Having friends and being a friend are important for your child's development. These tips are also designed to insure that your child is successfully included in the neighborhood school and enjoys after-school community activities.
These tips are from Chapter 2, Tips for What to do During the IEP Meeting, from a new book, IEP and Inclusion Tips for Parents and Teachers by special education attorney Anne Eason and Dr. Kathy Whitbread.
Send your agenda to the district a few days ahead of time.
Label this Proposed Agenda. Bring extra copies of your Agenda to the meeting and politely invite each team member to take a copy.
Bring food, or at least bottled water to the meeting
If your water bottles are large, bring a stack of cups. At the end of the meeting, leave any leftover food for the staff to enjoy. Use plastic or paper plates and trays. Avoid plates that you would want to bring home.
I used to bring in home baked muffins or cookies, but these days everyone seems to be on a diet. You never know if they are counting calories, trying to eat low fat food, or counting carbs. Now I just bring water, both flat and sparkling, with an assortment of flavors for the sparkling. Its so appreciated and wont make a mess of the meeting area. But, homemade goodies are always a good option. Dieters dont have to indulge if they dont want to. - Anne
You are a full and equal member of the IEP team.
Dont be afraid to take charge, and see your role as equally important as the educational professionals.
Also, be sure that when someone says, The team feels . . . that you do agree with the statement. If you do not, say, I dont feel that way, and I am a full and equal member of this team. Remember that you have a valuable and unique perspective as the parent of your child.
Do not allow yourself to get into a them versus me situation.
Be an active listener.
Make sure you make eye contact with people as they are speaking. Give each speaker your full attention. Allow people to finish their thoughts before speaking up. Dont fidget.
If the school did not provide records, evaluations, or proposed IEP goals ahead of time and you feel your ability to participate in the meeting has been compromised, consider rescheduling the meeting (with the utmost of tact and class).
law says that parents are fully participating members of the IEP
Team. You cannot be a fully participating member if you lack critical information
about your child.
Focus on the supports and services your child needs to learn and be successful in school. For example, Due to Tims hearing impairment, he requires a sign language interpreter to benefit from the general education curriculum. Your requests should be appropriate.
Write to the school and request that all reports, evaluations, and proposed goals and objectives to be given to you at least 5 days ahead of the meeting.
To contribute to the IEP Team discussions of your childs educational program in a meaningful way, you need to prepare for the meeting. Ask that no reports or evaluations be read or produced for the first time at the meeting.
Exchanging information ahead of time gives all parties an opportunity to become better prepared. It also leads to more efficient use of time at meetings.
Make sure your childs IEP goals are SMART.
In the corporate world, business goals are SMART, which means they are Specific, Measurable, use Action words, are Realistic, and Time specific.
Note: This excellent advice originates from the good people at wrightslaw.com. Download the chapter about SMART IEPs from Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy, 2nd Edition (revised to include IDEA 2004)
Be sure you understand the prior written notice provision in IDEA.
IDEA says the school must provide the parent with notice whenever the school proposes to initiate a change or refuses to make a change in connection with the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child, or the provision of FAPE (free appropriate public education) to the child.
This notice is required to include several components:
If you dont understand what is being said or proposed, ask the Team to clarify.
Do not permit a discussion of your childs placement until the present levels of academic achievement and functional performance, and the IEP goals and objectives have been discussed.
The law says that a childs placement is discussed only after the IEP goals and objectives have been developed.
Bring your child to the IEP meeting.
If you feel it is inappropriate for the child to stay for the entire meeting, bring her for part of the meeting.
Consider bringing all your children to the IEP meeting so they can support their
I wanted my sons to see how I advocated for my daughter. I wanted them to witness how one individual could stand up for an idea, even if everyone in the room disagreed. I am preparing them to grow up to become co-advocates with their sister, who I am grooming to become a self-advocate. Its okay with me if they attend the IEP meeting to escape going to science. Its okay with me if they attend the IEP meeting just because I am feeding them chocolate milk and bagels. - Anne
Consider inviting other students to the IEP meeting.
Kids often have great ideas on how to support other students. Of course, your child needs to be okay with this.
If you are curious as to what happens to a boy who goes to his sisters IEP meetings, this is how the story may unfold.
In an effort to continue advocacy training, I brought my son to a disability related rally in Washington, DC. He knew the purpose of the rally, but admittedly I had to sell it as a day off of school with some sightseeing. He agreed to go, knowing that the rally was something he had to put up with. Look and see how transformations occur!" - Anne
Dont go to an IEP meeting alone.
The person you bring does not have to be a trained advocate. The person can be someone who cares about your child and family. If you think this is necessary, ask them not to speak.
Just having someone there, taking notes, will let the district know that you take your rights seriously.
If your district allows it, record your IEP meetings.
When you tape a meeting, you have a completely accurate record of the meeting and you will be free to listen and participate in the meeting rather than writing notes. If you encounter resistance from the team, note that the district cannot refuse to allow you to tape if this is an accommodation for the parent (for example, if the parent is hearing impaired or has an auditory processing problem). Read IEP Tips: Taping Meetings by Anne Eason and Kathy Whitbread
Debrief with your advocate, spouse, and any other person who accompanied you immediately after the meeting.
Write down what you remember, and then add your own impressions and opinions.
Write a thank you note to the IEP Team for the time people spent meeting with you about your child. Use the thank you note to document key decisions made and to review issues that are still unresolved.
Wow, all these tips are just part of one chapter!
Remember - Students with the best educational programs (and outcomes) are usually those with the most empowered parents. Read this book to empower yourself with the information you need to advocate for your child.
About the Authors
Anne Eason is a Connecticut special education attorney who limits her practice to inclusive education. She presents nationally, together with Kathy Whitbread, on the topic of least restrictive environment for students with disabilities.
Anne serves on the board of directors of the CT Down Syndrome Congress. Anne is also founder and co-president of SPED*NET New Canaan, a monthly forum in Annes community focused on special education issues. She also created and maintains the website www.spednet.org, which received the 2004 Media Award from the CT Coalition for Inclusive Education.
Annes daughter Eva has Down syndrome and is fully and successfully included in New Canaan High School in New Canaan, CT. Last year Eva successfully completed a mid-level HS Algebra class and started attending classes without a paraprofessional.
Evas earlier education over four years at Saxe Middle School was so remarkable that Saxe was featured in a 2005 Connecticut Public TV television documentary called The Challenge. This article was picked up by educators in the Netherlands, translated into Dutch, and widely distributed to inspire educators to include students with disabilities in general education settings.
Co-author Kathleen Whitbread is an Assistant Professor and Associate Director of Programs for the University of Connecticut A.J. Pappanikou Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research, and Service.
Kathy has over 20 years of experience in designing and managing programs in the fields of education and human services. She has collaborated with educators in the former Soviet Union, the Netherlands, Italy, and the United States to increase compliance with educational laws and improve the quality of education for children with disabilities in this country and abroad.
is the editor of The
Inclusion Notebook, an award winning, internationally distributed publication
of best practices in inclusive education. Kathy is currently conducting research
in the area of early literacy for children with intellectual disabilities and
conducts preservice and inservice training in inclusive education, positive behavioral
supports, person centered planning and parent-professional partnerships.