can be addressed at that time as well, or you can wait until the part of the meeting that discusses your particular question.

One thing to keep in mind when thinking through what you want for your child and what the school can and will provide is that there are often differences between the two. The Free and Appropriate Public Education part of the law does not use the word best as we parents would like it to. We want the best for our student, but realizing that is not what the school is required to provide can help save some head and heartache in the future. The schools usually want what’s best also, but can interpret that differently and there are always constraints (budget mostly) that are out of their control that may make what you want for your child different than what they can provide.

Look for the next post about what you can expect at the IEP meeting.

Working through this process of preparation for an IEP meeting is one for which Education Champion can provide support. I can also attend the meeting to speak with and for you and your student. My expertise and experience of sitting on both sides of the IEP table can help alleviate the emotional stress of the process, especially in those instances in which the school and family do not see eye to eye. Remember to book your services soon! Email Kim at: Kimhillard@educationchampion.com or call 309-824-5738. I am looking forward to working with your family to help your child achieve academic, behavioral and emotional success.

 

 

 

Pre-IEP Meeting: The School

So, you’ve received your Annual IEP Meeting invitation in the mail. Now what? There are a lot of questions to be answered about what the school’s responsibilities, what you should do and what you should expect. I’ll break this down into two parts: the school’s responsibility and the parents’. This post will cover the school’s side.

I am writing specifically about the annual meeting in which a new IEP is created. This usually takes place in the spring and is not to be confused with an initial evaluation to create the first IEP. I’ll try to cover that in the future, but feel free to contact me with any questions you have about the initial evaluation and eligibility requirements for special education placement.

The law mandates that the IEP must be reviewed annually, but it can be reviewed more than once during the year at any time per a parent’s or the school’s request. Reasons for an extra IEP Meeting might include new information after independent (non-school) evaluations, to add a behavioral plan, etc.

The process usually starts with a formal written invitation to come to the school for the annual meeting. The case manager (special education teacher) schedules the meetings and sends out the invitations to everyone who is relevant to the child’s educational development. They will then contact you 2 more times to ensure that you are aware of the meeting date, time and location. This might be another note sent home with the child, an email or a phone call.

Next, the special education teacher begins to collect and compile data on the current goals. The case manager will gather information from every teacher whose input is pertinent toward the current or proposed goals (PE, art, music, etc) either in person, email or a short list of questions they ask them to answer and return. These questions depend on the goals and help to monitor progress towards those goals. So, sometimes you will not hear from the PE teacher because that class is not determining progress toward a reading goal. However, you would receive information from that class if your child had a behavioral plan with behavioral goals that is inclusive of all school situations. The teachers often meet together to discuss the student’s progress toward current goals and go over ideas for new goals and interventions.

After the teachers have met and gathered information to discuss the child’s current levels of performance, progress toward prior goals, and new goals, they then plan for the meeting. The new (by new I mean over 10 years old) computer program makes writing and editing the IEP so much easier than the hand-writing in triplicate method I initially used years ago (makes me feel old!). The teacher/case manager will complete as much of the new IEP as possible before the meeting which will expedite the process. There is some debate about how much should be completed before the meeting as the goal of the meeting is to create the IEP, but with the computer software, any changes can easily be made during the meeting when goals are rejected and changed.

After the case manager has contacted you three times, gathered information, collaborated and filled out the IEP, s/he has to make their sub plans to enable them to spend the day(s) in meetings. It is important to keep in mind that the teachers/staff are sacrificing time with their students to meet with you, so please help to keep the meeting brief by keeping unnecessary conversations to a minimum. Of course pleasantries can be exchanged, just be aware of being overly chatty about things that do not pertain to the specific task at hand.

There are other school personnel that will be in attendance or at least give information to the teacher to bring to the meeting. The special education director and/or the building principal will always be invited and are often in attendance. Anyone who provides one-on-one or small group instruction will either give an oral or written present levels of performance report. They will also be asked to voice any concerns that need to be discussed and problem-solved at the meeting.

As you can see, there are a lot of people who contribute to the IEP construction and there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes. The teachers often put in a lot more (extra) hours around IEP time to ensure that each child on their case load has a proper IEP that addresses the child’s individual needs, strengths, and challenges. It is so important for parents to understand how large their role is in the process as well! My next blog will cover the parent’s role.

As always, please call Education Champion if you have any questions or are interested in any services. IEP Reviews need to be scheduled at least 1 month before the IEP to ensure that it is done properly and not hastily.

