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Navigating the seas of the IEP process: A compass for parents

Smooth sailing through the IEP process
Smooth sailing through the IEP process
Photo courtesy Matthew Barrett

Navigating the process of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is like sailing the open ocean in rough seas without a map or a compass, unless preparation is made. Parents, unfamiliar with the process, the law, or their child’s rights, are left adrift, guided only by the steerage of the school IEP team. In reality, however, parents have the right, and the obligation, to help chart the direction of their child’s IEP. In fact, maximizing the education and services their child receives is determined, to some extent, by parent’s advocacy skills.

The Families and Advocates Partnership for Education (FAPE) provides parents a map to help chart a course to improve the educational outcomes for their children with disabilities. Specifically, FAPE links families and advocates with The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004).

IDEA 2004 is the federal special education law. Getting to know and understand the laws and regulations affecting the rights of their child can be daunting for parents. A great resource to help parents is The website focuses on an easy-to-understand approach, which is important when dealing with special education laws and regulations.

But getting familiarized with FAPE and IDEA is just part of the preparation for the IEP process. The actual journey, from the parent’s perspective, begins once the IEP draft is sent home. Unfortunately, many parents, unfamiliar with the process, the forms, and the IEP meeting itself, attend the IEP meeting as if they were headed out to sea left to navigate by the stars. Like the task of understanding the law, parents need assistance and resources to navigate through the IEP process. This five-part series focuses on that task with the goal of providing parents a compass to steer through the IEP process.

If you have a question or a topic for Dr. Barrett to research and report on, please email Dr. Barrett.