In my opinion, one of the things that scare us about going into an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting is that we really don’t know what to expect. It seems that the school knows what they are doing, so why doesn’t anyone teach us what will happen before we have to go into this meeting? It was not until I went to my first training that I began to learn about the process. My husband and I attended our first training when our daughter was transitioning from Special education per-school to Kindergarten. We drove over an hour to attend this training and it was one of the best things we ever did. This started my quest for training, learning, networking that would later become my passion for advocacy.
How we got here
The reason we are being invited to attend an IEP meeting is because our child was identified as being a child with a disability who needs special education services in order to gain access to his or her education.
Our child was given a series of evaluations including teacher’s observations in order to better assess their needs. We met with the school team and the team determined that our student would benefit from receiving special education services.
Invitation to the Meeting
Before the meeting you should have received a letter or a phone call letting you know about the meeting. The school district will take steps to ensure that parents (including guardians or grandparents, whoever is in charge of the child’s education) are present at the IEP. The school must make efforts to ensure you have the ability to participate in all meetings for your child. Like I said before, the school may use a variety of ways to contact you, to ensure you know about the meeting.
The letter should have the following information
Once you receive the letter, check the date and the time of the meeting, this should be a time that is “mutually agreeable” to all the parties. What does this mean? It means that if you have a prior commitment, if the time is not good for you, you can ask the school for another time and date.
Who makes up the IEP team?
(a) General. The public agency must ensure that the IEP Team for each child with a disability includes–
(1) The parents of the child;
(2) Not less than one regular education teacher of the child (if the child is, or may be, participating in the regular education environment);
(3) Not less than one special education teacher of the child, or where appropriate, not less then one special education provider of the child;
(4) A representative of the public agency who–
(i) Is qualified to provide, or supervise the provision of, specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities;
(ii) Is knowledgeable about the general education curriculum; and
(iii) Is knowledgeable about the availability of resources of the public agency.
(5) An individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results, who may be a member of the team described in paragraphs (a)(2) through (a)(6) of this section;
(6) At the discretion of the parent or the agency, other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child, including related services personnel as appropriate; and
(7) Whenever appropriate, the child with a disability.
What if the time and place are not convenient for you?
Here is where communication and networking comes into play again. Get to know the school staff, especially those in the Special Education department. Give them a call and give them a couple of times and dates that are convenient for you. The school has to make a concerted effort for parents to participate in the meeting, remember, you are part of the IEP team.
I have friends whose spouses are deployed and still want to attend their child’s IEP meetings, the school can assist the parent’s participation by making the meeting available by phone or by video conference.
What if the time and place are not convenient for another team member?
Once the date and time of the meeting is set, should one of the team members is unable to attend the meeting they need to let the meeting coordinator know. The team member should put this information in writing and attach any information or report they would have shared with you at the time of the meeting. The meeting coordinator will let you know that this team member cannot participate. YOU may decide if the participation of this person can be excused or not from the meeting.
For example: Say your student receives speech therapy and the Speech therapist is the one who cannot attend the meeting. The therapist may asked to be excused.
To do so they must submit the excuse in writing and their input for the meeting also needs to be submitted it in writing. However, if you think that you would prefer for them to attend the meeting then you can let the meeting coordinator know that so they can reschedule the meeting. You, the parent are the only one who can excuse a team member from attendance. Having said that, emergencies do happen and we have no control over those.
In the upcoming posts we will continue to go into detail into what happens during the IEP and all the steps and components that will have to be discussed. This is a list of what an IEP must contain:
What an IEP must contain:
Once the team sits down for the IEP meeting
Note: This will be a series of posts so I can give each topic the time it needs to be explained. As I add to the topics I will place the links to this article so you don’t have to go far to find the information you are looking for. Feel free to send me your questions or comments.