Last week, I gave a brief introduction about what an IEP is and the basic steps in the process.
This week, I want to provide my top 5 tips that will help ground you and get you through the process with as little stress as possible.
Here they are :
Understand Your Child’s Needs – I know this might sound like a no-brainer, but in all reality, YOU are the expert of your child. Nobody should know your child better than you. I feel that we often defer to “professionals” and their opinions, even though our gut feeling might be telling us something completely different. Stand in your truth – that you ARE the one who knows best for your child. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t be afraid to speak up (no matter how big or small the issue is). Feeling confident in the knowledge you have of your child’s needs will certainly eliminate some worry and fear about the process.
Know Your Rights – Before engaging in the special education process, it’s important for parents to know what their rights are. During the IEP process, there are also rights you might want to learn about. For example, did you know that you have the right to record your IEP meeting (with advanced notice)? Did you know that you have the right to a translator, that the district must provide? Did you know that you do not have to sign an IEP at the end of the meeting?
Be Prepared – Before your child’s IEP meeting, make sure you have copies of any asessments and evaluations that the school therapists have put together for your child (It is your right to ask for and receive them before the meeting). Review them thoroughly and highlight any areas that you do not understand. It is also helpful to bring work samples (copies of your child’s writing, drawing, coloring or anything else academic) from the past 6 months.
Ask For Help – Again, if the process is starting to feel overwhelming, know that there are special education advocates to help. You can either hire one privately or go through your local regional center for FREE advocacy during the IEP process.
Stay Involved – Be involved with your child’s educational environment. Understand what your child is working on in their various therapies and classrooms. If you are able to volunteer in your child’s classroom or participate in school functions, definitely do. If your schedule doesn’t allow for your physical presence at the school or therapy sessions, email the teacher and therapist(s) for updates. It is important that you stay on top of what your child is learning, what their current goals are and what the next steps are.
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