The IEP Meeting
After an evaluation has been done, the IEP meeting will be scheduled. As noted earlier, you are entitled under law to attend and participate in this meeting, and you must be given ample notification of the time and place. You should also request a copy of the evaluation that was done prior to the meeting so you have time to review it.
The FAMILIES AND ADVOCATES PARTNERSHIP FOR EDUCATION (FAPE) suggests considering the following:
- What is your vision for your child – for the future as well as the next school year?
- What you are child’s strengths, needs and interests?
- What are your major concerns about his or her education?
- In your child’s education thus far, what has and has not worked?
- Does the evaluation fit with what you know about your child?
While the IEP meeting is meant to develop an educational plan for your child, it is also an opportunity for you to share information about your child, your expectations and what techniques have worked at home. If for some reason you do not agree with the proposed IEP, you do have recourse. See the section, “WHAT IF YOU AND THE SCHOOL DON’T AGREE?”
CONTENT OF THE IEP
The IEP should address all areas in which a child needs educational assistance. These can include academic and non-academic goals if the services to be provided will result in educational benefit for the child. All areas of projected need, such as social skills (playing with other children, responding to Q&A), functional skills (dressing, crossing the street), and related services (occupational, speech, or physical therapy), can also be included in the IEP.
The IEP should list the setting in which the services will be provided and the professionals who will provide the service. Content of an IEP must include the following:
- A statement of the child’s present level of educational performance. This should include both academic and nonacademic aspects of his/her performance.
- A statement of annual goals that the student may reasonably accomplish in the next 12 months. This statement should also include a series of measurable, intermediate objectives for each goal. This will help both the parents and educators know whether the child is progressing and benefiting from his/her education. The development of specific, well-defined goals and objectives is crucial to your child receiving an appropriate education.
- Appropriate objective criteria, evaluation procedures and schedules for determining, at least annually, whether the child is achieving the short-term objectives set out in the IEP (e.g., “How are we judging whether intervention is successful?” “How long will my child be in this program?”).
- A description of all specific special education and related services, including individualized instruction and related supports and services to be provided (e.g., occupational, physical, and speech therapy; transportation; recreation). This includes the extent to which the child will participate in regular educational programs.
- The initiation date and duration of each of the services, as determined above, to be provided (this can include extended school year services). You may include the person who will be responsible for implementing each service.
- If your child is 16 years of age or older, the IEP must include a description of transitional services (coordinated set of activities designed to assist the student in movement from school to post-school activities).
It is important that the child receive an appropriate education and therefore benefit from that education. Students with disabilities have a right to related services to help them learn and receive the maximum benefit from their educational programs. Related services, according to IDEIA, consist of “transportation and such developmental, corrective and other supportive services as are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education.” These services are to be determined on an individualized basis, not by the disability or category of the disability.
If a child needs any of these “related services” to benefit from his/her education, they must be written into the IEP. Frequency and duration of services, as well as relevant objectives, should be included. Related services as defined by IDEIA may include, but are not limited to the following:
- Counseling services
- Early identification and assessment of disabilities in children
- Medical services (for diagnostic or evaluation purposes only)
- Occupational therapy
- Parent counseling and training
- Physical therapy
- Psychological services
- Rehabilitation counseling
- School health services
- Social work services
- Speech pathology
The regulation does not limit related services to those specifically mentioned above. If a child requires a particular service to benefit from special education and that service is developmental, corrective or supportive, it is also a “related” service and should be provided. It does not have to be expressly listed in the regulation. Examples of these kinds of services may include a full- or part-time aide or assistive technology, such as a computer.
While IEP goals and objectives should be child-centered, the document may also contain information regarding teacher/staff training. If the IEP team decides that additional training is required for a student’s teacher, this information must be included in the text of the IEP. For example, the team may decide it would be beneficial for a teacher to take an autism course at a local university. Or it may want the school support staff to attend a two-hour seminar on autism. Personnel standards and teacher certification requirements are established by each state. For more information on the state certification requirements in your area, please contact the appropriate state education agency.
An IEP should include goals and objectives specific to each child’s unique needs. Goals may be broad, such as “John will increase his verbal communication and comprehension,” or specific, such as “This student will learn to interact more with her peers at recess and lunch.” Educational objectives are tailored to a child’s individual needs and based on the long-term goal. They describe the process by which the child may reach the goal and how a child’s progress will be monitored.
GOAL: “Krista will increase her verbal responses to questions during the course of the year.”
OBJECTIVE: “Krista will increase her verbal responses by receiving speech therapy from a licensed speech pathologist at least four times a week, in a one-on-one situation, in the resource room.
The sessions will last at least 30 minutes. Krista will verbally answer questions with 85 percent accuracy, after receiving both verbal and visual cues. The speech pathologist will send weekly reports, based on record keeping, to Krista’s parents as well as her homeroom teacher. This therapy shall begin September 1st and continue until June 3rd, excluding pre-determined school holidays.”
The above objective specifically states:
- The service to be provided (speech therapy),
- The professional who will be providing that service (a licensed speech pathologist),
- The setting in which the service will be provided (resource room),
- How often the service will be provided (four times a week), and
- The length of the service (30 minutes/session from September 1st through June 3rd).
The evaluation component of the objective addresses the question “How will we know whether Krista is making progress?” In this case, the speech pathologist will determine whether Krista is meeting the goal of 85 percent accuracy and send reports to her homeroom teacher and family each week. Other evaluation methods include test-taking, videotaping, peer reports, daily logs, checklists, computer printouts, and worksheets.
The above information is only one example of an objective to meet the goal of increasing verbal responses. Goals can have more than one objective. Parents may wish to review with school staff the curriculum and methods used for their child’s education. This information can be used as a springboard for discussion among IEP team members.
What if you and the school don’t agree?
Within the law, there are specific procedural safeguards to protect your child’s rights. If you and the school disagree on the placement, educational program or other areas surrounding your child’s education, you may want to utilize one or more of the following approaches:
- Discussion or conference with school staff. Staff may include the teachers, counselors or principal.
- An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) review. You may request an IEP review at any time.
- Negotiation or mediation. Mediation is a voluntary process as described in IDEIA in which a neutral third person (mediator) assists parties (parents and the school) to work together to resolve their dispute. All states must have a mediation process that meets the requirements of IDEIA, including maintaining a list of qualified mediators and bearing the cost of the mediation process. Neither party is required to use mediation. The mediator cannot force either party to accept a resolution to the dispute. If a mutually satisfactory agreement is reached on some or all of the issues, a written agreement is set forth. Discussions that occur in mediation are confidential and may not be used as evidence in subsequent proceedings. Mediation must be available as a dispute resolution option, but may not be used to deny or delay the parental right to a due process hearing.
- Due process hearing. You may request a due process hearing if you do not agree with your child’s identification, evaluation, or educational placement. This is a legal proceeding, and you should obtain legal advice.
- Complaint resolution procedures. Any individual or organization may file a complaint alleging that the local educational agency has violated a requirement of IDEIA. The complaint must be written and signed, and must cite the specific IDEIA requirement that was violated and the facts upon which the allegation is made. The state educational agency must resolve the issues of the complaint within 60 calendar days after it is filed.
AFTER THE IEP IS COMPLETED
Once the IEP is completed, ongoing communication between school and parents is essential to a child’s success. The family and school need to work together for the child to receive maximum benefit. The IEP is a working document that can change. It should represent a program flexible enough to respond to the changing needs and skills of the person with autism. The IEP team can meet to discuss changes or additions to a child’s plan at any time. The child’s parents or school representatives may request a meeting when either party feels the IEP needs to be adjusted to a child’s current needs.