What is it about IEP (Individual Education Program) meetings that can feel so overwhelming? For a family, this once-a-year meeting may feel like their only opportunity to hear about their child’s progress. They may feel put on the spot to ask the “right” questions, or they may feel like that they don’t know what to ask for to support their child.
Today, we are going to focus on your rights at an IEP Meeting as a parent. This blog post is not meant to serve as legal advice (and I am not a lawyer!), but rather as a resource for you to better navigate the field of special education. If you need a special education lawyer, there are many in the area that I can refer you too.
Your Rights As a Parent At IEP Meetings:
- You have a right to be an equal member of your child’s team. Your input on your child is just as important as any psychologist, special educator, speech language pathologist, or occupational therapist on the team. You do not need credentials listed after your name to be an expert on your child. Your concerns are front and center on the IEP, which brings me to my next point.
- You have a right to write, in your own words, your concerns in the IEP. You can verbally share your concerns at the meeting, but that means someone else will paraphrase them in your child’s IEP. I would recommend that you share your concerns in an email with the team prior to the IEP meeting and include a note that you would like your concerns copied and pasted in to the IEP. In Massachusetts, parent concerns are the first thing any teacher will see when they pick up an IEP.
- You have a right to request further evaluations. You do not need to wait until the scheduled three year reevaluation to request an evaluation. Many people falsely think their child can only be evaluated on the three year evaluation cycle; however, any member of the team can request an evaluation for more information in a specific area at any time.
Imagine this: You go to the doctor after feeling exhausted for several weeks and think you may be anemic. You talk to your doctor and she says, “Sorry, we only do blood work at our annual appointments. Come back in the fall for your next round of blood work and we can address this concern then.” Would you accept that? Absolutely not. IEPs are no different. If you think there is a lack of understanding about your child in certain areas, ask for an evaluation in that area.
Be specific about your needs. For example, use statements such as, “I would like my child’s speech to be evaluated formally, as I believe his articulation errors are impacting his writing.” Then, submit your request in writing immediately following the meeting.
- You have the right to bring someone to the meeting with you. Many parents choose to bring a parent, sister, or friend to take notes during the meeting so that the parent can be an active participant and more attentive to the discussions in the meeting. You can also choose bring a paid professional (e.g. therapist, advocate, tutor) that has knowledge or special expertise in regard to your child. It is a courtesy to let the district know ahead of time who you are bringing.
- You have a right to reconvene the team. Most school-based teams do not intentionally rush meetings, but they are so used to the procedural aspect of these meetings that they often move quicker than parents can digest. Don’t be afraid to slow the team down, ask clarifying questions, or ask for repetition. Out of courtesy, limit extraneous that aren’t directly related to the IEP development. (E.g. if your child is having trouble learning to ride a bike at home and you want to ask the physical therapist about the best equipment to buy and what exercises to do, ask the physical therapist if you can speak with them after the meeting). If you did not feel that you had sufficient time to develop the IEP, you have the right to ask for a reconvene of the team.
At OWL Pediatric Therapy LLC, we will review school-based evaluations and IEPs as part of our consultative model. We look for accommodations, curriculum, and goals that match the needs of your child. Contact us at (978) 496-8313 for more information.