Help! My Child isn't Getting What They Need From Their IEP!
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!
The IEP Process and What to Expect
The IEP Process can be confusing and overwhelming, especially considering stay at home orders, virtual meetings, hybrid attendance and various school requirements such as MTSS or RTI. Here is a quick guide to help you process the initial first steps.
Formal Request for Evaluation: If you notice your child is struggling at school, be it academically or socially, your first step is to request an evaluation in writing. A good place to start with this letter can be found on the Center for Parent Information and Resources website. If the school expresses concern to the parent first, the school should conduct something called a “Child Study”. The name varies state by state, but the purpose is to avoid over-identification for Special Education services. The team will collect and analyze data on the child and determine if they think it’s in the best interest of the child to move forward with an evaluation.
You have the right to deny the request for evaluation from the school.
You have the right to submit any and all important pieces of data, such as a medical diagnosis, therapy notes, pieces of evidence from home such as handwriting samples, etc.
The school can not deny a parent’s formal request for evaluation (must be in writing).
Evaluation: An evaluation is performed by the School Psychiatrist. This evaluation can include speech therapy, occupational therapy, and/or physical therapy evaluations, cognitive testing (such as an IQ test) and academic testing (such as the Woodcock Johnson). Academic assessments may be given by another professional such as a Special Education teacher. It’s important to note that often parents will receive a diagnosis from their primary care provider, such as autism, ADHD, depression/anxiety or other medical needs. This medical diagnosis is separate from an educational evaluation. A diagnosis from a doctor DOES NOT automatically qualify a child for Special Education services, but it is a great starting point and should be included in the formal request for evaluation.
You have the right to review the evaluation once it is complete, ahead of the evaluation meeting.
You have the right to request specific evaluations.
You have the right to submit any relevant data.
Eligibility Determination: Once the evaluations are complete (this time table varies state to state, but usually is an average of 30-60 days after the request has been). The school will send the family a copy of the evaluation prior to the meeting. This is usually sent the day before. Schools do this to avoid any confrontation with parents prior to the meeting so the meeting can serve as a formal explanation of the evaluation. The School Psychiatrist will make recommendations on the report and will make a recommendation for eligibility, including a disability classification. Once the student is determined eligible, the team will move on to writing the IEP.
You have the right to disagree with the evaluation.
You have the right to request additional assessments.
You have the right to get an outside evaluation done by a Psychiatrist (this will most likely be done at the parent’s expense and may not be reimbursed by the school or by insurance). Here are some resources to get a low-cost evaluation completed.
You have the right to schedule a second meeting after you’ve had enough time to digest the information presented at the meeting and in the report.
IEP Meeting: Once eligibility has been determined, the Special Education teacher will begin to write the IEP. An IEP meeting will be scheduled (this usually takes about 30 days) and the entire team will be invited to attend the meeting. It’s important that you try to keep your schedule open and be communicative about what days and times are best for you. You can also have this meeting by phone or be present via video if your schedule does not allow an in person meeting. The school is legally allowed to move forward without the parent present if they have attempted to schedule at least 3 times with no response from the parent. The IEP is a legal document containing between 30 and 50 pages of IEP goals, accommodations, service hours and other important academic information. While the meeting may seem like a presentation of what has already been decided, remember the IEP is simply a proposed solution.
You have the right to say no to anything proposed in the IEP. You also have the right to ask for whatever you think your child might need to be successful. (Keep in mind that the school also has the right to deny your request).
You have the right to ask for accommodations you think your child might need to be successful.
You have the right to question IEP goals (they will be lengthy and can be confusing. Ask them to explain the goals in plain language and give examples of what your child will be working on in order to meet these goals).
You have the right to ask for specialized instruction in any subject.
The entire IEP process can take several months, but it’s important that you start the process as soon as you notice your child is struggling. The school may say they want to wait to see if your child is able to increase their performance on their own, but you always have the right to say you want to start the process immediately. Make sure you put all of your requests in writing and you keep a dated copy for your records.
IEP&Me is here to help you! If you have any questions or concerns. Please reach out to [email protected] if you want to chat!
How to Communicate Effectively with Your Child's Teacher
Communication is key! In order to ensure your child does not miss out on any important services, it’s important to keep your child’s teachers in the loop, but how do you balance between over and under communicating? Here are some tips to help you navigate.
When it comes to the IEP, always document! Keep a communication log and document communication you send and receive from the school. There are a few ways you can do this, depending on your comfort level.
Create an automatic filter and category within your email. HERE is a link detailing how to do this for Gmail. This will force any email with keywords you’ve pre-determined to automatically be categorized under a special category. For example, you can create a category called IEP and then create filter words such as IEP, your child’s name, the school name, etc. You can also automatically send any emails from a certain person to this category. (You can always remove them later if they do not pertain.)
