The Basics of IEPs – from Melissa Welch

September, 2019

Do you feel overwhelmed and out of your depth when it comes to your child’s IEP? Don’t fret – you’re not alone! The bulk of my work here at The Arc of Larimer County is walking through the IEP process with parents.

To start, your child’s IEP, or Individualized Education Program is the written document that details all of the information about your child’s special education services – from the impact of their disability, to their individual goals for the year, the accommodations they will receive, where they will receive them, and who they will be working with. IEP meetings must be held annually – but as a parent, it is your right to request a meeting at any point in the school year to talk about your child’s education program.

IEP meetings can feel overwhelming, especially if you don’t feel like you see eye-to-eye with your child’s educational team – but the most important thing to remember is that at the end of the day, everyone on that team (including you!) want what is best for your child. These meetings are the first step in building a positive relationship with your child’s educational team, and come together to decide how to best help your child achieve success!

Here at The Arc of Larimer County, one of the biggest parts of my job is helping parents prepare for IEP meetings, and accompanying them for support. I always recommend that parents have a plan for their IEP meetings so that you can feel like an active participant in the conversation. If you would like your advocate to accompany you to the meeting, make sure you give them at least two weeks notice of the IEP meeting date (or even better, involve them in the scheduling process!).

Next, either with your advocate or on your own, you should write down any questions or concerns you have for the IEP team. Maybe you’re wondering why your child isn’t being pulled out of class to meet with the speech therapist, or maybe you want to know if they are receiving enough support around peer interactions. If your child sees any outside therapists, feel free to provide copies of those reports (such as neuropsych, occupational therapy, vision therapy, etc.) to your child’s educational team ahead of time so that everyone has the opportunity to review all the important documents ahead of time (this will save time during the meeting!) If you’d like – you are also welcome to invite any outside providers to join the IEP meetings as well, as service providers at school will likely want to coordinate and communicate what your child is working on inside and outside of school. If your advocate cannot accompany you to the meeting, consider bringing another person for support – maybe a friend or family member who could take notes for you to go back over afterwards.

The biggest thing I always tell parents is to remember that ultimately, your child’s IEP is not a static document that is only revisited once a year. Rather, it is a fluid plan that should be revisited as much as necessary in order to ensure your child is receiving the right kind of support to help them be successful at school. Remember – you are not alone! My biggest goal as an educational advocate is to help parents develop their own toolkits for advocacy, and with that, their confidence to advocate for their children successfully. If we aren’t already working together, please feel free to reach out! Visit our Request Advocacy Services page and fill out our intake form so we can start working towards success, together!

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