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Back to School with an IEP – What to Do Right Now

Back to school with an IEP? 8 Things parents need to know and do right now if their child has an IEP.

We are heading back to school again. Parents need to know what to do right now if their child has an IEP or 504.

1. Meet with the IEP team in September or October (email NOW, or during the first week of school to set an IEP meeting date). Ask how the team plans to collect data on your child’s progress this year and also how they will measure progress or regression during school closures. Check the IEP. Are the standards of data collection for each IEP goal clear and ambitious? The team should also discuss whether changes are needed to IEP goals due to changes in “present levels”– or how last year went. Ask the team to show you a blank data collection sheet (or the “baseline” data collection from the first weeks of school). If you don’t understand how measuring progress objectively is going to work, or they can’t explain a system, it’s not you– it’s them! 

2. As I advise parents to do at every IEP meeting, ask about the W’s of your student’s services– where, when, who, and what. That means, where will the service happen, when will it happen, who else (teachers and students) will be there and what exactly is the service (for example, what is the specific reading intervention being used, how many minutes per day, how many days per week, and how many students in the group). For other services, like speech therapy, the “what” may be more obvious, but for academic interventions, you must ask– and do your own follow up research to determine if it is “evidence-based.”

3. Review your child’s IEP Goals and Objectives. Are the goals measurable in a way you can understand? For example, reading with “sufficient fluency” is not measurable. However, reading “93 words correct per minute by November 2021” is measurable. 

4. Make sure every member of your child’s IEP team and every teacher has read the IEP or 504, and if necessary, any relevant evaluations. Ask your student’s teachers if they need a copy. It may sound surprising, but every single year I hear from parents who find out late in the school year that a teacher didn’t have the IEP or even know the child had an IEP. 

5. Update your child’s new teacher(s) about anything that happened over the summer, like regression, new behaviors, or new skills. This is also just a good opportunity to get to know them, and have them get to know you. A phone call or parent teacher conference is fine.

6. If your child has multiple teachers, and you have general concerns or feel collaboration is needed, ask for a group meeting with all of them, even if it is a group “parent-teacher” conference. With virtual meetings available to us all, this is not unreasonable. 

7. Make yourself known! Attend all the school events you can, volunteer in the classroom, go on field trips, and give positive feedback.

8. Due to COVID school closures, virtually all students’ “present levels of performance,” which is an entire section of the IEP, may still need to be updated. Formal or informal testing may be necessary to determine new “present levels of performance.” You may know your child’s strengths and weaknesses better now, so your input counts here even more than usual! Make sure it is recorded on the IEP.

If you think you may need assistance with these steps, schedule a free call to discuss how a special education attorney or parent advocate can help.

This blog post is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.