I remember the first IEP meeting for my daughter. I requested she get tested because I knew her math skills were below the effort; she was putting into her schoolwork. Even though I requested the testing, I still cried when they told me she qualified for special education. I did not want her to be different, be made fun of, or my worse fear was that she would not be able to accomplish her dreams.
That was 20 years ago. I am proud to say that my daughter has graduated from high school, undergrad, and grad school. I learned a few things along the way as a parent and later as a special education teacher.
- There is a meeting every year. Go to it. If you cannot take off work, do it by phone during your lunch break.
- Read the whole IEP. If you don’t understand something, ask questions until you do understand it, or they change the IEP. (IEP’s can be full of legal language and complicated to read. If you are having trouble reading it, ask a member of your child’s IEP to read it to you.)
- You can bring an advocate with you. Sometimes it is helpful to have an extra person listening and asking questions. The advocate can be a professional, a grandparent, or someone else you trust.
- If your child is going to be pulled out of class for extra support, find out when. If their favorite part of the school day is gym class and they want to pull your child out during gym, your child will probably not cooperate. A problem that I had was that they pulled my daughter out of social studies to work on math. I did not know this until she was failing social studies.
- Understand your child’s goals. What are they doing to help your child reach those goals? How will the information about the progress of their goals be shared with you? What can you do at home to help your child progress towards their goals?
- Hopefully, your child’s school provides you with all the services they need but sometimes you must ask for your child to be tested for certain services like speech, occupational services, or other therapies. Put these requests in writing and make sure to include the date.
- Once a year there is a meeting, but you can request one anytime during the school year. Put the request in writing and do not forget to date it. You can make a request because you do not see progress, you think your child needs new goals, or you simply want more information. Your child can also request a meeting. One time my daughter made a request for a meeting because they told her that she could not be in band because she was in special education. After the meeting, she was enrolled in band.