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THERE IS NO QUICK FIX TO IEP PLANNING

OMg,! IEPs! It’s happened yet again. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but every time I see it, I think I should write about this—at least it might make me feel better. Catharsis. Let’s see if it works.

What is it I see? Here are some examples. Wait, these are real postings:

“Please help, I have an IEP meeting tomorrow and I don’t know what to do.”
“I have an IEP meeting next week, and it’s about her transition plan. What should I know?”
“I’ve had the test results for two weeks now and a meeting on Friday (today is Wednesday), can someone review this for me?”
“Does anyone know of a law that says parents can request that accommodations be implemented before the IEP is signed or while the IEP is still being developed? I am in the middle of this now and could use your help ASAP.”

And my all-time favorite:

“My first IEP meeting is this afternoon. What should I do to prepare? The school doesn’t think he needs speech services and I know he does.”

Okay you might be laughing out loud, or quietly and embarrassingly snickering because you have done the same thing. Yup, waiting until the last minute before seeking help. And I know you have seen these and similar  postings.

And then, OMg (yup another omg) the replies will range from:

“Well, I don’t know, but… “
“They (meaning school staff) obviously don’t care.”
“In my state we have a law that says…
“You should go to XYZ website, they hate schools, too.”

Clearly, none of these are helpful. But to be honest, once in a while the right suggestions will be made, but it requires a bit of work on the part of the posting parent. And you know what? The right ones are usually ignored, while the angry postings will generate more anger, none of which are beneficial to the parent who posted a sincere question—even though it was too late.

So, what is this blog about? It’s about the horrible deeply panicked feeling of “I’m desperate for help and I need a quick fix-NOW!” Look, we have all experienced this on a number of occasions—what is the best substitute for shortening for baking to should I use a 15 or 20-amp circuit breaker. But we are talking about our children and the fact that our children will typically spend 13 years in an educational system of some sort. Who wants to have an APA at the IEP annual review meeting? (Oh, APA means annual panic attack.

The very best way to approach this is to be prepared well in advance of an IEP meeting, or any school meeting involving your child and their special educational needs and services. Prepared with what, you might ask? Well, you need to know:

• The laws and regulations of IDEA, Section 504 and your particular state—not memorized, of course, but, at least, how to locate and understand and then apply the regulations at your school’s meetings.
• How to review test results so that you understand them sufficiently to know what questions to ask
• What PLAAFPs, well written ones, should look like.
• How to write goals and ones that directly reflect the PLAAFPs
• What accommodations might be appropriate to meet your child’s needs as stated in the goals
• Whether RtI is appropriate, necessary and/or how to reduce time spent on RtI to obtain an evaluation.
• How to have an IEE assessment report that is formatted to actually be helpful to the school to understand your child’s needs, and
• To avoid receiving one that only adds confusion although it is technically correct, it is too poorly written for use by school staff.
• How you can lead an IEP meeting, but in a collaborative manner, that will ensure your child’s needs are met—no negotiating, no mediating, less stressful and more productive.

To begin readying the day or few days before the meeting does not prepare you for the entire IEP process. The IEP, depending on your state, has over 30 decision points to be made as a team. And, like dominoes, if you remove one domino in a trail of many, the loss of that one will impact the next.

Quick fixes are just that, they might work in the short term, but are not a long term repair. Learning the laws and how to apply them during IEP development and how to lead an IEP meeting will serve you for years, not, just for a moment or two

Why not share what you do to prepare for an IEP meeting? And if you are an advocate, how do you help parents prepare for IEP meetings. Just drop your ideas in the comments section.

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