A student's individualized education plan is designed to set objectives, goals, and benchmarks for a child receiving special education services. Although the majority of the IEP is designed by the local education agency, parents should play an integral part of the development of the plan.
Here are some tips that parents need to do before, during, and after the process.
1. Develop a master plan
From the time your child is diagnosed with a disability, a parent must begin to develop a long-term plan. This master plan should include a mission statement, vision statement, and short- and long-term goals. The master plan should not take the place of an IEP, but is should enhance some of the components of the plan.
2. Do your research
Although the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act Admendments Act of 1990 (ADA) are federal legislation; school districts may have varying procedures regarding the referral process. Even before an IEP meeting is scheduled, parents should have had the opportunity to collaborate with their child's teacher and also have participated in a few student study/success team (SST) meetings.
3. Come prepared
Parents need to bring all documentation that they have regarding their child. The school staff will also bring documentation that they too have gathered. Parents should have copies of health/birth records, report cards, standardized test scores, current psycho-educational assessments from independent evaluators, evaluations from teachers or other support staff, samples of schoolwork, and any other pertinent information that will contribute to the effectiveness of the overall educational plan.
4. Take responsibility
Remember that parents and schools should be in a partnership in order to deliver the best possible education for the student with special needs. Parents should not expect the school to take on the entire implementation of the plan, but rather become active participants in the child's education. Although school districts are required by law to provide services for special needs students, school districts don't always have the resources or money to deliver certain services.
5. Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up
Don't leave the IEP meeting expecting that all accommodations and modifications will be implemented immediately and significant gains will be made. Parents must hold the school accountable and keep the lines of communication open.
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