THE FIRST CHOICE FOR INCLUSIVE EDUCATION
From the experience of a parent with a child on the spectrum
If your child is on the autism spectrum, the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) will be the roadmap to his or her educational experience. This written yearly plan for children three to 21 describes in detail the program(s), placement and services the local school district has agreed to provide to eligible school children with disabilities.
The IEP is specifically designed with your child’s needs in mind. That’s why it’s called an “individualized” plan.
The IEP is a contract that states:
The IEP may also include other components to help your child, such as special teaching methods or special subjects, or extracurricular activities such as sports or after-school clubs. You have the right to discuss your child’s special needs to determine the right setting to set your child up for success.
Within 45 school days of your child being found eligible for special education, you will meet with the school district to develop and sign off on your child’s IEP. When you walk into your child’s IEP meeting, you will see a lot of “official”, important-looking people sitting around a table. Don’t be intimidated. By law, you are an equal partner in the IEP process. You have as much of a right to be there as anyone else, and your role is most important. You are there to represent your child and to advocate for the help he or she needs.
Remind yourself of your parent power. Go in there with a feeling of goodwill and a collaborative attitude. If you’re approachable and likable, you’ll be far more persuasive then someone who’s closed-minded and confrontational. Be open to suggestions. Someone else could come up with an option you never considered.
The IEP meeting charts the course for your child’s whole school year, and you play an important role in sharing your child’s unique educational needs. Review your child’s evaluation prior to the meeting, and take the time to think about the existing education options that would benefit your child.
NOTE: Don’t have the IEP meeting until after all assessments and testing are done. If you feel any evaluation is inaccurate, you can request another one at the district’s expense. Make sure you call the school and ask for your child’s written evaluation reports. By law, evaluation summaries must be available at least two days before your team meeting.
What to Expect
The IEP team is typically made up of the child’s teacher or prospective teacher, a representative of the school district who is qualified to supervise your child’s special education and who is familiar with the general curriculum, a school psychologist, and you, the parent. You have the right to bring anyone to this meeting who you think can provide insight to your child’s situation and needs (such as specialists, family members, caretakers, or an advocate). Your child may attend, if appropriate, but young children are usually left home.
At this meeting, the IEP team will review your child’s evaluation. You will have the opportunity to participate, and to paint a compelling picture of your child’s history, behavior, and educational needs. The right approach will set you up for success.
Once the IEP is drafted, you will be asked to sign it as proof of your consent. You do not have to sign the IEP in the meeting. You will have time to take it home and read it carefully. Once you do sign the IEP, your child is eligible to begin receiving services/placement.
If you disagree with the recommended IEP, voice your concerns to the others on the IEP team. Hopefully, you can come to a mutually satisfying agreement. If this is not the case, you can request an independent mediator who will help you and the school district resolve your differences. If mediation doesn’t work, you have the right to ask for a due process hearing.
Carrying Out the IEP
Soon after you sign off on your child’s IEP, your child’s services/placement will begin. Though it is the school’s responsibility to carry out the IEP as it was written, you will want to stay involved. Frequent communication between you and your child’s teachers and service providers is important to make sure your child gets the most out of his education. Check in often, and work as a team. Your child’s teacher may be able to resolve an issue much faster with your help. Also, don’t forget that the educators working with your child care about him too!
Throughout the school year, your child’s learning will be measured to see if he is making progress towards achieving the annual goals set for him in the IEP. Parents will be provided with progress reports, and tweaks can be made to your child’s plan as needed.
The IEP team must review your child’s IEP every year, but may do so more often if you or the school feels it is necessary. Remember, you have the right to request an IEP meeting at any time if you think your child’s needs are not being met.
Note: IDEA was created to meet the needs of your child. If you don’t feel like your child’s needs are being met and you can’t come to a compromise during your meeting(s), know that you can exercise your legal rights and schedule a mediation or due process hearing.
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