The first week of school is a great time to review your child’s IEP, and make any changes that may be necessary to help ensure that your child has a successful school year. Here are some quick tips to help you get your child’s IEP into top shape:
Do read the IEP carefully. A well-written IEP will provide parents with a clear understanding of the supports and services that their child will receive in school. Let your child’s Team Chair know if you see anything that is inaccurate or missing so that the IEP can be corrected.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you do not understand something in your child’s IEP. Special education can feel like a foreign language that everyone on the Team knows except for you. If your child’s IEP is filled with acronyms, testing results that are hard to understand, contains errors, or is just written in a confusing way, then do not hesitate to ask school staff to clarify what is written in the IEP.
Do check each annual IEP goal to make sure the goal is both measurable and meaningful. If your child’s IEP contains an annual goal that is really vague, then how will the Team be able to confirm that your child has actually made real progress? For example, having an annual goal that states generally that a child will “improve” or “perform better” over an IEP period is not very specific. IEP goals need to be measurable. We also want to be sure that each proposed IEP goal will result in meaningful growth for the student if achieved. It is not very useful for a student to have an annual goal targeting a skill they have already mastered. Similarly, it is not helpful to have a student work toward an annual goal that only requires limited progress to achieve. In other words, we do not want to see annual goals that set the bar so low that a student can reach the goal regardless of whether or not they learn new skills. Low expectations lead to limited progress.
Don’t wait for the annual IEP meeting to ask the Team to reconvene if you have concerns. Parents can ask the Team to reconvene at any point during the school year, and IEPs can be adjusted and modified throughout the year as needed.
Do make sure that the IEP requires your child to gain independence. One of the main purposes of special education is to equip students with the skills they will need to be as independent as possible when they transition to adulthood. Sometimes an IEP can provide so much support and modification that a student becomes more dependent on others rather than less so. For example, if an IEP allows a student with a language based learning disability to always have their curriculum read to them, and always allows the student to have their answers scribed for them by an adult, then the student will not have many opportunities to learn how to read and write on their own. It is important that the Team strike a balance in terms of accommodating a student, while also affording the student the chance to develop their own skills.
Good luck this year!