12 Tips For Involving Parents in the IEP Process

As special education teachers one of our main responsibilities is to develop Individual Education Programs (IEP’s) along with a team of individuals including the child’s parents or caregivers. The process is very time consuming for Special Education teachers. It is not usual spend upwards to several hours just gathering information and getting ready to conduct the IEP meeting as well as write it. Some IEP’s are only a few pages long but others, especially for a child who needs many services, can be twenty or more pages.

The purpose of the IEP is for a team to develop goals and objectives as well as outlining services the child needs for the at least the next year. IEP’s are written annually and some require revising or writing more often.

Each individual on the team is supposed to have input into helping develop the IEP goals. The key term here is “supposed”. While some team members are more involved than others, the burden of producing and writing a correct IEP is on the Special Education teacher.

As often happens, the Spec. Ed. teacher arranges the meeting, sends out the needed notices to the participants and then will write the IEP. While the goals and objectives are usually written during the meeting itself, the Spec. Ed. teacher has a good idea as to what goals to include. She has also spent time writing the narratives for other parts of the IEP.

Team members who are invited to the meeting have little or no input into the process and will just show up to sign the document produced. Ideally, the team members who should have most of the input into the IEP are the Spec. Ed teacher, classroom teacher, key support personnel and the parents.

The struggle that most Spec. Ed. teachers face is how to get the parents to become more of a participant in the IEP. Parents along with their child are the key stake holders in developing an appropriate IEP. What can Spec. Ed teachers do to get parents more involved in the process?

Here are 12 tips for Special Ed teachers to get the parent involved in the process:

1. Prior to the IEP meeting, the Special Ed. teacher should interview the parent to see what their concerns are for their child and what goals and objectives they would like to see implemented in the IEP.

2. At least a week before the meeting, send home a list of possible goals and objectives for the parent to review and make additions to or corrections to them.

3. Probably the most important is to set a time for the meeting that is mutually agreeable to all but most especially the parent.

4. Be sure during the meeting to welcome comments and concern that the parent may have. Ask questions specifically addressed to them. Don’t let anyone interrupt them.

5. If a parent begins to speak, let them and be sure that others allow time for them to talk as well. If team members feel the need to talk among themselves while the parent is talking, ask them to go out of the room so that a parent does not have to compete with others attention.

6. Keep a steady flow of communication with the parents all the time – not just at the IEP meeting.

7. Keep the parent appraised of what is happening with their child. This means not just report card or parent conference time. This means at other times as well. This way the parent can know what is working and what isn’t working.

8. Let the parent know of successes their child has experienced as well as what things need to be done differently.

9. During the meeting be sure to acknowledge the parent as a part of the team and let the other members of the team know that what they are saying and discussing is important.

10. As teachers we get very attached to the children we work with, especially those that we work with for multiple years. It is important that we keep in mind that this child, for whom we are meeting, is not our child but belongs to the parent. We may not always agree with the parent but their wishes should be considered and acknowledged.

11. The most important skill we can develop as facilitators of meetings is to listen, listen and listen when the parent talks. This means active listening – with eyes and ears.

12. Lastly, let the parent know that you care about their child and about them as a family. Parents of children with Special Needs often need reassuring that their child is a part of the classroom, has friends and others who care for them.

Try these tips and see if they help to get parents more involved in the IEP process.

Stop Making Special Education Harder Than it Really Is

Really, It’s Not Rocket Science, You Can Do It!

Most parents either don’t attempt to get fully involved in the special education process or are too involved in the technical side of the process. The bottom line is that your child’s education is to prepare them for further education, employment and independent living as deemed by the federal law IDEA.If your child’s program is not preparing them, then it’s time to start working with the school team for change.

Why are you so overwhelmed with the special education process? Your child has a golden ticket call the IEP to give them an individual curriculum to meet their needs for the future. Children in the general curriculum do not have that option.

Here are some tips on making the system work for you:

  • Network with other parents in your district to see what resources are available.
  • Services that are appropriate for your child must relate to preparation for further education, employment, and independent living.
  • Work from the bottom to the top. Meet with the teacher on tweaking program needs before you call in a supervisor.
  • Write everything down! If you are prepared for negotiations, you probably won’t have to negotiate.

Overall, your parent instincts should guide your decisions about your child’s education. If you don’t feel that you child is being serviced appropriately, they probably aren’t. Follow the simple tips above to make special education work for your family. Becoming a leader on your child’s IEP team will truly bring the entire family success.

4 Proactive Dragon Slaying Tips for IEP Meetings, to Empower Your Advocacy!

Are you the parent of a child with Autism, or another disability who receives special education services? Do you become overwhelmed during the IEP process, and would like to learn a few tips to help you? Are you tired of the lies and deceptions being told to you by special educators? Then this is the article for you—4 proactive advocacy tips (dragon slaying tips) to empower you in IEP meetings and afterward!

1. Try and see if you can have a friend or relative attend the meeting with you (bring someone who knows how to write fast and take good notes). This is for a couple of reasons: a. the person can take in-depth notes about what is being said and who is saying it, and b. the person can be a witness in the future, if a dispute develops between yourself and special education professionals.

2. Tape record the meeting so that you can listen to the tape after the meeting, and fill in your notes (in case you missed something). Also, CD’s of IEP meetings may be used in due process hearings (if allowed by your state).

