As parents, it can be extremely difficult to see your child struggling in school, or see them not receiving the services agreed upon in their IEP. But what can we do? It’s important to know all of your options.
Step 1: Contact the school in writing
If you notice your child is struggling, receive a report card with low grades, or notice behavior changes in your child, the first step is to reach out to the school. It’s best to do this in writing so you can keep a record. In your communication, include the following:
When you noticed your child struggling and the specific thing you noticed.
If possible, refer back to the IEP and direct the school’s attention to what is not going right.
Ask for a meeting with the IEP team and provide dates and times you are available.
Request a response within 48 hours.
Step 2: Have an IEP meeting
By requesting a meeting with the IEP team, you are requesting a formal meeting to go over the IEP and make any changes to the services, accommodations or goals. During the meeting you can make requests for additional services, or you can question the status of implementation of services perviously agreed upon. Some examples of things you can ask for include:
Additional accommodations (check out our non-exhaustive list of accommodations here).
Additional services such as speech, physical or occupational therapy, or additional service hours as either push in services or pull out services.
Push in services are when a Special Education teacher comes into the general education classroom to offer support, it can also mean the Special Education teacher is providing differentiated material to the students.
Pull out services are 1:1 or small group lessons conducted outside of the general education classroom. Be aware that there are limited hours in the school day so if your child is receiving pull out services, they are most likely missing out on their general education material, so this should only be done if truly needed.
Additional interventions such as reading or math supports, computer programs that provide additional practice or instruction, or after school tutoring or homework help.
Step 3: Have a mediation
A mediation occurs when the family doesn’t agree with the proposed services in the IEP. This includes when you ask for changes to the IEP and what is proposed is not enough. Mediation is a formal meeting between school leaders and the family to discuss the issues in the IEP that are not agreed upon. This is the school’s attempt to reduce litigation, much like you would have a mediation meeting prior to going to civil court to see if you can agree or compromise. It’s not necessary that you have an advocate during this meeting, but it can be extremely helpful, especially if you find yourself getting emotional. Be aware that advocates are not free, and they are the financial responsibility of the family. Additionally, when a parent employs the use of an advocate, the school puts communication restrictions in place and all communication must now go through the advocate, meaning communication between a parent and teacher can become complicated.
Step 4: Due Process
If an agreement can not be reached during mediation (you can have as many mediation meetings as you feel are necessary), then the next step is to move to due process. In order to file a due process complaint, you must provide, in writing, an explanation as to how the school violated IDEA. Check out this detailed article on due process complaints here.
It’s important to recognize that this process can often take many months, even up to a year. During this time, you child is not receiving the services that you want them to receive, thus falling further and further behind. It’s best to try to stay in frequent communication with your child’s IEP team. Just because you aren’t hearing anything from the teachers, doesn’t mean your child is being successful in school. By checking in on a bi-weekly or monthly basis, you can stay ahead of any issues happening in your child’s education. Below are some suggestions for keeping on top of your child’s performance.
Keep a consistent schedule of communication with your child’s IEP team. Email, text or call them every other week to ask how things are going. Additionally, many schools have online grading portals that allow parents to check their child’s performance on a regular basis. Make sure you have access to the grading portal and that you are checking in regularly.
Offer suggestions to the IEP team when you find things at home that are working for your child. For example, if you notice they have trouble focusing in the afternoon after lunch, suggest the school changes your child’s schedule so that the subjects that have the most difficulty with are happening in the morning instead of the afternoon.
Ask for things you can do at home to help your child be successful in school. Many schools have computer based interventions that your child can do at home. Here is a video with some helpful tips.
Ask your child’s IEP team about the upcoming lessons or topics and seek out additional resources such as library books, youtube videos or online resources to help prepare your child’s background knowledge on that topic.
Reach out to IEP&Me by emailing [email protected] if you need help!