Making sure your child ends up with an Individualized Education Program (IEP)that meets his or her needs now and for the future can be one of the most challenging parts of parenting a child with a learning disability (LD). Here are some things I have learned through the years that have helped me get what my children need in their IEPs.
I learned as much as I could about my children’s rights through the internet, books at the library and support groups. There are a wealth of support groups on-line. You can find one right for you. Knowledge is power and helped me be on an even playing field with the school.
Prior to any IEP meeting I always requested a draft version of the IEP five days in advance so I would have time to read it and have a professional (physician, neurologist, advocate, attorney) review it as well prior to the IEP meeting. This allowed more time for discussion at the meeting versus wasting time reading the IEP at the meeting. It also helped me to be ready to discuss items that were effectively included on the IEP and those that were missing.
I also asked for drafts of any evaluations the school gave my child. Again, requesting these five days in advance of any meeting gave me ample time to go over the results with any professionals I deemed necessary.
I established a rule never to sign the IEP at the meeting—I needed the chance to take it home to look at it “one more time.” In every IEP meeting there are always changes based on discussions, information from other teachers, etc. I’ve found that it’s not uncommon for something to be listed incorrectly, missing or just plain misunderstood, so I’ve often been glad that I took the opportunity to look at the IEP later with “fresh eyes.” The school can have everyone sign the IEP and give me a draft version without the last page. Once I was satisfied with it, I would return it with the last page signed and then get a final copy of the official IEP to take with me.
I send certified letters of request on important issues (specific items promised or discussed, requests for evaluations and sometimes, for follow-up). This way I am sure the school received it and there is a paper trail if I need it. The school never treated this as adversarial.