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Today, I received an email from a parent, new to the IEP process…
Hello, I am a mom from Texas and my daughter was just diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and speech and language issues. She is 4 years old. My question is, where do I begin? Our IEP is scheduled in a couple of weeks and I want to be prepared.
This is a question that I am frequently asked. Being new to the IEP process and special education as a whole, can be quite intimidating. As a result, it is important that you are prepared for you initial meeting by becoming more comfortable with the special education process.
Here are a few tips to help you along the way…
⇒Read up on and understand the nature of your child’s disability and how it will impact them in a school setting. You want to know exactly what your child’s disability entails, the characteristics of the disability and any recent research that is relevant.
⇒Go over your child’s evaluation. Make sure to read each page of the evaluation to understand your child’s strengths and weaknesses and to see if the evaluation accurately portrays your child. (You should receive any evaluation reports before your IEP meeting).
⇒Learn about your child’s educational rights regarding a free appropriate public education (FAPE) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and your State’s parental rights. Read up on Common Questions About Special Education, Important Special Education Rights That Parents Miss, and the Top 10 FAQs About Special Education to learn more about your rights.
⇒Know the basics of an IEP such as present levels of performance, goals and objectives, supplementary aides and services, accommodations, and placement.
⇒Prepare a list of questions and concerns to ask the IEP team. Before the meeting, you want to sit down and think about all the questions that you have about you child’s needs. In the meeting, you want to make sure your parental concerns are noted in the IEP.
⇒Learn about your child’s placement options in special education. Click here to sign up for a free IEP course to learn more about how placement works in special education.
⇒Prepare a binder or an electronic file. You want to start to organize your child’s educational records, as you will be receiving lots of paperwork and/or files.
⇒Discuss your concerns with someone. This will help you to communicate more effectively in the meeting.
Things you need to bring to the meeting
⇒Questions for the IEP team
⇒Pen and notepad or phone/tablet/computer to take notes
⇒Your binder or electronic file
⇒A support system (ie., spouse, family member, advocate)
Remember…being prepared and being involved in the IEP process, will help your child be more successful in the future.
Even though I provided a list of tips to follow…do not feel overwhelmed! Do not feel like you have to cram for an exam. You just want to generally become familiar with the special education process, so that you are not sitting in your first IEP meeting like a deer in headlights. The more you get involved, the easier it will be. So…walk into that meeting with confidence! After all, you know your child the best and are their first advocate!!!
Do not forget to utilize these resources to help you with the process!
Are you gearing up for your first IEP meeting?