You’ve probably heard the term IEP, or Individual Education Plan, in reference to your child’s education if they have been diagnosed with a learning disability. But what exactly does it mean? What is an IEP team? How should you interpret an IEP report?
Here are the main things you need to know about IEPs in order to stay on top of your child’s academic path to success:
IEP stands for Individual Education Plan.
Think of an IEP as a map that clearly outlines the ways in which your school will support and guide your child, and the services they’ll use in order to ensure that they excel in school. Every IEP is different based on the child’s own unique needs and the schooling environment that they are placed in, so don’t be concerned if your child’s IEP looks different than that of one of their peers.
IEP meetings will help you update your plan and stay on track.
Periodically as part of your child’s Individual Education Plan you will be invited to meet with the team that is responsible for your child’s education. This includes any traditional classroom teachers as well as special education teachers, if applicable. These regular meetings will allow you to revise, review, and update your child’s IEP as needed, providing invaluable input as their primary caretaker. This is an important part of the IEP, as it allows everyone involved in the child’s academic success to check in, see what is working and what isn’t working, and perhaps most importantly, make sure everyone is on the same page as you work towards a common goal.
Your child’s school is legally required to invite you to each of these meetings because you’re a vital member of the team, and in many ways your child’s adherence to the program relies on you fostering a supportive home environment, encouraging them to complete any homework they might have as well as being there for them emotionally.
Come prepared, and with questions.
Bring a list of questions and concerns to your IEP meetings, and don’t hesitate to voice every single one of them. After all, you are the most important advocate for your child, and it is imperative that you feel empowered to properly support them throughout their academic journey. You may want to record the sessions if your state allows you to do so, so that you can go back and reference specific moments during the meeting, or you may choose to bring a notebook and jot down what you deem important. Remember to bring your child’s last Individual Education Plan to compare and assess progress, and come prepared to bring up any accommodations you’d like to push for that you feel will benefit your child.
A NOREP is a Notice of Recommended Educational Placement.
A NOREP is a document many parents will be expected to sign at IEP meetings. The key point to remember about this document is that your child’s school is legally required to let you know of any and every change, or refusal to change, of your child’s placement in a certain program, identification of a learning disability, or provision of Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). This NOREP document provides that notice, but you have the right as a parent to approve, disapprove, or note your concerns.
A good IEP should have a goal for every concern.
As a rule of thumb, stay away from goals that are too vague or general. Instead, use the acronym SMART to guide you–goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented, and Time-bound. Instead of having the goal that you would like your child to “read better”, work with the team to determine a concrete goal, such as X number of books read by a certain date. You should also formulate goals for each area of improvement, so for a student who needs help in math and writing, there should be separate goals for both math and writing.
Goals should be clear, actionable, and positively oriented.
Focus on what your child can and will do. Ask yourself, do these goals include ways to measure progress? Do the goals address challenges your child faces academically, personally, and socially? Are they achievable in the time-frame?
Check for progression.
The biggest takeaway you’ll want from the IEP report is knowing whether your child is making progress, or not. If you feel like the report is too general, ask questions and get clarity. It’s helpful to know as a parent not only whether your child is progressing, but by how much exactly. Bringing the last IEP plan to the next meeting will help you determine how much progress your child is making.
It’s your right to observe.
As a parent, you have the right to sit in on your child’s class and observe them. Discuss this with your IEP team and be sure to give sufficient notice so as not to overwhelm your child’s educators. They may set guidelines and time restrictions, but you are legally allowed to request an observation. It is another way to stay involved and informed about your child’s education and may give you more insight as you create future goals, and look into ways in which your child can be supported.
Becoming an Empowered Participant in Your Child’s IEP
Seeing the acronym IEP thrown around amongst plenty of other acronyms used in reference to to your child’s education might seem intimidating, but it’s simply a catch-all used to refer to the unique game plan designed for your child’s academic success. Knowing your rights within the IEP framework will help you be an active participant, working alongside your child’s educators to ensure that they thrive in their school environment.