Jillian’s Mom Discusses IEP Season

Are you ready for IEP Season?

It used to be that IEPs were written in the fall and those goals were followed during the school year to be reviewed at the end of the year for necessary changes. Now, there is no IEP Season. IEP writing is a year-long sport. There is no off-season, no time to sit back and reflect, no time for thinking “maybe next season”.

IEPs need to be front and center all the time. Without a playbook of your child’s goals and modifications, the players wouldn’t know their roles. I learned this the hard way. I let my guard down when Jillian was in the primary grades. I assumed that the teachers were doing everything in their power to make sure Jillian learned and reached her highest potential no matter what the IEP said.

After all, I had a great rapport with the teachers, talked to them all the time, but I didn’t pay enough attention to the IEP- the written obligation. Without an accurate IEP, the teachers didn’t have anything to hold them accountable for their efforts at making Jillian successful in her academic career.

I failed to notice that one year, the teacher had just copied the previous IEP without new test scores and new goals. The reason I found out was the teacher was in such a hurry to copy last year’s IEP that she forgot to change the year on the document.

Red flag!

If the date doesn’t match the year of the IEP, it could be a copy job. I learned my lesson the hard way. After that, I understood the importance of an accurate IEP. Make sure you have reviewed it thoroughly before you sign it. Be sure you understand and agree with everything in the IEP.

One year, the IEP team tried to take out my parent’s vision statement which included college for Jillian. They didn’t think college was a possibility (even laughed when I suggested it) and took it out of the vision statement. Fortunately, I was already a major league player in the IEP games and I noticed it right away. My vision statement was re-entered into the IEP. So, review your IEP with a fine tooth comb before you sign it.

Then comes game day – the actual IEP meeting. If feels so much like a sporting match that I think everyone should be wearing their team colors. Parents vs Schools. Hopefully, your meetings go very smoothly. But if you are asking for something that the school doesn’t want to pay for, you may have a battle on your hands. Have a game plan ready.

1.Know your rights. Know what you are entitled to. Have testing scores that back up your request for services.

2. Stay calm. Knowing that you have right on your side can make you calmer and clearer on the points of your argument.

3. Take an advocate. If you feel that you need an expert to explain your position, take an advocate to the meeting with you. That is your right by law to have whomever you choose to accompany you at the meeting.

4.  Don’t sign if you aren’t satisfied. If you are overwhelmed or not satisfied with the results of the meeting, schedule a second meeting. Never sign until you are sure.

Remember that there is no IEP Season. You can revisit your IEP Team anytime you feel the need. You don’t have to wait for the next year to make changes or updates. If you feel changes are needed, ask for a meeting now! I like to think that we are all on the same team. All there for the same goal of educating our children. However, even the best teachers are sometimes confronted with a school district that doesn’t want to spend the money for your child.

Know your rights, make yourself heard, and hold no grudges. Deep down, people are genuinely kind and all wanting the best for your child. Just hang in there!

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