IEP Goals and Your Child’s Future
IEP Goals and Your Child’s Future
Many parents, including myself, were/are unaware that the IEP is more than “just” a plan for your child; it is a legal document and it relates to your child’s future. CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) 300 / A / 300.1 of IDEA (Individuals with Disability Education Law) states that the main purposes of this part are – (a) To ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living.
What does that mean for your child? The purpose of the IDEA law is so that our children with disabilities will receive the same free, appropriate, public education as their typical, nondisabled peers. They will also be “prepared” for their future as independent adults (through further education at college or at a vocational institute, for employment, and for independent living which could be in a group home or with their own family. (Note: The law does not say our children will receive the “best” or a “better” education but rather an appropriate education).
While your child is in the school setting, the evaluations and their present levels of performance should dictate weaknesses and needs so that your child is on the same level as their typical peers. Goals should be written toward the weaknesses/needs and work on improving those areas so that your child will make progress toward the goals and their academics. Progress should be made and seen. If progress is not being made or there is regression, the goals may need to be “tweaked” and reviewed or rewritten. Call an IEP meeting and prepare for the meeting as you are a member of the IEP Team.
If the goal is incorrect for whatever reason, your child may not be working toward independence. As a parent, you could request a draft IEP (in writing) so you can review the present levels and the updated goals prior to the meeting. If you have questions about the present level or goals, ASK at the meeting. Do not just “let it go” because then your child may not work on appropriate goals or there is a difference in what you think and what the school is proposing for a goal. If you are not sure or it is not a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Use Action Words, Realistic and Relevant, and Time-limited), ASK for clarification. All members of the IEP Team must be in agreement on every piece in the IEP. If you disagree, make sure your voice is heard and your disagreement is written into the conference notes. This “closes a back door” in case there are issues in the future (regression or you write a complaint).
Just like the academics, the IEP goals should also show a progression toward independence for your child. Independence for each child will be different and since you know our child, you will know what that means. You also will have an idea of what you want for independence for your child. There are support groups and community organizations which you can tap into for assistance; they provide resources as well as support and encouragement. They are also an excellent place to chat with other parents – some who have been there, done that – and those parents are the ones you can benefit from in their experiences. You can also ask them to attend your IEP meeting (I believe 24 hrs notice) with you and the school/district should allow you to bring them as long as you inform the school ahead of the meeting that you will have others attend the meeting with you. (If you are denied their attendance, you can ask for Prior Written Notice from the school).
Not all of our young adults will attend college, but will chose employment as their path. As your young adult, ages 15-21, transitions into/in high school, you may want to involve Vocational Rehabilitation (VR/Voc Rehab) in your state. Voc Rehab offers pre-employment transition services such as career exploration counseling, work readiness training, community-based work experiences, and self-advocacy. Voc Rehab will work on employment and independence in employment for your young adult.
Goals are just the beginning for your child as they transition from elementary school to middle and high school and on to college or employment. Give them a good start and understand the IEP and the goals. Your child’s future depends on it!
Doreen Franklin is a Special Education Consultant & Private Tutor. She assists families with children with special needs with their IEPs. Doreen & her husband adopted two daughters; both are special needs. Doreen homeschooled their older daughter and tutors children privately.
FREE DOWNLOAD: Pre- IEP Worksheet
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This post originally appeared on our January/February 2017 Magazine