Will your child make a major transition next fall? Will your child be moving from preschool to kindergarten, from elementary to middle school, or from middle school to high school? Plan to take your child to visit the new school or classroom before the first day of school.
2. Review your child’s IEP and progress.
Did your child make progress this school year? Did the school properly implement the IEP? Does the IEP adequately address your child’s needs? Do your child’s Goals prepare your child for further education, employment, and independent living?
3. Ask for an IEP Team Meeting if necessary.
Did you answer “No” to any of the questions above? Ask for an IEP Team Meeting to resolve these concerns. Do not let another year go by with an inappropriate IEP.
4. Prepare for the IEP Team Meeting.
Prepare a list of your child's present levels of performance. The list includes you child's strengths and the areas that are challenging. Look carefully at this list and you will better understand what your child needs. Add these needs to your list of present levels of performance. You can also add Goals, Related Services, Assistive Technology, and anything else that your list justifies as an educational need.
5. Say "Thank You" to those who helped.
Did your child have a great school year? Was this success due to a wonderful teacher, a helpful classroom aide, or a thoughtful bus driver? Say “thank you” to those who helped your child succeed. Look at what made this a good year for your child. Add that information to the list of your child’s present levels of performance.
6. Give your information list to the IEP Team before the meeting.
Do not surprise other members of the IEP Team. At least one week before the meeting, give a copy of your list to each member of the IEP Team. Take extra copies to the meeting for anyone who forgets to bring their copy. Your IEP Team Meeting will go faster and smoother if everyone has your list ahead of time.
7. Ask for a copy of any information that has been given to other members of the IEP Team.
You do not want to be surprised. Ask for copies of all information the IEP Team will discuss. You cannot be a full team member if you are left out of the loop. Ask for things like copies of teacher reports, evaluation reports, and group achievement testing.
8. Ask the IEP Team to address Extended School Year (ESY).
ESY Ask the IEP Team to address ESY early in the second semester. If there is disagreement about whether your child needs an ESY, you will need enough time to resolve this with one of the due process procedures available.
9. Find out what summer educational resources are available for your child.
An ESY is not the same as summer school. Summer School is usually a generic program that is not designed to meet your child’s individual needs. An ESY program is intended to meet the specific educational needs of your child as identified in his or her IEP. Make sure you know what services the school is offering!
10. Determine whether your child needs a new evaluation.
Does your child need new evaluations? Are you unsure whether your child has made adequate progress? Achievement testing at the beginning and end of every year will give objective answers about your child’s progress. (See Chapter 8, Your Child’s Evaluation, in Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy, 2nd Edition).
More Resources for Parents
Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy has a companion website at Fetaweb.com.
Assertiveness and Effective Parent Advocacy. Short article by parent and advocate Marie Sherrett describes joys and challenges of parent advocacy.
Planning and Preparation: Keys to Successful Advocacy. Learn why planning and preparation are important; learn about the parent's role as special education project manager.
In Advocacy 101, you learn about gatekeepers, special education teams, and one-size-fits-all (OSFA) programs. When you learn the rules of the game, you will be a more effective advocate and negotiator for your child. (Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy, page 21). Here are a few articles from Advocacy 101:
Pat Howey has a B.A. in Paralegal Studies from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and is a member of Lamba Epsilon Chi. She is an Indiana Registered Paralegal, an affiliate member of the Indiana and the American Bar Associations, and a national known parent advocate with over 35 years of experience helping families.