Developing You Child's IEP: The IEP Process
What's involved in developing my child's IEP?
The process of developing your child's IEP involves two main things:
(1) the IEP meeting(s), where you, your child (at times), and school staff members together decide on an educational program for your son or daughter; and
(2) the IEP document, which puts the decisions from that meeting in writing. Among other things, this document lists the services and supports your child will receive.
The whole IEP process is a way for you and the school to talk about your child's needs and to create a plan to meet those needs. Let's look at the process, starting with the IEP meeting.
The IEP meeting is somewhat formal. By law, certain people must attend. People sign in to show who is there. Lots of papers are looked at and passed around. People will talk about your child, his or her needs and strengths, and what type of educational program would be appropriate. And, little by little, blank spaces on the IEP form get filled in.
Sometimes it can be a real challenge for a parent to keep up with the discussion. It may be even harder to slow it down. But you should feel free to ask questions and offer suggestions. You will also want to feel comfortable that the team has spent enough time talking and planning before filling out the forms. Many parents say their first experience in an IEP meeting was a lot like Emily's mom's below.
Emily was three when we had our first IEP meeting. I didn't really know what an IEP meeting was. Someone told me what the initials meant and what we were supposed to do, but the whole idea seemed so strange to me. Making an educational plan for a three-year-old? I was worried about potty training and getting Emily to sleep through the night and to stop crying all the time!
Anyway, when we had the meeting I met a lot of people whose names I couldn't keep in my head. A lot of pieces of paper got passed around. The teachers and therapists talked about what Emily needed to work on at school. Some of it sounded okay. Some of it, I just couldn't picture in my head. I spent most of the meeting nodding-like I understood-and agreeing with everything.
Later, I realized that if I had visited a class, asked questions, and had someone explain what they were doing, I might have talked more and asked more questions at the meeting. And I don't think I would have felt so anxious sending Emily to school for the first time.
I've gotten better with each IEP, though. I don't just nod anymore! I know the school wants to do what's right, but they can't do it alone. I have to be there to speak up, share what I know about Emily, ask questions, and offer suggestions. Emily's IEPs are a lot better now, because we all really work together.
Where and when do IEP meetings take place?
You and the school agree on where and when to have the IEP meeting. Usually, meetings are held at school during regular staff time. This means the meeting can happen before, during, or after the regular school day. By law, the school must tell you in writing:
what the purpose of the meeting is,
the time and place for the meeting,
who will be there, and
that you may invite other people who have knowledge or special expertise about your child to the meeting.
The IEP must be done no more than 30 calendar days from the date your child is found eligible for special education services.
You must agree to the program, in writing, before the school can carry out your child's first IEP.
The IEP must be reviewed at least once every 12 months.
It may take more than one meeting to write a complete IEP. If you find more time is needed, ask the team to schedule another meeting.
You may ask for an IEP meeting at any time, if you feel that changes need to be made to your child's educational program. Some teams like to meet near the end of a grading period to talk about the student's progress and to make changes to the IEP, as needed.
Reprinted with the permission of the Department of Health and Human Services.
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