Understanding Your Child’s IEP

By February 24, 2020 March 9th, 2020 IEP Development

The IEP meeting has concluded, and your child’s IEP comes home in the mail. You feel the pressure to sign it, but how do you know if the IEP is ready to sign? I find that many families immediately look at the service delivery grid and approve based on the amount of services that the child is receiving. However, the IEP is chock-full of valuable information that needs to be reviewed! Here are some other things to look for in your child’s IEP:

____ My Parent Concerns Statement was written by my child or me and accurately reflects concerns that I have about my child’s education.

On IEPs in Massachusetts, the Parent Concern Statement is front and center! Use this space to be open and honest about your concerns related to your child’s disability. These concerns may or may not have already been identified by the school. These concerns may be related to theIdentified disability (e.g., I am concerned about my child’s reading. Although she can read single words accurately, she struggles to understand what she reads. I am that this concerned this will get harder for her as the academic load increased and will impact her across subject areas)Strategies that work well for your child (e.g., Because of my child’s difficulty in reading other’s intentions, she does best when she has a familiar adult with her out at recess. I am concerned that the school can not provide this accommodation consistently)Service delivery and school placement (e.g., I am concerned that 1×30 a week of speech therapy is not enough to meet the needs of my child, as her language is significantly impaired).

____ All recent testing is summarized succinctly. Any private testing that my child has received outside of school is summarized.

____ My child’s disability category is clearly labeled

____ The vision statement reflects high expectations and dreams for my child. It was created collaboratively by the parents and school-based team. If older than 14, it will include the student’s preferences for adult living, work, and post-secondary school.

____ Accommodations are clear and limited to the most impactful accommodations.

Many people believe “more” is “better” in terms of accommodations. Instead, consider including only the most important, highly specific accommodations needed for your child to succeed. Exhaustive lists (that often include best teaching practices) are not helpful to the team or your child. Make sure accommodations are clear and specific (e.g., instead of “modified acoustic environment” it may read, “use of carpets over 80% of the floor to limit impact of ambient noise”)

____ Impact statement: It is clear why my child needs an IEP.

The impact statement should NOT read:  XX’s disability of Autism impacts his academic and social functioning.

Depending on your child, the impact statement might read something like: XX’s disability of Autism is characterized by a strength in his visual/spatial processing and memory. He has weaknesses in understanding the big picture, organization of oral language, problem solving, and theory of mind. His weaknesses impact his ability to tell what he knows across academic subject areas. His difficulty understanding the gestalt and problem solving impact him in math and science, as he struggles to apply what he learned to new situations. Socially, XX may misread or misinterpret another’s intentions. XX has difficulty maintaining meaningful peer relations.

Specially designed instruction: This refers to the instructional practices of the teacher.

___ Content: While all students work towards the same standards, some children with disabilities may have current instructional content that is different from their same-aged peers. In other words, if your child is not using his grade-level curriculum, it should be reflected here. This does not apply to all children with disabilities.

___ Methodology: Methodology refers to instructional strategies and approaches that are being used to teach disabled students that are different from their non-disabled peers. Particularly, you are looking for a research-based methodology that matches your child’s needs (e.g., Orton-Gillingham Reading Method is an example of this for some students)

____ Delivery: Delivery refers to how the instruction is delivered that is different from their typically developing peers. For example, this may include individual instruction or small group instruction.

___ Performance Criteria: Curriculum-based measures and grades are not sufficient progress monitoring tools for children with disabilities. A performance criterion may include the use of standardized tools that match your child’s areas of need (e.g., GORT, QRI, etc.)

Service Delivery

Part A of the grid refers to the consultation that will happen between school personnel and parents. They are indirect services, in that your child will not be involved in this time. Part B refers to the services your child will receive in the classroom. Part C refers to services your child will receive outside of the classroom.

___ Are all needed personnel titles listed on the grid?

___ Are personnel listed qualified to provide the intended intervention? E.g., “teachers aide” should not be delivering speech therapy.

Schedule Modification

___ Extended school year is for students who have demonstrated risk of regression or are at a critical period in their development. Teams are not allowed to put off the decision for extended school year until the end of the school year, it must be accounted for at the annual meeting. Don’t allow your team to “put off” the decision until the end of the school year.

Need more help in understanding your IEP? OWL Pediatric Therapy LLC consults on IEP development. We are specialized in working with children with language-based learning difficulties and communication disorders. Contact us for more information about this service.