By: Sharon Pike, Family Services Parent Liaison
As one of the Parent Liaisons at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley, I have experienced many years of not only my own children’s IEP’s, but countless families from our centers. Here are some strategies that have helped our families feel like a true member of the team and confident that this year’s IEP is a well written plan that will meet their child’s needs.
Prepare for the meeting
- Make a list of your child’s strengths and needs. Bring it with you to review during the meeting to insure they are covering things that are important to your child’s success in school. Think about and write down strategies that work at home and with your private therapist to share with the staff.
- Know what the law requires. Section 614 of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) sets out the process and elements of what needs to be explored to develop and revise and IEP. States and local school districts add their own policies on top of what is required under the federal law. That being said it doesn’t mean you need to know the letter of the law. Bottom line… the more you know and understand the easier the process is.
- Never attend this meeting alone. It’s important that you and your spouse attend if possible. If not then ask a grandparent or a friend. Their role is to be support for you and another set of ears! Often at these meetings we can get stuck on something one member of the staff said and miss important information. Make sure you inform the school that you are bringing someone with.
- Start the meeting with a positive statement about your child even if you’ve had a difficult period there is ALWAYS something positive to say… he has the best smile, she is caring and kind, he loves other children!
- When talking to the team, focus on your child’s needs and NOT your wants! Take the I out of IEP. Avoid, I want him to work on, I want her to be in this class, I think she needs…. Rephrase everything. He needs to have these supports in order to be successful. She needs to have sensory break before being expected to do table top activities, as it helps her focus. The goal of special education is to meet the child’s needs, not the needs of us parents.
- Placement is not the first decision. This is determined after the team has decided what services and supports are needed. This is hard; as it is often the first thing you want to know!
- Trust your gut. If a piece of the IEP doesn’t feel right, and you can’t reach an agreement with the school, make sure it is documented that you do not agree. Remember, just because you disagree doesn’t mean it will be changed. The whole team has to agree to change it. But I always say, ask for the moon and hope for the stars!
- Think about your child’s future! Aim HIGH. Don’t wait until high school to start planning for what your child can do as an adult. Every skill your child achieves in elementary school will help him or her be an independent adult.
- Establish a clear and reasonable communication plan with the school and your child’s teacher. Stick to the plan. You and the school are partners in your child’s development and learning.
- Remember the IEP is a fluid document and can be amended at any time by requesting another IEP meeting.
After the IEP meeting
Pat yourself on the back for another successful IEP under your belt.
Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley Family Services provide information, education and support that address the concerns and stressors which may accompany having a child with special needs. Our parent liaisons are highly trained parents of children with special needs. They provide parents and caregivers with support from the unique perspective of someone “who has been there” in both informal one-on-one and group settings. For more resources and information click here.