When you became a mom there are all sorts of things you wish you knew or didn’t think you would need to know. Coming to grips with being a mom of a child with any sort of special need is another feat in itself.
Don’t get me wrong, there are so many positives to having a child with extra needs, but at times it can feel overwhelming. Once your child enters school, there are meetings and paperwork added to the to-do list. One of those tasks includes IEPs and IEP meetings.
If you’re a mom to a school-aged child who has extra or special needs, then you are most likely familiar with the IEP. The IEP, or Individualized Educational Program, is a written document describing the educational program for your child’s specific needs. It helps set goals for your child and puts into writing the support or services he or she needs from the school district.
If your child is in special education then an IEP is required, and there are very specific requirements. It is also mandatory that it’s reviewed every year. While teachers and administrators usually stay on top of this, it’s ultimately up to the parent to ensure it’s done to best suit the child.
To best suit the child. This is important to remember. The IEP may feel daunting for the parent, and even the teacher who is responsible for other children with IEPs. However, it is the child whose education is at stake, and whose goal is to thrive in school and ultimately in life.
Whether you’re new to the IEP or have attended half a dozen meetings, there are points to keep in mind to ensure your child’s IEP is serving him or her in the best way.
How to Ensure Your Child’s IEP Meets Their Needs
Be your child’s number one advocate.
As the parent, you have the ability to speak up for your child. You know your child better than anyone else. This isn’t to say that others don’t have an understanding of your child but the parent has the definitive edge.
You may feel unqualified, especially if you are surrounded by professionals who may have higher educational credentials, but you are not unqualified. Whether you gave birth or adopted your child, you are the number one person in your child’s life. So take that and run with it.
Gather your people.
From your first IEP evaluation to all the meetings afterward, there is a team of people necessary for IEP meetings. Then there are people you can pull in who know about your child. This could be a therapist, early interventionist, family member or simply another advocate who may be more assertive.
Also know that you don’t just talk to your IEP team once a year. It’s important and oftentimes vital to talk with them throughout the year regarding your child’s progression and behaviors.
The IEP is written specifically for your child.
Every child’s IEP looks different depending on their needs and desires. However, the support is meant to be in the least restrictive environment. This means that your child should aim to be in general education class (if possible) while receiving vital support.
Keep in mind that some children may not function best in a general education class but they should still receive the support necessary.
Don’t feel rushed.
When you’re in the meeting and there’s something that needs clarification, it’s okay to stop the talk and ask questions. It’s okay to continue the meeting to another day. At the end of the meeting, attendance is required. It’s okay to simply sign and take the notes home for review. When you leave an IEP meeting there will be a thousand thoughts floating through your head. Always make sure you get a copy of the IEP to review, and if you need to call for another meeting to make changes, that is your right.
If you need help with any technicalities regarding your child’s IEP, Family Connection of SC is a valuable resource. If you have services with other providers such as an early intervention agency, you can reach out to them as well. Remember, you’re not alone. There are people to help you be the best advocate for your child.