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4 Must-Discuss Topics for Your Next IEP Meeting



Individualized Education Program

Parents tell us that IEPs are long and confusing documents that include a lot of educational jargon they often don’t understand.  


So how do parents know the most important parts of the IEP to discuss?  


As advocates, we understand that an IEP is a legal document and believe that every page is important.  But as parents, we understand the need to prioritize discussion points.  


Before we get into our 4 “must-discuss” topics, it is important to remember that parents can request an IEP meeting at any time.  You do not have to wait until the annual IEP meeting to discuss concerns or consider changes to your child’s IEP.  So as you read on, remember that these talking points are important at every IEP meeting, not just at the annual IEP review meeting.  


1. Present Levels of Performance

When advocating for your child it is critical to understand how your child is doing with a specific concept or task right now, or their present level of performance.  Present levels of performance give the team the information they will need to determine your child's unique needs and if they are appropriately progressing toward their IEP goals. 

 

Any time you meet with your child’s school team we encourage you to review your child’s present levels of performance.   And let’s be clear, reviewing present levels does not mean that you are just going to have a talk about how your child is doing.  While having a teacher’s professional opinion that your child is “performing well” or “making good progress” is important, we are looking for specific data that shows how your child is performing.  For instance, children who have dyslexia will require an accurate assessment of their phonemic awareness skills, decoding or word attack ability, spelling performance, reading fluency, and comprehension.  There are specific assessments for each of these areas that your school can provide so that you have a full understanding of your child’s present levels of performance. 


If you don't feel like you have enough information to fully understand your child's present levels of performance, share your concern with the school team and ask how they can get additional data.  Schools can provide additional baseline skill assessments or share full reports of standardized testing that can shed light on exactly what a child can and cannot do. 


We cannot stress enough the importance of having this conversation at every IEP meeting.  Understanding and properly documenting your child’s present levels in the IEP should be the foundation for every decision the team will make and every other topic of conversation.



2. Goals

Parents also tell us that goals are one of the most difficult areas of the IEP for them to understand.  They are often at a loss to know if the goal is appropriate for their child.  Many times,  they simply agree to goals that they do not fully understand. 


We tell parents never to consent to something in the IEP that they do not feel 100% comfortable with or understand.  Always ask questions until you understand exactly what the school team is proposing so that you can make an informed decision to agree with the recommendations of the team.


These questions are a good place to start:

  • Please explain how my child will be able to reach this goal in one year's time given their present levels.

  • Does this goal include a clear outline for how and how often progress will be assessed?

  • Does this goal reflect only one area of need that can be assessed individually? If the goal is based on multiple skills or areas of need, consider asking the school team to break the goal into multiple goals or establish short-term objectives for the goal. 

  •  Since there is no limit to the number of goals a child’s IEP can include, have we included a goal to address all of my child’s areas of need? (Double-check your data to be sure as needs should drive Goals!)



3. Services & Accommodations

The discussion of services and accommodations should be held after and directly relating to your discussion of your child's goals.  Where goals are the target for where your child will be in a year, services and accommodations are the vehicle for how they will reach that target. 


Services- the specialized instruction your child needs to make progress toward their goals.


Ensure that the way the team intends to provide instruction will be effective to make sufficient progress in closing your child’s achievement gaps.  For instance, children with dyslexia must be taught to read and spell using an evidence-based structured literacy approach.  It is important to document in the IEP your child’s need for this type of specialized instruction, and that it be provided with fidelity. 




Each service should address one or more goals in the child's IEP.  Parents should understand how each of the goals will be taught during the proposed service hours. For example, a child with dyslexia who receives structured literacy instruction will be receiving services that address the child’s needs with decoding and spelling.  If that same child also has a math goal, they will also require math services to address that goal.  


Services can be provided in the general education or special education setting. It is important to discuss with the team where your child’s services will take place.  While your child should spend as much time as possible in their least restrictive environment (LRE), often their general education setting, it is important to discuss with the team if your child can get the specialized instruction they need to make progress toward their goals in that setting.  If not, services in the special education setting may be more appropriate. 


Accommodations- the support they need while they receive specialized instruction to close their learning gaps 


Accommodations are not “cheating” and do not let your child off easy. (You’d be surprised how often we hear parents say that they don’t want their child to have accommodations for this reason!)  They provide the scaffolded support your child needs to show what they CAN do while they work hard to learn the skills required to close their achievement gaps.  


For instance, a child with a specific learning disability in writing (dysgraphia) will typically struggle to get all of their really good ideas down on paper.  They understand grade-level content, but can’t show what they understand because of their writing deficits.  This child should have an accommodation to dictate to a scribe or use a computer program that can convert their speech to text.  


Think about what kind of support your child may need based on what their needs are.  Talk with the IEP team about assistive technology (AT) tools that can effectively allow your child to access the grade-level curriculum and show what they know.  Ask if your child would benefit from an Assistive Technology Evaluation. 


4. Progress Monitoring

Advocacy doesn't stop once you have a plan in place!  


To ensure that the plan is working, parents must monitor their child's present levels over time to make sure the services and accommodations provided are helping their child reach their IEP goals.  You can see how all of these discussion points are interdependent and equally important.  

Discuss with your child's school team how they will collect and report data that shows your child's progress towards their goals. We recommend asking the team to use the same curriculum based measures multiple times throughout a school year so that you can easily monitor progress over time and establish trend data


 Think about how you will organize the data you receive from the school and what approach you will use to interpret that data. Some parents keep a binder with all of the data while others take the data and input it into a spreadsheet.  


However you choose to organize the data, the important point is that you are able to compare all new scores and data to their previous present-level benchmarks to see if your child is making progress.  You'll also want to compare scores to norms for children their age to determine if they are closing their achievement gap.  


This is a lot to discuss and every bit of it is important.


We often find that we have to attend 2 or even 3 meetings to make sure that we are heard and that all of our questions are answered. It may take time for teams to gather more data, invite supervisors to attend the meeting, or find the answers to all of our questions. That is ok! It is better to wait and make informed educational decisions for your child. We have created A Parent's Guide to Avoiding "Drive-Thru" IEP Meetings to help parents feel less rushed and more empowered!


Now that you know what you are going to talk about at the IEP meeting, download our IEP meeting checklist, 4 Steps to Success!, to be sure you are fully prepared to discuss these critical topics at your next IEP meeting.    



 

Are you worried that your dyslexic child is falling behind in school?


Are you ready to see your child learn and thrive?


If so, we can help! Our advocacy practice has helped countless families transform the lives of their children, and create more peace and harmony at home.


While it isn’t always easy, it CAN happen, and we will support you every step of the way. Let’s Talk about how we can help your family!





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