IEP reviews in April

meetingIf your child has a disability and has an IEP, you may already know that April is usually the month when mandatory yearly reviews and IEP updates happen.

An IEP is short for Individualized Education Program. It is both a process and a written educational plan for a child with a disability age 3 and older. It is a document that lists all of the educational services that your child will receive, if he qualifies. Here is a quick review and resources to help you with the process. (See prior posts, for info on IFSPs for babies and toddlers.)

The IEP is:

INDIVIDUALIZED – specific for your child’s needs. It is not one size fits all.

EDUCATIONAL – it should look at three main areas of your child’s life:  the general education curriculum, extracurricular activities and nonacademic activities.

A PROGRAM or PLAN – all of the services your child will receive are laid out and detailed in writing.

What’s in an IEP?

The IEP may include special education, related services and/or supplementary aids and services. The IEP is first based on your child’s “present levels” which is a snapshot of your child’s function. In other words…what he is able to do now as compared to his non-disabled peers. Then, based on his present levels and his delay or disability, the IEP sets measurable annual goals.

The IEP should specify:

• Who will provide the service (eg. the speech therapist, regular ed teacher, special ed teacher, reading specialist, physical therapist, etc.).

• What kind of service will be provided, such as curriculum modifications or adaptations, the types of related services or aids- (eg. specialized reading curriculum, speech therapy etc.).

• Where the service will be implemented (eg. the regular ed classroom, playground, counselor’s office, etc.).

• When parents will receive reports on how well your child is doing. By law, you need to receive progress reports at least as often as children without disabilities. Often a school system will send home the IEP progress reports with Report Cards.

• When the goal will be achieved (eg. by the end of the marking period or by the end of the year).

• How the goal will be measured and how you will know the goal has been achieved (eg. a benchmark, such as a test score that shows if the goal has been reached).

Remember, an IEP is a living document that can be changed or updated by the IEP team, of which parents are members! It must be reviewed by the IEP team at least once a year, but it can be reviewed and updated more often if necessary.

Need more help?

A great place to go to understand your options and how to prepare for IEP meetings is on the website of the Center for Parent Information & Resources (CPIR). In particular, you can find guidance on how an IEP team can write IEP goals.  Fortunately, you can find help by visiting your state’s Parent Training and Information Center (PTI), which is an information resource for parents of children with disabilities. Every state has at least one PTI. Each one has a different name. For example, one of the PTIs in California is named Matrix Parent Network and Resource Center while the PTI in New Hampshire is called the Parent Information Center. Whatever the actual name, each is commonly known as a PTI.

Some states also have Community Parent Resource Centers (CPRCs). CPRCs do the same work as the PTIs, but they focus on reaching underserved parents of children with disabilities, such as those living in a specific area in the state, those with low income, or those with limited English skills. Locate your state’s Centers  and read more about how PTIs and CPACs can help you.

You can also find excellent guidance on how to write IEP goals at Wrightslaw.

Lastly, review previous News Moms Need blog posts to zero in on where you need a refresher. Here is a Table of Contents of many prior posts, including several on IEPs.

Bottom line

April not only brings showers for May flowers; it is the month when most school systems begin reviewing and tweaking IEPs. With the resources in this post, you will be prepared and ready to play an active role in the process.

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Go to News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” on the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input. If you have questions, please send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

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