Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Ten Things NOT To Do In An IEP Meeting!!

My Top 10 IEP "No No's"

I don't know about all of you, but Nick's  first IEP, was also my first IEP and I made mistakes. Since then I've made more, and I've heard about the most common ones other parents make. Here's ten "Not to do's" to help you on your journey.  

1.  Believing the professionals are the only experts.
Although most parents do not have a background or degree in education, but that's not what makes them an expert when it comes to their child. we are the best experts for our kids. We know our children better than anyone. That's the position we have to take and that's the role we have to prepare ourselves to play. It's the knowledge and experience regarding their child not a credential or degree. Parents are experts in their own right; they also provide historical information and the big picture from year to year. They know what works and does not work with their child and can be a great asset to the IEP team.
2.  Not keeping records and making requests in writing.

Just the "Facts" Mam! -  Parents should never underestimate the importance of records.  Communicate in writing send all requests in writing and keep a record of everything! Before Nicky was 3 my records had already been used to get Nicky the proper medical care, diagnosis and successfully challenge the school district to obtain the best school placement for him. "Facts not Feelings" - no matter how right we might be, just saying so is not enough. Proof - not just our conviction - in the form of records of events, outside evaluations, logs of daily activities are our ammunition to fight for our kids. These are the tools of the expert parent. It wasn’t always easy but it’s how I got done what needed to be done.

3.  Not being familiar with Prior Notice of the Procedural Safeguards (34 CFR 300.503)
All sections of the Procedural Safeguards are important to parents. This particular section gives parents some leverage during the IEP meetings. Whenever parents make a request for their child in the IEP meeting, the IEP committee is required under Prior Notice to provide the parents with written notice with a reasonable period of time. The notice must include the following:
  • A description of the action proposed or refused.
  • An explanation of why the agency proposes or refuses to take the action;
  • A description of any other options that the agency considered and the reasons why those options were rejected.;
  • A description of each evaluation procedure, test, record, or report the agency used as a basis for the proposed or refused action;
  • A description of any other factor that is relevant to the agency’s proposal or refusal.
We have found many instances where a parent requests an assessment or service only to have the IEP team tell the parent it cannot be done. By making all requests in writing and by requiring the IEP team to provide Prior Notice, the parents make the team accountable for its decisions. This practice also takes issues out the emotional areas, allowing all team members to focus on IDEA standards.
4.  Requesting a related service instead of an assessment that supports the need for a related service.
It's like everywhere in life, it's not what we think, but what we can prove. That's really not unfair and it helps other team members know we can be trusted and taken seriously when advocating for our child. Many times parents will request services such as speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy, etc. in the IEP meeting, with our support for the need. When the team does not agree on providing a service, go to the next step, request as assessment that supports the need for the related service. Instead of requesting speech for your child request a speech assessment. 

5.  Accepting assessment results that do not recommend the services you think your child needs.
We've all read assessments that just didn't accurately describe our child and/or the right prescription of services. Under 34 CFR 300.352. Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE), parents of a child with a disability have the right to obtain an independent evaluation at public expense if they disagree with the results of the school’s assessment. When the parent requests the IEE (in writing) the school has one of two choices: they may either provide the IEE in a reasonable period of time or they may take the parents to a due process hearing. When an IEE is agreed upon, parent and school must come to an agreement as to who is qualified to assess the student. The examiner for an IEE cannot be employed by the school district . Parents should request the school district’s policy on guidelines and qualification for their examiners.
6.  Allowing the assessment information to be presented for the first time at the IEP meeting.
Parents are entitled to have the assessment information explained to them before the IEP meeting. we encourage parents to have the person who administered the assessment give them a copy of the report and meet with them to explain the report several days before the IEP meeting. This enables the parents to think through the information before making decisions for their child. If all IEP decisions are based on the information from the assessment, it only makes sense for the parents to be knowledgeable and informed about the assessment results in a way they can understand.
7.   Accepting goals and objectives that are not  measurable.
The longest time spent in an IEP should be on the meat of the matter, measurable goals and objectives. This is where we are saying, here's when my child is today and here's where we want him to be next year, and here's out detailed plan on how we are going to get their and measure our progress. THIS is the big stuff, but this is one more place where all IEP teams are not created equal. In school speak these steps are: The student’s present level of performance (PLOP) and states what  the student is currently able to do. The committee then develops the IEP goals and objectives. The goals state what the student is expected to accomplish by the end of the year in ways that anyone can measure how the outcome. Objectives break the goals down into increments. For example for an IEP held in January 15:

  • PLOP
Based on the standardized testing and classroom work, your child is currently able to read on a 7th grade level with 70% mastery.
  • Goals
By the end of the school year your child will be able to read on a 7th grade level as measured by standardized testing and classroom work with 90% mastery.
  • Objectives

By June 15, your child will be able to read on 7th grade level at 80% accuracy with teacher assistance as measured by our standardized tests and classroom work .
By By December 15, your child will be able to read on 7th grade level at 90% accuracy with teacher assistance as measured by our standardized tests and classroom work .
Now that you've written them, stand back and ask yourself, do I really understand this? Can I see my child achieving this? Do I understand what the goal is? Would anyone reading this, who was not in the IEP, understand it a year from now? 
8Allowing placement decisions to be made before IEP goals and objectives are written.
A successful placement needs the input of all the team members and it should be based on PLOP, Goal and Objectives. Many times after assessment is discussed, the IEP committee will determine the child’s placement. Goals and objectives are always written before placement is discussed. To ensure that the child is placed in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), the IEP committee must determine: Which of these goals and objectives can best be met in the general classroom?
With any remaining goals and objectives that cannot be met in the general class-room,  the committee determines: Which of these goals and objectives can be best met in the general classroom with modifications and support?
This line of inquiry continues until all placement options have been decided upon for all the goals and objectives. The committee must always start with the LRE and then work toward a more restrictive environment only as necessary. IDEA is very clear that the IEP committee must always consider the general education classroom as the first option for students with disabilities.
9. Allowing your child’s IEP meeting to be  rushed, or ending the IEP before you understand.
Rushed IEP meetings is a practice particularly common at the end of the school year when educators are frantically trying to have IEP meetings for all the students who receive special education services. IEP meetings may be held one right after another. If this is the case, or you just ran out of time do not be intimidated, ask to schedule a time to continue the IEP.  It is important that all issues are adequately addressed before closing out an IEP and signing off. Never let feeling rushed,   keep you from requesting that the IEP team meet again at a more convenient time to further discuss your child’s education.
10. Not asking every question you can think of that relates to you child.
It is very important to ask questions and lots of them. The process, that educators just seem to breeze through, is complicated to master. I spend weeks in advance of my first IEP just trying to learn the acronyms specific to special education, so I could at least try and follow what was happening!  All the terms can make the IEP process confusing and frustrating causing the most  brilliant parent to feel pushed out of the conversation before it begins. Here's the truth, we are not expected to know all the terms and acronyms, but we are expected to ask, so ASK!



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