3. Bring a written list of issues that need to be discussed (do not forget to add items from an independent educational evaluation (IEE). By the issue write yes or no and leave a little bit of space. This way you can document if the school agrees to provide the service or not, and jot down specific things that they say during the meeting (don’t forget to add who said it).

4. Write an IEP summary letter after the meeting (do not forget to date the letter and sign it also), documenting what happened during the meeting. You should include discussions not in the notes, special education professional’s attitudes, and specific comments made by staff (to include their names). I have begun doing this recently in my advocacy and find it very helpful because I can include things not in the IEP document that should be—-but now the letter is in the child’s educational record!

Recently at the end of a meeting one of the school staff said something that would help the parents in their quest for their son to receive scientifically research based reading instruction. I immediately grabbed a piece of paper and wrote down what was said and who said it (the mother gave me funny looks because she did not know what was said or that I was writing it down). In the IEP summary letter I put this information and I believe that it was helpful in my advocacy! When the school answered the letter, they never mentioned what was said, or denied that the educator said it, so I was home free! Always document when special education professionals say something that can support your advocacy!

Good luck—remember your child is depending on you!

Top Special Educational Advocacy Tips for Parents

Most parents who have a child with special needs want to home school their child. They choose to do so in order to keep their child safe from peer pressure and close to themselves, for their child’s safety. This can be a daunting process, if you choose to educate your child yourself. However, it is not insurmountable. Check out the following steps that can make the process easier:

1. Know what suits your child best

You as a parent know the best for your child. If you feel that your child has a certain disability, you can help them cope with it. You understand your child best so you decide better what can help them learn. You can use different visuals, cues and other fun learning ways to educate your child.

2. Use letters to communicate important matters

Communication through email or telephone doesn’t work really well. Letters help you keep track of the entire history of communication. You may need to look back at your child’s documents later in case you fall into a disagreement with the educational advocate. You may create “minutes of the meeting” and send a copy to the personnel later, in case you have a face-to-face conversation.

3. Ask the educational advocate if you feel something is wrong

Your child’s advocate may suggest something that you may disagree with. You have all the right to ask for the details about the policy regarding that matter. It is important that all parents know about the policies for children with special needs. If need be, you can also ask for proof of the policy that your child’s advocate may suggest, for the benefit of your child.

4. Know the special education and disability laws in your state

It is important that you know all the laws related to special education and disabilities. This is important for your child’s education and future. You can avoid going misinformed by the special education personnel. The personnel may not communicate important matters that can affect your child’s education process.

5. Know the rights that your child has under special educational services

It is essential to know what sort of special care and service your child is entitled to. You can talk to your child’s advocate; do some self-research too, in order to provide the best education for your child. Educational advocacy services are of great help, as they make sure your child’s needs are fulfilled and your child receives proper education.

5 Lies About Special Education Transportation, and How You Can Overcome the Lies and Get Your Child

Are you the parent of a child with autism or a physical disability, that receives special education services? Does your child need transportation services? Do you think that special education personnel are not being truthful about what the federal special education law (IDEA 2004) says about transportation? This article will be discussing 5 lies that are commonly told to parents about transportation. Also, discussion on how to overcome these lies to help your child receive needed, transportation services.

Lie 1: We can keep your child on the bus for as long as we want. While IDEA 2004 does not address length of bus ride, long bus rides can be negatively affecting a child's education (causing stress, negative behavior). The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) stated in a policy letter to anonymous (1993) that lengthy bus rides may be discriminatory, and may result in denial of FAPE. Why could a long bus ride be discriminatory? If children with disabilities are on the bus longer than children without disabilities, this could be considered discrimination.

Lie 2: No one says that we have to provide transportation to your child, and we are not going to. Transportation is considered a related service and needs to be given to a child, if they need the service so that they can receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE).

Lie 3: The transportation director makes decisions about whether a child needs transportation not the IEP team. In a document from OSEP entitled Questions and Answers on Serving Children with Disabilities Eligible for Transportation OSEP states "The IEP team is responsible for determining if transportation is required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education and related services …" If your child needs transportation make sure that it is listed in your child's IEP as a related service (if child not riding regular education bus).

Lie 4: The state says that we can bring your child to school 15 minutes late every day, and take her out 15 minutes early due to transportation issues. Ask the school to show you in writing any documentation that proves that they have the right to do what they want to do. In the above example you could ask for "Please show me in writing where it states that our State Department of Education is allowing cutting short of education due to transportation issues!"
Actually the above OSEP document makes it clear that the school day for a child with a disability should not be longer or shorter than the school day for general education students. Since a child would receive less educational time this could also be a denial of FAPE.

Lie 5: If you want your child to participate in extracurricular activities then you must provide transportation, we do not have to. Actually IDEA 2004 states that a child with a disability has a right to transportation for required after school activities as well as for extracurricular activities. Make sure that the extracurricular activity is listed on your child's IEP, and also listed that they require transportation in order to participate in the activity.

How do you overcome these transportation lies?

1. Learn about transportation requirements in IDEA 2004 (which is the federal special education law). I use the book Special Education Law 2nd edition from Peter and Pam Wright, which is fantastic. This book as well as a lot more advocacy information for parents can be found at: http://www.wrightslaw.com .

2. Call your states Parent Training and Information Center (PTIC) for help with advocating for transportation issues.

3. Bring all of the above information to an IEP meeting to assist you in your advocacy.

Good luck in your advocacy!