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What Should Parents Ask For in an IEP Meeting?
by Marion Walsh
It can be intimidating to be surrounded by professionals who are well-versed in the intricacies of special education, and many parents are unsure what they should ask for if your child with special needs is eligible for an individualized education program (IEP). As mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), you will be part of the team that develops your child’s IEP, along with:
- the child’s teacher,
- a special education teacher,
- other personnel (such as a school psychologist or a therapist).
Know your rights
Remember: Parents have the right to participate fully in these meetings, including asking questions and disputing points. You have the right to bring an advocate, attorney, or any person of your choice.
At an IEP meeting, parents have the right to express their vision and concerns and ask for specific goals and objectives to be included in the child’s IEP. The IEP team must consider the parents’ wishes and concerns when developing the IEP. Parents can ask for any specific objectives to be included, as long as they are related to the child’s academic, developmental and functional needs.
Specify Objectives & Goals
Objectives may include a wide variety of different types of goals that are specific to the needs of each child. Goals in the IEP may address:
- Behavioral and communications needs,
- Physical education needs,
- Traditional academic goals.
An IEP can also address functional needs related to the disability that are outside of the general education curriculum, including:
- Self-care skills
- Social skills
(Goals and objectives in an IEP are required to be specific and measurable, and have a direct relationship to the child’s needs).
At an IEP meeting, parents can and should provide as much input as possible to the other members of the IEP team about their child’s needs and specific goals and objectives that the parents believe are appropriate for their child’s individual circumstances.
Don’t Be Intimidated
Here are some things to keep in mind to ensure that your child receives a free appropriate public education (FAPE):
- You are an expert in your child’s needs.
- It is important to remember that although the professionals in the room are experts, (you are also an expert) in your child’s needs. You may not be familiar with the specialized language used by the professionals, but you still can and should communicate what your child needs.
- You have the right to an independent evaluation.
Assessments & Evaluations
One of the most important things to ask for in an IEP meeting is: for the school to perform an evaluation of your child in the areas where he or she has special needs. This is necessary and more productive than requesting a specific related service. For instance, if your child has speech issues, rather than requesting a speech therapist, request a speech evaluation. If you request a service with no evaluation, the school may respond that there is no evidence the service is needed. However, if an evaluation is performed, then a professional certified in that field will decide if your child needs that service.
The right to an independent evaluation
If you do not agree with the results of the evaluation, you have the right to an independent evaluation at the school district’s expense. If you disagree with a district evaluation in writing, you can also request for an independent educational evaluation but always put your requests in writing.
Parents should also note that in addition to the verbal exchange during the meeting, they should follow up any request or disagreement they have with a letter or email. This creates evidence of your requests or disagreements and creates an obligation on the part of the school to provide the parents with a written response, under IDEA’s procedural safeguards. If a particular action is proposed or refused, the school has to say why that decision was made and what evidence it was based on.
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