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Special Education and IEP Meetings


Special Education and IEP Meetings

If your child is receiving Special Education, you probably have attended an IEP meeting. As a parent, you are an important member of the IEP team. This article gives advice and tips on how to prepare for, become more comfortable with, and actively participate at your child’s IEP meeting.

What is an IEP meeting?

An IEP meeting is a meeting to discuss your child’s Special Education needs and develop his or her Individualized Education Program (IEP).

Make sure you know why the IEP meeting is being held. IEP meetings can happen for a number of reasons, including a request by you, annual review, reevaluation, or the school district seeking to make a change. If you don’t know or understand the reason for the meeting, you should contact your child’s case manager.

Who will be at the IEP meeting?

The IEP team includes you, your child (when appropriate), the case manager, at least one general education teacher and one special education teacher, at least one member of the child study team, a school district representative, and any other people who have knowledge about your child and are selected by you and the school.

If you and the school agree, an IEP team member may be excused. If that IEP team member’s area of teaching or related services is being changed or will be discussed, he or she must give you written input at the time you receive notice of the IEP meeting date. If you think that this team member’s attendance at the meeting is important, do not agree to have the meeting without him or her.

How should I prepare for my child’s IEP meeting?

It is important to go to an IEP meeting prepared. Before the meeting, make sure you review all of your child’s school records, evaluation reports, and current IEP. Think about any concerns you have with how your child is doing in school—this includes his or her grades as well as any behavioral concerns. Think about what your child likes to do at school and what he or she does well. Before the meeting, write down notes that include your concerns, questions, and anything else you want to discuss at the meeting. Make sure to bring your notes to the meeting. Make sure to also bring copies of any documents that you want the IEP team to consider—for example, private evaluations or doctor’s records. Whenever possible, send a copy of these documents to each member of the IEP team before the meeting.

What are my rights at the IEP meeting?

You may bring someone with you to an IEP meeting. Possible people to bring include an attorney, parent advocate, family member, therapist, or anyone else who has knowledge of your child’s educational needs.

You can audiotape record the IEP meeting. You must let the school know before the meeting that you plan to record the meeting.

If you do not speak English or are deaf, you can request an interpreter and the school district must pay for the interpreter’s services.

During the meeting, if you have questions or are confused about anything, do not hesitate to ask for something to be explained, clarified, or repeated. It is important that you understand the information that is being discussed.

Make sure to take notes at the meeting.

What information must be included in an IEP?

Many things are considered when developing an IEP, including your child’s strengths, weaknesses, and needs; your concerns; previous evaluations; results of district/statewide testing; and classroom observations.

IEPs must include a statement of your child’s current levels of academic achievement and functional performance. The IEP must also include measurable annual goals, benchmarks, and short-term objectives that address your child’s needs. This means setting goals and objectives to determine how your child is progressing. For example, a short-term objective might state that your child must be able to multiply up to the four times table within three months and should state how his or her progress will be measured. The IEP must clearly state what, when, how long, how often, and where special education programs and services are to be provided.

The IEP must also clearly state what related services your child will receive and when, how long, how often, and where they are to be provided. Related services are services that will help your child benefit from his or her education. Some examples include counseling, physical therapy, recreation, and transportation. For example, if your child is to receive physical therapy, the IEP should clearly state whether it is individual or group, how often it will be given and for how long, and where it is to take place.

Any assistive technology devices your child is to receive must also be clearly stated. Assistive technology devices are things that might increase, maintain, or improve your child’s ability to function, such as eyeglasses, wheelchairs, and computer programs that help teach children with specific types of disabilities to learn.

Finally, the IEP must discuss Extended School Year (ESY) services. These services help your child to maintain, when school is not in session, the progress he or she has made during the school year. ESY can be in the summer months or other times, such as after school, as appropriate for your child.

Do I have to agree with the IEP?

At the IEP meeting, you will be given a lot of paperwork. It is important to make sure that the written IEP includes everything discussed or agreed to at the meeting. Everything should be clearly stated and detailed in writing in the IEP. Any agreements should be written in the IEP. There should be no oral agreements. If you do not understand something, ask for an explanation. At the end of the meeting, if you do not agree with what is in the IEP, you do not have to sign it.

After the IEP meeting, you will be given a copy of the IEP. School districts cannot start your child’s first IEP without your approval. If it is not your child’s first IEP, the IEP can be started without your approval and the new IEP will go into effect after 15 days unless you file for mediation or due process.

What happens if I don’t go to the IEP meeting?

If you cannot attend the IEP meeting because of the date or time, contact your child’s case manager to ask that it be rescheduled. You may call the case manager, but you should also send a follow-up letter confirming your request to reschedule.

IEP meetings can be held using conference calls or video conferencing, although you should still have an in-person meeting if possible.

If you choose not to attend the IEP meeting, the IEP will be created without you.

Note: This article provides brief information and advice concerning IEP meetings. For additional information on Special Education, see Your Child’s Right to Special Education. For additional information about Special Education and School Discipline, see Special Education and School Discipline. For more information about appeals in Special Education matters, see What to Do When You Disagree With a Special Education Decision.

If you have questions or need further legal advice concerning any of the information in this article or any other matter regarding your child’s schooling, contact LSNJLAWSM, Legal Services of New Jersey’s statewide, toll-free legal hotline, at 1-888-576-5529.