As many parents of children with special needs know all too well, figuring out how to respond to a proposed Individualized Education Plan (IEP) can be a challenge. Here are some tips for parents who may be wondering whether or not they should accept or reject a proposed IEP:
1. Take Your Time. The law allows parents to take up to 30 calendar days to review an IEP before responding. You should never feel pressured to sign an IEP at a Team meeting, or before you have had a chance to read the document thoroughly.
2. Read the IEP Carefully – and Ask Questions. IEPs can be confusing, awkwardly written, and difficult to follow. Nonetheless, it is critical that you take time to read your child’s IEP very carefully. You should be certain that you understand what is on every page before signing it. If you find yourself having questions about how to read the IEP, don’t hesitate to contact a parent advocacy group or a special education attorney for some assistance. You may also want to contact your child’s Team chair if something in the IEP appears inaccurate or is unclear. The bottom line is to be sure to get answers to all of your questions before you formally respond to the IEP.
3. Compare the Proposed IEP to the Last IEP. School districts are required to update IEPs at least annually. It is always a good idea to compare a new IEP to the last IEP. This will help you verify that your child’s goals and objectives have been updated (if they have not been changed in a meaningful way, then you may want to have the Team meet again to discuss whether or not your child is making progress). You also want to keep track of anything that has been added or omitted to the IEP. If the district has dropped an accommodation or service, for example, make sure you feel comfortable with this change before accepting it.
4. Accept What You Can, Reject and Explain the Rest. It is generally a good idea to accept the parts of a proposed IEP that you feel are appropriate. However, if you are worried that your child is not making progress or the IEP is deficient in some way, then it is important that you note your specific concerns in writing on your IEP response, and formally reject the parts of the IEP that you feel to be inadequate or missing.
5. Amending Your IEP Response. Many parents do not realize that they are allowed to amend their response to their child’s current IEP at any time. In other words, you do not need to wait a year – or until a new IEP is proposed – before informing the district that you would like to modify your IEP response.