The Individualized Education Program (or IEP) lays out the school’s commitment to provide special education and related services to your child. Developed annually, an IEP must be tailored to the individual needs of your child, with your involvement and input. Once formulated, the IEP becomes your roadmap to track your child’s progress throughout the year.
Here Are Four Important Signs That Your Child’s IEP Is Working:
1. Your child’s IEP has been reviewed by all teachers and related service providers.
All school personnel involved with your child’s education should be aware of and have access to your child’s IEP. This includes general education teachers, special education teachers, and any providers of related services such as speech/language.
Everyone should be knowledgeable about your child’s learning disability and its impact on all aspects of learning and behavior. Everyone should be clear regarding any instructional support, accommodations, or other services that must be provided your child and the role each must play in making certain they are provided consistently.
2. Your child is receiving behavioral supports, if needed.
Every IEP must consider the student’s need for behavioral interventions if behavior impedes the student’s learning or that of others. If your child requires such support, the IEP should clearly spell out what interventions are required. All those involved in your child’s education should be aware of behavior challenges and how they are to be addressed.
3. Your child has access to assistive technology and accessible instructional materials.
Confirm that your child is being provided with any assistive technology (AT) and/or accessible instructional materials (AIM) listed in the IEP. This includes any training your child needs in order to use the AT or AIM, and any training you might need to assist your child. Simply asking your child about use of AT and AIM is a good way to determine if what’s been promised in the IEP is actually happening.
4. You are receiving regular progress reports from the school.
IDEA requires that parents be provided with regular reports of progress toward each of the annual goals in their child’s IEP. These progress reports must be provided as frequently as reports are provided for all students.
Reports should involve objective measures — such as results gathered by curriculum-based measurement and standardized tests — and should not rely on any one single measure. A combination of measures will best document your child’s progress and show if the special services are meeting your child’s needs. Teacher observation and teacher-given grades alone are not appropriate measures of student progress.
If your child’s progress will not result in accomplishing the annual goal, expect to be given information on how the instruction will be changed in order to speed up progress. If progress is more than predicted, consider re-writing the goal to reflect more progress.
What to Do If Your Child’s IEP Isn’t Working
While your child’s IEP must be reviewed each year, if you feel that your child’s IEP is not providing appropriate progress before the annual review time, you can (and should) request a meeting to review and revise it.
Always make your request in writing. Provide times that are convenient for you to meet, either in person or by alternative means such as conference call, and a date by which you expect the meeting to be convened. Changes can be made to your child’s IEP by developing a written document that amends or modifies your child’s current IEP. There is no need to convene an IEP team for the purpose of making changes. If changes are made, the school must ensure that everyone involved with your child’s education is made aware of the changes.
Article by Candace Cortiella. Candace Cortiella is Director of The Advocacy Institute, a nonprofit focused on improving the lives of people with disabilities through public policy and other initiatives. The mother of a young adult with learning disabilities, she lives in the Washington, D.C., area.