Once it is determined that a child is eligible for special education services, an IEP or Individualized Educational Program must be put in place. In an IEP meeting, the decisions regarding special education and related services are made and an individualized educational plan is created.
The IEP is a written record of the decisions made in the meeting. It documents the services needed to meet a child’s individual learning needs and describes how these services will be delivered. The plan will present information about your son’s present level of educational performance and will include specific measurable annual goals he is expected to accomplish within the year. It will also include short term objectives he is expected to achieve at various points during the year on the way to making progress towards his annual goals.
The school is required to provide each of the services and modifications or accommodations outlined in the plan. Once the IEP is written, the IEP team will meet at least once a year to review progress and determine if adjustments need to be made, though it often helps to meet more frequently to review and revise the plan depending on the child’s progress.
The IEP TeamYou can expect the following people to attend the meeting: you and your husband as the parents, your son (if appropriate), your son’s regular education teacher, a special education teacher, a school system representative, a professional who can interpret the evaluation data, and any other people with knowledge or special expertise about your son.
This group of people will make up your child’s IEP team. It is most beneficial when all team members work together in a collaborative way to carry out a student’s educational plan.
If you have any questions or any concerns at all, don’t hesitate to bring this up in the meeting. You are an integral part of your child’s educational team. You, as the parent, truly know your child best. Your insights regarding your child – his needs and strengths - are valuable and your role on the team is an essential one, so don’t be afraid to speak up and share your thoughts, ideas, and questions openly.
The First IEP MeetingComing into the meeting, it is helpful if you and your husband prepare a list of your concerns and the main goals you have for your child during this academic year. Identify the specific areas in which your child is struggling. What are the skills you’d like to see improve? Jot down any questions you want resolved in the meeting. Think about how you’d like to set up regular contacts with your child’s teacher or other appropriate school staff. You may even want to request that the team meet again in two months time to review how things are going.
The first IEP meeting can be an overwhelming time for any parent. There is so much new information to take in as you begin to learn more and more about special education services and how they can best benefit your child. Parent permission is needed in order for the IEP to be put into effect. If you are unsure about the plan or just want to have more time to consider it, it is perfectly fine to take it home to review and sign later. Once you feel good about and have approved of the plan, special education services can be put in place for your child.
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U.S. Department of Education. Guide to the Individualized Education Program Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. July 2000.