How to Get The Most Out Of IEP, IPP, or 504 Meetings For Your Child
We are now in our second month of the school season for the year. If you have a child in school with autism or other special needs, chances are you are already navigating either an IEP, an IPP, or a 504 plan. These plans can seem overwhelming to parents, so I have prepared an explanation of what to expect during the meetings and how to get the most out of these plans for your children with ASD in school.
What is an IEP Meeting?
IEP stands for Individualized Education Plan; it is a plan that is developed to ensure that children who have medically and legally identified disabilities will receive special instruction and services while attending school. School children with special needs have an IEP, IPP, or 504 plan in order to choose appropriate educational goals and assessments, and make sure they get the assistance and tools they need. Parents are part of this process and should be working with teachers in creating their child’s IEP. In order to be an effective advocate for your child at an IEP meeting, you need to be prepared going in, know what to expect, and know what to do after the meeting is over.
What happens during an IEP meeting?
An IEP meeting is usually held with teachers and support personnel at the school, and should include among other details:
- A statement of progress for the year.
- Positive behaviour strategies, or a behaviour intervention plan if needed.
- An outline of measurable annual goals, including short-term objectives and benchmarks.
- A detailed method for measuring progress towards goals and objectives, as well as clear instructions on how and when progress will be reported to you.
- The special education and related services that will be provided for your child, including any special equipment resources and/or assistive technology needed, and when these will be made available.
Before your IEP meeting:
Documentation is important for government sponsored initiatives. Schools are bound by administrative red tape and chronically underfunded. The easier you make it for them, the more likely your child will get the support they need.
- Make sure you have a copy of your child’s plan. Sometimes these don’t make it home to the parents; ask to pick one up at the school if you don’t have a current copy.
- Read your child’s plan. Even if you have read it before, these can change from year to year.
- Pick out the issues you think are key, so you can make sure they are discussed as there is rarely enough time in these meetings. If your child is higher functioning, ask them to weigh in on what they think is important. Remember that you are there to advocate and support them.
- Get copies of all your child’s reports from all of their previous schools.
- Gather any medical reports you have from outside therapists and doctors that support your child’s needs.
- Make a list of your child’s strengths and abilities, as well as coping tools (including technology or coping mechanisms like quiet time, or earphones and music) that help them. Make copies to hand out to teachers and support workers.
- Decide who you will bring to support you. We as parents need an advocate for us so we can have more strength to advocate for our children. Discussing the educational challenges and future of a child with special needs can be emotional territory; bring someone with you who can help take some of the load.
After your IEP Meeting
That was a lot of information…now how do you make sure that it all gets implemented?
- Keep in touch! Continue to keep the lines of communication open with teachers and support staff. Email, call in, go to parent nights.
- Stay positive. A little praise goes a long way, especially for teachers and administrators. Don’t forget to let them know what things are working well.
- Double check that all teachers, and support staff have received copies of relevant documents. Some children slip through the cracks because one or two of the teachers were never kept in the loop. Never assume that the school has been able to connect with all your child’s teachers -especially in high school where a teenager has a different teacher with every class. Find out how the school shares information like this with their teachers, and double check that it has been done.
- Be visible. Show up at the school and volunteer in the classroom if possible.
- Remember: you can revise at any time. While IEP/504s must be reviewed at least once a year, they can be updated or tweaked by the team at any time. If something is really not working, you aren’t stuck with it for the year.
We have two books that I found very useful for helping wade through the IPE terrain: The IEP from A to Z: How to Create Meaningful and Measurable Goals and Objectives, Hopes and Dreams and the IEP Checklist. If you need further assistance, please check out our newly revised resources page for help in your area.
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