Parents, prepare for meetings
Spring has arrived and by now the educational performance of many children will be evaluated and presented at special education committee meetings to decide if they would benefit from special education services. Parents, I hope that you have paid attention to the needs your children have had throughout the school year so that you can bring your concerns to the committee. You may also want to provide information regarding your communications and meetings with teachers. At these meetings recent evaluations will be presented. If the committee decides that a child is eligible for special education services, an Individual Education Plan, I.E.P., will be developed. An I.E.P. is a written document, a LEGAL document created for a child who has been classified with a disability. This document gives direction for the educational needs of the child. An I.E.P. includes specific goals, objectives, modifications, and accommodations that must be implemented to help the child learn and achieve success in school. An I.E.P. is not a suggestion. An I.E.P is a mandate and must be followed.
Parents, remember that this plan is an “individual” plan, designed for your child. Parents have told me that the I.E.P, they received was inappropriate. The goals did not indicate the specific needs of their child. There were no modifications or accommodations. That is why you must come to these meetings with adequate preparation. You do not want the discussion about your child to proceed without your ACTIVE participation. You are an integral participant in this discussion that will result in important decisions for your child. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, I.D.E.A., states the following:
“Parents have always been important players in the special education process
and their involvement is vital to successful results for students. Parents are
entitled to be part of their child’s I.E.P. team…that makes decisions regarding
their child’s placement.”
If you have kept records throughout the school year, if you have paid attention to issues your child has experienced, e.g., homework, studying for tests, inability to recall information, attention, frustration, etc., you have a good start. The more information you can provide the team, the better understanding the members will have regarding your child’s needs. This will also help in the development of the I.E.P. if the decision is made to provide special education services. Be specific when speaking about the problems. Let the committee know if your child does not understand homework assignments or if he can’t keep up with the teacher’s presentation. He may have trouble copying from the board. This is your opportunity to share your concerns and it will help the members understand the issues.
Then be prepared to ask questions and expect answers. If your child is classified with a disability and receives an I.E.P., you want to know which modifications and accommodations will be included. Will homework and class assignments be modified? Will small group instruction be provided? Will alternate assignments be offered when necessary? Will more time be provided to complete assignments and tests? Parents, you want to know that this document contains the specific direction to help your child succeed.
One of the members of the committee will be a special education teacher who will develop the academic portion of the I.E.P. More than likely, this teacher does not know your child except for the information provided at the meeting. You may want to leave some notes for this teacher. When I sat on committee I took notes to be sure that I chose goals, modifications, and accommodations that met the specific needs of each child. This is the purpose of an INDIVIDUAL Education Plan.
Once you receive the document examine it carefully. If you have any questions, contact the appropriate person immediately. Don’t wait. This is your child’s plan for success.