Thursday, January 13, 2011

Eight steps to a successful IEP meeting - Legal Rights & Advocacy | GreatSchools

The post "Eight Steps To A Successful IEP Meeting" was obtained from with a subheading of "A parents' guide to strategic planning for children on the autism spectrum" written by Wayne Steedman.

What caught my attention about this article on IEP is that it is written for parents hence the subheading says "a parents' guide". Note that the word used is "parents" meaning for both mothers and fathers and that it gives emphasis that parents have also to be guided in the making of an IEP to make it successful. Although this is written for parents whose children have autism I still wanted to get the general viewpoint of the author. I find majority of the suggestions useful not only to parents whose children have autism but to all parents whose children require an IEP or who has children with special needs.

So here goes are the Eight Steps to A Successful IEP Meeting (in a nutshell)

STEP 1: Learn, learn, learn
The adage “knowledge is power” is more true than ever when it comes to your IEP meeting. You are already an expert on your child; now make yourself an expert on your child’s disability. Keep in mind that the definition of an expert is someone who knows more about a subject than the other people in the room. Make a list of the books and articles you have read as well as any presentations you have attended, and bring it to the meeting with you.

STEP 2: Organize and prepare
Be sure you have your child’s complete school file, including old IEPs and assessments. If you are unsure whether your file is complete, request to see the school’s file on your child. Upon written request, a school must provide you access to your child’s file. If you find documents that you are missing, ask for copies.

STEP 3: Building your own team
Parents are often at a disadvantage in IEP meetings because they have to rely on the reports and expertise of school personnel and school system representatives far out number them. If the parents can afford private assessments, it is strongly recommended.

STEP 4: Evaluating progress
It is important for you to know how to evaluate your child’s progress using empirical methods. There are several ways to do this. Charting assessment results is often the easiest and most graphic way to plot progress. To do this you will have to develop a basic understanding of standard scores, percentiles, and grade equivalents. You will want to compare composite scores and subtest scores using percentiles, standard scores, and grade equivalents. A chart or graph showing your child’s decline or lack of meaningful progress over time can be a very effective means of convincing the IEP team that your child needs more intensive services or a different type of program. Goals that are repeated year after year indicate that a child is not making progress. Hence, charting goals over several IEPs may reveal a lack of progress even when school personnel report sufficient progress being made. Comparing goals involves not only looking at the wording of the goals but also the criteria for mastery.

STEP 5: Evaluating the draft IEP and other documents
In reviewing the draft IEP, first break it down into its components: present levels of performance, supplementary aids and services and classroom modifications, goals (and objectives or benchmarks if your state requires them), transition goals if your child is 16 or over (or younger depending on your state’s law), hours of special education instruction and related services, and placement. Present levels are discussed in Step 4. Be sure they contain complete information including information provided from your private assessments. In this same section should be a “parent statement.” It may not be in the draft IEP so you should prepare a statement that comprehensively addresses your concerns. You are not restricted by the space provided on the form. If you have multiple paragraphs or even pages, ask that they be attached to the IEP.

STEP 6: Final Preparations
Once you have reviewed the draft IEP the next step is to make necessary revisions to it or draft a whole new IEP. Your “experts,” the team you bring with you to the IEP meeting, can help you with the revisions. Follow the same rules in drafting your revisions as noted in Step 5. Create a pre-meeting checklist to include final organization of your file; written confirmation with your team of the date, time and location of the meeting; a letter to the school to inform them of your intention to bring outside individuals to the meeting; and verification that the meeting will include a review of the private evaluations you have sent by checking the notice letter. Send the IEP revisions you have made to the school as soon as you can. The meeting will likely move far more efficiently if the school team knows in advance what changes you would like to make to the IEP. It is not always possible to get your revisions to the team in advance. It is a lot of work to do with limited time in which to do it. If you can not get your revisions to the school in advance, try to give them advance notice that you have concerns about their draft IEP and will bring suggested revisions with you.

STEP 7: The IEP meeting
Prior to the start of the IEP meeting, you should determine who among your team will be the primary spokesperson. That does not mean that no one else can speak but having a designated person to convey your team’s position helps with efficiency and avoids confusion. It is very difficult to take complete notes and participate in the team discussion at the same time. It is not unusual for memories to differ on what was said and even decided. School teams often want to focus immediately on the new IEP. Before doing that, “close out” the existing IEP. Close out means to obtain a final report of progress made on each goal. Was the goal achieved and if not how much progress was made? A goal that was not achieved should be continued on the new IEP, albeit with a higher baseline if the child made any progress. As noted in Step 4, progress on goals should be reflected in the present levels. Disagreements are not uncommon but arguments should be. Treat all members of the team with respect. Raised voices and clenched fists accomplish nothing but make you look unreasonable. If you disagree with someone’s comment or assessment, express your disagreement in a calm and reasonable manner. I find it useful to start such comments with “I respectfully disagree...” It is important, however, to note your disagreement for the record. Although the goal is to avoid a due process hearing, if you are unsuccessful you do not want the school to claim at the hearing that you never disagreed with their assessments or the IEP. The outcome of the meeting and placement decision should be clearly stated in the IEP. Anyone looking at the IEP should be able tell exactly what services the child will receive and where he will receive them. Many schools will provide a written summary of the meeting. If the school reviews the summary at the meeting be sure that it accurately reflects not only the decisions made but any disagreements.

STEP 8: Follow-up
Regardless of the outcome of the meeting, send a letter to the IEP chairperson that summarizes the meeting. If the school provided a summary at the meeting, identify what parts of the summary you agree and disagree with and why. Whether the outcome of the meeting met your goals or not, thank the IEP chairperson and school team for the work they did in drafting the IEP. If the school team drafted an IEP that met your expectations, thank them for their cooperation and collaboration. If the final IEP fell short of what you had hoped, it is important to identify in detail all aspects of the IEP with which you disagree. If you eventually file for due process, your letter could be an important piece of evidence. So be careful and take the letter very seriously. I recommend having at least one other member of your team review it prior to sending it.

About the author:
Wayne Steedman is a co-founder and President of Callegary & Steedman, P.A., a law firm located in Baltimore, which primarily focuses on disability law. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland Law School and the School of Social Work, and has practiced law for 19 years with his primary focus on special education. Wayne has represented his clients in due process hearing, state and federal court, and the Third and Fourth Circuit Courts of Appeals. He is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court. He has presented nationwide on special education law and written numerous articles which have been published on-line and in print journals.

To read the article in full, follow the link below:
Eight steps to a successful IEP meeting - Legal Rights & Advocacy GreatSchools

No comments:

Post a Comment