309-824-5738 or kimhillard@educationchampion.com

 

 

IEP Review

As IEP season is quickly approaching, I wanted to take a few posts to go over the annual IEP process. I am starting with a service Education Champion offers called an IEP Review. This service is one that takes some time to accomplish before the IEP meeting and would be very beneficial to get scheduled as soon as possible. It does not include a face-to-face meeting, so it is accessible for families who are outside of Bloomington-Normal area.

The process starts by you gathering all of your child’s paperwork. The papers you want to include in your child’s file are:

  • IEP‘s (initial evaluation, annual reviews and any supplementary meetings)
  • Evaluations and results both private and from the school
  • Speech Evaluations and therapy notes
  • Academic report cards
  • Teacher notes and emails (printed)
  • Work samples (specifically in areas in which the child struggles)
  • Any correspondence from the school (letters, referrals, printed emails)
  • Current levels of academic performance (reading levels, grades, etc.)

If there are gaps in your child’s file, you can easily gather the information by requesting the documents from your child’s school or special education office. This usually takes a week or so to receive the documents, but some districts will email you the documents to expedite the process.

Sometimes, simply asking questions or asking for documents can demonstrate to the school that you are taking your child’s meeting/IEP/situation seriously. This is not to say that if you do not request the documents, have them organized and bring them with you to each meeting means that you do not take the meeting seriously, it just proves that point tangibly.

When I had my 5th child, I wanted two things to be done a bit differently than hospital policy. Nothing too crazy, just a little different. I made my wishes known to my husband, the nurses, and my doctor. The two things were honored, and then every single other thing they routinely do to/for an infant, they asked me about first. With my first 4 births, they just did everything without asking. In this case, they concluded that if I wanted those two things to be different, I might want more control, more information, more choices for my tiny new child. The same is applicable here. If you show the school that you are willing to invest time and money into preparation for your child’s IEP meeting, then you will surely come to the meeting as an informed member of the team ready and willing to contribute to the plan and educational process. On the other hand, often parents are simply informed of the plan the school has instead of contributing to the plan.

When I was at an IEP meeting for my daughter, I brought in the previous IEP’s in a file folder (I hadn’t yet discovered the binder method). The principal remarked how great it was that I just kept the documents in a file indicating that it is a rarity for parents to keep such things. As a teacher, we were usually thrilled if a parent would just show up for the IEP meeting. I do not remember any parent bringing in any type of file or folder containing past documents.

After the documents have been gathered, I take those documents and organize them into a binder. The binder is organized chronologically. I take all of the information from each of the child’s providers and create a list that is inserted into the front of the binder. This allows you to quickly find who you may need to contact in the future.

In addition, I create a master document list that is in the front as well. This is a chronological list of each and every document, who wrote it and why it is significant to your child’s education. This one resource alone is worth its weight in gold when you are sitting in an IEP meeting and remembering what one professional said about your child at some point. Who was it? Which agency? What was the date? Do I have the document? All of those questions are quickly answered at the front of the binder and allow you to easily locate that document.

I also email you the word and excel files of the documents so you can add to them and add documents to the binder as you go.

After the binder has been organized and the master document and master provider lists created, I review the entire file. I find and summarize the child’s past history briefly and then write recommendations for further evaluations, interventions, IEP goals, etc. You can then take those recommendations to your child’s meeting and share those with the team. It is basically a second opinion and where all of the school districts with which I have worked in the past took the recommendations seriously and implemented some of the recommendations, the school district is not obligated to adopt any of the recommendations.

Another component is a short survey I ask the parents and the student (when applicable) to fill out for me. This helps me in creating recommendations for the child at school so I know what challenges are most important to the families. In addition, it provides insight into the child’s strengths and accomplishments. I always like to come from a place of strength and positivity when thinking through interventions and goals for each student.

The information is all confidential, as is the binder itself (the binder cover has the word CONFIDENTIAL written in giant letters on the front). In addition, the fact that you and your family is even working with Education Champion is confidential and only you can share that information. I will not, and I go to great lengths to keep that information private.

The positive feedback I have received for providing this service has been overwhelming. The schools were impressed, the parents were empowered and prepared to advocate for their child and had positive outcomes with the school as a result. I was even able to save a family a lot of money when they did not have to repeat a speech evaluation because all of the past information had already been gathered and organized eliminating the need for a subsequent evaluation.

If you have a child with an IEP, why not invest in this service? You will not regret having an organized file with all of your child’s information at your fingertips. Call or email
Education Champion today: 309.824.5738.