Parental involvement and IEP success…what gives?
Research has shown that parental involvement is one of the major factors in a child’s school success. Yet, many parents are not as involved as they should be. Whether it is because they are busy working or do not have the time otherwise, parental involvement is a major concern for teachers and school districts.
But what about parental involvement when it comes to students with disabilities?
Unfortunately, it is the same. Many parents of students with disabilities often struggle to get involved due to time constraints and/or a fear of not knowing how to help their child. The special education process can be very convoluted and confusing so parents often just rely on the school system. And while the school system is doing as much as they can for students with disabilities (in most cases), a lack in parental involvement will affect the development of an effective and successful IEP.
Accordingly, the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) has already laid this foundation for parents:
the parents of a child with a disability must be afforded an opportunity to participate in (IEP) meetings with respect to the identification, evaluation, and educational placement of the child; and the provision of FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education) to the child.
Remember…it is your right as a parent to participate in IEP meetings. So utilize it!
- You want to make sure your child is in the right placement;
- When you keep track of your child’s IEP, you will know if the school is in compliance or not;
- Keeping in constant communication is beneficial not only for you, but for your child;
- When you have a working relationship with the school, the IEP process will go much smoother; and
- You will be better prepared to focus on the common goal of you and the school: to help your child succeed.
I have met so parents that miss these key reasons. Please note, the school and your child’s teacher can only do so much, so do not rely only on them.
How do I go about collaborating with the IEP team for the benefit of my child?
There are 5 steps you should take to foster a better relationship with the IEP team, yielding an effective IEP:
- Share a common goal: There should only be one goal for the IEP team – to create a successful IEP that will help your child reach their goals and be prepared for an independent future.
- Put your ego aside and build trust in the IEP team relationships: It is so easy to go into an IEP meeting ready for battle, but note that most teachers and school districts want what is best for your child. Before you go into an IEP meeting, try to get to know your child’s teacher or case manager first. You may be surprised that each of you are on the same page after all.
- Listen: This is very important in building an effective and successful IEP. You have to listen to the other team members to understand and evaluate what they are saying. If you are always just waiting for your turn to speak, you may miss key elements that can help or hinder you child’s growth.
- Do not be afraid of other IEP team members suggestions: It is easy to shut down another team member’s suggestion for your child without processing it first. But, you do not always have to make decisions right at the IEP meeting. If you need time to think about something or would like an opportunity to ask an advocate or attorney, let the team know.
- Communicate your concerns: I know some parents are afraid to communicate their concerns or ask questions. It can be very intimidating in a room full of people you do not know. But, if you do not know something, ASK! This is the only way you will be able to get the answer.
As you go about getting more involved in the IEP process (and not just passively attending the IEP meetings), you will be able to better understand your child’s strengths and weaknesses and make sure that they are getting properly served. Remember, without advocacy from their parents, many children with disabilities get loss in the system and do not get the services that they need. It is important to prepare now and make a promise to yourself and your child that you will be more involved in the future.
Are you involved in the IEP process?