TIPS to Keep on Top of Your Child’s IEP
Once your child’s IEP is written, you may feel like you can breathe a sigh of relief, especially if it’s been a difficult process to get an Individualized Education Program put into place. And you should breathe—you’ve successfully navigated a big hurdle.
For many parents, new worries replace that initial wave of relief. Is the school following the plan? Is your child getting the services she needs? Is she making progress?
It’s not always easy to get answers to these questions. Luckily, there are some ways to monitor the situation without making it your full-time job. Here are some ways to keep on top of your child’s IEP
1. Know IEP timelines.
The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) outlines a number of deadlines when it comes to the IEP process. After your child’s IEP is written, the school has 10 calendar days in which to put services into place. If your child’s IEP is rolling over from last school year, the program should be in place the first day of school. Mark the deadline on your calendar. A few days prior to that date, check in with the team leader to make sure all the pieces of your child’s program are ready to go.
2. Know your child’s program.
You went to the meeting and have read the IEP, but do you know what your child’s program is going to look like in practice? Learn your child’s schedule and ask for the names of the people who will be working with her. It gives you the opportunity to check in with your child (“Did you spend some time working with Mr. Smith today?”) and provides you with more than one point of contact if you have questions.
3. Make a point to meet your child’s special educators.
Although there’s a case manager to oversee your child’s IEP, the people who work directly with her have a better sense of her progress. Try to take a little time to connect with the paraprofessional or specialists working with your child. It doesn’t have to be in person—busy schedules may not allow for that.
But if you make a phone call or send an email to introduce yourself, it shows the specialists that you’re interested and involved. Once you’ve made that connection, ask what the best way to keep in touch is. Let specialists know that you’d like to be informed of both difficulties and triumphs, no matter how big or small.
It’s also a good idea to set a goal of how often you will check in and to share that. Saying something as simple as “I’ll email or call you every two weeks so we can compare notes on how things are going, what day is good for you?” indicates that you’re not asking permission to be in touch, but that you want to work in a way that’s convenient for everybody.
4. Watch and read between the lines.
Keep an eye on what’s coming home from school and what you’re seeing in your child. Does the homework look appropriate for the goals and accommodations in her IEP? Is your child having behavioral backslides or showing signs of stress? Is she saying things that sound as if the plan isn’t being followed? Are you seeing visible progress?
5. Keep a goal chart to track progress.
Your child’s IEP includes measurable annual goals. They outline the skills your child’s team agreed she needs to acquire. They’re based on where her skill level is now and where those skills will be by the end of the IEP year. If you think of your child’s education as being a road trip, the goals tell you where she’s going, the route she’s going to take and when she’s expected to arrive.
Special education law no longer requires that those year-long goals be broken down into smaller steps that help you see progress (known as benchmarks). The benchmarks are the landmarks she’ll stop at along the way on her educational road trip.
Those landmarks are a great way to keep track of how your child’s journey is going. Making a goal chart can help you see when she’s made it to the landmarks.
A goal chart doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s easy enough to make one. Here’s a quick rundown:
Look at the goals on your child’s IEP.
Break down each goal into smaller steps. Those benchmarks aren’t always obvious, so it’s a good idea to check in with the IEP team leader if you’re not sure. You can ask, “What are the skills I should be looking for along the way to see if my child is making progress?”
Write down each step. For example, if your child’s goal is to increase reading readiness skills in terms of letter knowledge, decoding and word recognition, the steps might include:
- Is able to make the correct sound when shown a letter
- Is able to identify the correct letter when given a sound
- Can identify the first, middle and last letters in a 3-letter word
Make a chart with four columns headed: Goal, Benchmarks, Notes/Observations, and Questions for School. Add as many rows as you need to put in all of your child’s goals and benchmarks.
In the first column, write one of the IEP goals. Add the benchmarks in the next column.
Use last two columns to make notes about what you see your child doing and to note questions you have for your child’s teachers. That way they’re already written down for the next time you check in.
Keep in mind you don’t have to implement all of these ideas to make sure your child’s IEP is being followed. Even doing one or two of them can ensure that you’re on top of things before an educational crisis arises. Most of all trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, get in touch with the IEP team leader to schedule a team meeting to discuss your concerns.
Amanda Morin, is an early intervention specialist, education writer, special education advocate and mother of two children with special needs. Her latest book, The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education, aims to demystify the special education process and empower parents.
Photo courtesy ©woodleywonderworks/flickr.com
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This post originally appeared on our September/October 2014 Magazine