Keep a paper log and document any phone calls you have with the school or teachers. Be sure to include the date, time and the key details from the conversation. Follow up with an email stating what you understood from the phone call, this way it will always be in writing.
Use IEP&Me’s contact log! Sign up to join the waiting list HERE. We are launching soon!
Start communication early, and continue it often. Introduce yourself to your child’s teacher in the beginning of the school year. You can even request a meeting with them. Share your child’s strengths and areas of growth, what types of accommodations are helpful, how to de-escalate them and when you are available for communication.
Provide your phone number and email on an index card and encourage them to put your number in their phone as “John’s Parent” or “Emily’s Mom”.
Ask them what type of communication they prefer, email, phone or text. Let them know what types of updates you’d like and ask them if this is possible. Follow up by sending the same amount of updates. For example, if you’re request a Friday email to let you know how things went and what to expect in the next week, you can email them on Thursday's letting them know what your child enjoyed that week and that they’re looking forward to next week’s lessons. Keep in mind that as students move up in grades, teachers are responsible for more and more students - so don’t expect something that the teacher couldn’t realistically do for every student.
Partner with the Teacher. Your child’s teacher wants your child to succeed, but not every teacher has been trained in everything. Offer resources like articles or trainings, blogs, books, etc. Keep things positive by reminding them what does work for your child. If things aren’t working or your child is not doing well in school, ask what they teacher has tried and then offer suggestions for what else they can try. Think outside the box.
Encourage Self-Advocacy from your Child. Explain your child’s disability to them and ask them what types of things help them when they are in school. Take note of what helps them at home and encourage them to ask their teacher for the same accommodations. Ask them specific questions about their day to avoid the typical one word answers.
What other tips do you have to increase effective communicating between parents and teachers? Let us know in the comments below!
The 30 Day IEP
Teachers, the time is here! Those 30 day IEPs can get really overwhelming, especially when you are in those crucial changing grades like 3rd, 6th and 9th. Follow this guide to help you get through this trying time.
Steps to a Successful 30-Day IEP Season:
Review that IEP! Check out the goals, present levels and accommodations. Think about what you might already know about the student, then plan to interview them about their experiences.
Interview the student. Ask them what they already know about having an IEP. Ask them questions about their experiences in the grade before. Review their goals and accommodations with them and ask them if there is anything they would like to change. For students under grade 5, it’s suggested you reach out to parents before engaging in this interview to determine their level of comfort with this.
Review the Present Levels in depth. See if there are any assessment results you can review. There may be beginning of the year assessments that have been given by teachers within in the first 30 days. Compare those results to determine if anything needs to be changed, added or deleted.
Gather information from the current teachers. Ask them if there is anything additional they’d like to see the student accomplish or work on. Review the accommodations with them to be sure they understand what is needed on their part to help the student be successful and ask them what types of behaviors or academic trends they’ve seen from the student. Ask them if any additional accommodations need to be added to the student’s IEP.
Reach out to the parents. Introduce yourself as their child’s new Special Education teacher and ask them if they have any feedback about the current IEP. If you have changes you’d like to make, discuss them with the parent first and get their thoughts on the matter. Share the data you collected during your interview with the student.
Draft the changes to the IEP (or accept it as is). Reach out to the parents again and send the draft IEP. Decide when to hold the meeting and be sure to invite the parents and student to the meeting.
Breathe! This is a challenging time in the school year. You are just getting to know your students and need to determine if the IEP they came to you with is appropriate for this school year. It’s important to put things into perspective.
Take time for yourself. Do something for yourself each day you find yourself buried in paperwork. Make a home cooked meal, grab a smoothie, get a manicure, buy something small. Reward yourself for this hard work, but remain in budget!
Take time to spend time with your students - away from the paperwork. You became a teacher to spend time with your students, so make sure you do that! it heals the soul and is a powerful way to build relationships with your students.
Reach out to IEP&Me if you have specific questions or would like help with your IEPs! We are always happy to be a resource. Email [email protected] for help!
SXSW EDU Presentation - IEP&Me Needs Your Vote!
IEP&Me has submitted a proposal to present at SXSW EDU in March 2022. We need your vote to show the panel that student voice is needed in the IEP Process!
We’ve submitted a proposal to help participants Increase Student Voice and Transparency in Special Education. Learn more about our session by clicking here.
Participants will be able to understand the IEP document and use it as a foundation for conversations with students & families.
Participants will learn strategies to provide, or advocate for, ways for the whole IEP team to have easy access to student accommodations & goals.
Participants will understand the purpose of student-led IEP meetings and know how to differentiate implementation by age & ability levels.
How to Vote
Click this link. Create an account and then vote “up” our session! Share this link on your social media page and ask your friends and family to vote as well! VOTING ENDS AUGUST 26TH!