Parent Participation in IEP Meetings

IEP meetings can be emotional and overwhelming, but knowing how to work with the education team effectively is very important. You are a key member of the IEP team with the unique perspective that comes with the long view of your child’s developmental history, dreams, and resources.

Your participation is very important. As the IDEA notes:

“Almost 30 years of research and experience has demonstrated that the education of children with disabilities can be made more effective by… strengthening the role and responsibility of parents and ensuring that families … have meaningful opportunities to participate in the education of their children at school and at home.”

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Help! No Teachers are Trained to Work with My Son

My 10 year old son has Tourettes/OCD. His teachers do not understand his disability and what he is going through in class. They have no idea about inner tics. Their main concern is proper position of words on a page.  They are not trained to effectively work with him or teach him. His IEP meeting is in a week, what do I do?

What do you do? Turn to what IDEA says about support and training for school personnel.

IDEA envisions services that are provided to the parents or teachers of a child with a disability to help them to more effectively work with the child – that’s why “supports for school personnel” was included in this section of the law.

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Comments that Parents Hear: “We cannot/will not provide X service(s) to your child during after school activities or nonacademic services.”

If a parent, student or the school decides that the student will or should participate in nonacademic or extracurricular services and activities, the school must make plans that will allow the student to participate in these services and activities. As part of this process the IEP team must consider whether supplementary aids and services are “appropriate and necessary” to allow “an equal opportunity for participation”.

If the student is provided aids, services or accommodations to allow them to participate in academic activities, then it would seem that these would probably be needed to allow “an equal opportunity for participation” in nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities. If the IEP team should feel that this is not the case, the school should provide the parent with prior written notice of why these are not needed.

The school should be able to articulate the steps taken to provide the student the opportunity to participate in the services and activities. If the parent can document that these steps have not lead to an equal opportunity to participate, they can share this with the school in writing, and request a meeting to discuss “appropriate” steps to achieve the opportunity for participation. The parent can also use the IDEA and state dispute resolution processes to try to resolve disagreements on this issue.

Recall the Law

Schools (a) “must take steps, including, the provision of supplementary aids and services determined appropriate and necessary by the child’s IEP Team, to provide nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities in the manner necessary to afford children with disabilities an equal opportunity for participation in those services and activities.” “(b) Nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities may include counseling services, athletics, transportation, health services, recreational activities, special interest groups or clubs sponsored by the public agency, referrals to agencies that provide assistance to individuals with disabilities, and employment of students, including both employment by the public agency and assistance in making outside employment available.” 300.107

“Supplementary aids and services means aids, services, and other supports that are provided to regular education classes, other education-related settings, and in extracurricular and nonacademic settings, to enable children with disabilities to be educated with nondisabled children to the maximum extent appropriate”. 300.42

Possible Responses

“My child wants/needs to participate in X activity/service. What steps needed to put into place to achieve this?”

“I am requesting that my child receive X aids, service(s) to allow them to participate in (list services and activities).”

“I do not understand why the aids, services, and supports my child receives in other settings cannot or do not need to be provided for nonacademic and extracurricular aids and services. Please try to explain again so I can understand.”

“I am requesting written notice of why my child will not receive the aids, or services they are receiving in other settings in (list nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities).”


Back To School Tips That Work

Build Alliances

The old saying, “There is strength in numbers,” is still true today. If challenges arise during the school year, it is helpful to know you have others you can turn to. Now is the time to nurture alliances with teachers, support staff, parents, students and others who impact you and your child.

Call or send a thank you note to those who provided “bright spots” during the previous year. Mention how you appreciated their involvement and how you look forward to their future support.

Contact others you would like to include among your supporters in the coming year and let them know the important impact they can have in your lives. Be sure to offer your support for their cause in return.

Review Your Child’s IEP

Usually Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) are written in the spring. Your child’s new teacher this fall may have no idea which learning goals are priorities for the coming year.

Before school starts, read through the IEP to refresh your own memory. Talk over the learning goals with your child, especially those old enough to advocate for themselves. Then make sure each classroom teacher working with your child has a copy and understands the IEP’s intent.

An IEP’s strength lies in the parents’ and teachers’ understanding of it and the active participation in implementing it.

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9 Tips to Help You Advocate for Your Child

1. Know the rules

All public schools abide by specific laws and regulations which provide special services for children with disabilities who qualify for such services. The criteria for eligibility vary in each state and some school districts, but all schools must adhere to a minimum federal standard.  To learn more about the laws in your state and your rights as a parent, contact us.

2. Get to know the people who make decisions about your child’s education

Connect with educators and administrators in both casual and formal settings. Talk with your child’s teacher on a regular basis. If possible, volunteer in the classroom and help out with school functions. If you have concerns or problems that a teacher
cannot or will not address, be willing to follow up the chain through the school, and if necessary, to the district office. Remember that you, as a parent, have the right to request that the school evaluate your child if you think he or she may have a learning disability. Be sure that your request is in writing.

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Comments that Parents Hear: “Your child is too smart to have an IEP.”

Fact: Intelligence has no bearing on disability or need. Even individuals with genius level IQs can have a disability that affects their ability to access the curriculum.

A student with a disability and “high cognition” can have needs (organizational skills, homework completion, social skills, counseling, and classroom behavior, etc.) that need to be addressed through special education and related services.

IDEA does not require schools to help a child reach their potential. However, OSEP does say that the school should “consider information about outside or extra learning support provided to the child”.  This would include support the family is providing directly or through tutors, assistive technology, related service providers or information on the amount of time the child spends studying and doing homework.

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