It is important for parents of deaf and other special needs children to understand what an Individual Education Plan is and how to ensure your child’s education needs are being met in his or her IEP.
In this article, I will discuss:
What is an IEP
Give tips for having an effective IEP that meets your child’s educational needs
An IEP is a document that details the special needs services for special needs students. The IEP includes any modifications that are required in the classroom and any additional special programs or services. In the USA an IEP is mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004). The IEP will address your child’s educational needs, and contain specific, measurable short term and annual goals for each of those needs.
This written statement is developed by your child’s teachers, and is reviewed and agreed to by your child’s special needs education funding organization and you, the parents. The IEP describes the goals the team sets for your child during the school year, as well as any special support needed to help your child achieve his or her educational goals.
In our case with our deaf son, Larry, we lived in Marlboro, MA and Larry attended school at The Learning Center for Deaf Children in Framingham, MA. The town of Marlboro funded the cost of his education. So we dealt with the special needs education supervisor in Marlboro and Larry’s teachers in Framingham.
The IEP meeting is usually attended by the child’s classroom teacher, the child’s department supervisor, the funding special needs education supervisor and the parents.
The IEP document can be very daunting lots of pages with a lot of official sounding documentation.
Here are tips based on our experience on ensuring your child has an effective IEP that meets his or her educational needs:
Tip#1: You as parents need to be proactive and take an active role in developing the goals for your child’s IEP. You need to have regular interactions with your child’s teachers and school supervisors to understand what your child is being taught, how your child is progressing and what your child will be taught next. This will help you in 2 ways: firstly you will be able to understand what is being stated in your child’s IEP and you can make sure which educational needs will receive the most attention. Secondly your child’s teacher will realize that you are interested in your child’s education and they will make extra efforts on behalf of your child. I firmly believe that it is always good to set high expectations for the people working with your child.
Tip#2: Usually your child’s special needs education funding organization will have meetings a few times a year to discuss their plans etc. Attend as many of these meetings as possible and develop a relationship with the supervisor for your child’s special needs education. This relationship will allow you to discuss and make requests suited to your child’s educational requirements.
Tip#3: We requested a copy of Larry’s IEP 2 days before the IEP meeting so my wife and I could review the IEP. Your child’s teacher is usually very busy developing IEPs so you need to give the teacher early notice that you need the IEP for review. Having a relationship with your child’s teacher and the funding special education supervisor will really help here because you will already know what level of education your child is at and what is the next level of education and services to be addressed in the IEP.
Tip#4: You need to remember that you as parents can bring with you to the IEP meeting others involved with your child that you feel are important for the IEP team to hear, such as, your child’s psychologist or tutor. I would recommend keeping surprises for the IEP team to a minimum and again your working relationship with your child’s education team should help you resolve issues and have agreements on your child’s educational needs before the IEP meeting.
Tip#5: Parents should remember that IEPs can be updated any time during the year. For Larry, he was very good at mathematics and we had the IEP amended during the school year to provide Mathematics tutoring during the summer for the next level of Mathematics. Since we had a good relationship with our town’s special needs education supervisor, this was easily done and Larry had his Mathematics teacher as a tutor during the summer.