Navigating the IEP Process
IEP stands for Individualized Education Plan and is the legal document that sets your child’s yearly educational goals. Your child’s IEP is crucial to their success in school.
This document is designed to meet the educational needs for a child who may have a disability. It is drafted by a group of team members geared towards obtaining the best educational support for a child.
The start of this process involves a multi-factored evaluation through your school district. After the initial IEP, an annual meeting is held to assess goals, progress and that your child still qualifies for an IEP.
We provide these tips for preparing for and handling the different steps and aspects of the process. What follows is a detailed list, if you find it daunting, Milestones Helpdesk can help you get started. Or you may want to consider a consultation with our autism experts.
Before the meeting
- Start preparing 1 to 3 months ahead.
- Find out your school’s observation policy, and request an observation for you to determine how your child functions at school.
- If you feel it might be useful, invite your school team to observe your child at home or video a routine at home that you want to share and bring to the school team.
- Determine family priorities for your child. Annually think about these priorities (i.e. increase access to grade level content, access to peers, functional skills, student’s independence) and send these to the school in advance.
- Write a vision statement that creates a “picture” of what you would like your child to be able to do in the future. OCALI provides useful examples of vision statements.
- Review your child’s current progress reports and any recent assessments.
- Email specific goals you want to see included in the IEP.
- Ask for a draft ahead of time, it will be too much to digest in the meeting.
- If you want the school to speak with outside therapists, make sure to sign release forms.
- Jot down questions to ask in advance: homework questions, home school communication, hour adjustments for special education and other accommodations you’d like to add or adjust.
- Think about at what age your child should be included in the IEP process.
Who should attend the meeting?
Besides the parents, attendees can include the general education teacher, your district representative and other professionals who could provide service to your child and input to the goals. This may include (but is not limited to) a speech pathologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, school psychologist or a classroom aide.
At the meeting
- Share what is working well with your child at home and at school.
- Bring reports and data from other people, if applicable.
- Bring a list of your child’s medications in case the school has any questions about them.
- Collaborate to determine what your priority skills are.
- Ask questions if you need clarification. If any goals are not clear, ask to have them explained. You can request an explanation of A Guide to Parent Rights in Special Education or ask for all technical terms to be explained.
- Aim high with your expectations in the meeting! Make sure the goals set for your child are a stretch, and not goals he will reach easily. It’s important for your child to have lofty goals to reach for.
- If you have concerns or want to think further about it, understand that you do not have to sign the IEP right then—you can take it home and return it later.
- For an older child (beginning at 14), talk about transition planning and think about whether your child’s priorities are being supported.
- Review tips for writing transitional IEP goals and how those goals differ from pre-transitional IEP goals.
- Make sure you know how the school will communicate with you about your child’s progress, including frequency.
- Ask the team how you can support what is done at school.
If there is disagreement between you and the school team at the meeting
- Discuss concerns.
- Ask how you and the school can come to an agreement on goals.
- Consider a separate meeting with only a few of the team members.
- Review this chart from the Ohio Department of Education to determine your next steps in dispute resolution.
What are my rights if I do not agree with the IEP?
- Review your A Guide to Parent Rights in Special Education (parent procedural safeguard notice you received prior to the meeting) to inform you of your options.
- Communicate concerns to the school and put them in writing with specific examples.
- Contact your State Support Team, Family Service Coordinator or Parent Mentor for further assistance.
- Consult an Ohio parent advocacy organization’s website for further information or assistance.
- If you are at a stalemate, consider requesting an independent outside evaluation.
After the meeting ends
Know that you can call for a meeting with your team any time to discuss any item on the IEP— you do not have to wait for your next IEP review. You can also request a conference with any one person on the team as questions arise.
The Milestones School Toolkit
National Autism Association ASD & the IEP Process Toolkit
All About the IEP
Building an Effective Team with Your School
Tips for a Successful IEP Meeting
Resolving Parent-School Disputes Pop Up Tool: Wrightslaw.com