What is an IEP?

IEP stands for Individualized Education Program. It is an evaluation, written document, and ongoing process for children with disabilities to ensure they are getting the support they need every school year.

IEPs are developed by a group of professionals at the school. This group becomes the team that works with the parents and the child. The meeting would involve 

  • Looking at how much progress the child has made over the past year
  • How the goals, services, and support should be adjusted for the next year
  • Make sure the IEP provides the right help to meet the child’s present needs 

Although they do take quite a bit of work, attending meetings can help shape the plan and monitor your child’s process.

Here are a few assessment questions that could help parents navigate the IEP process:

  1. Do I have an understanding of what my child is doing throughout his or her school day?
  2. Am I confident that the best techniques are being applied so my child is learning at school every day?
  3. Do I have open and accessible communication with my child’s teacher and or the school?

If “yes” is not the answer to any of these questions, it may be time to look over your child’s IEP or speak with the school.

Problems with IEPs

An IEP is a legal document, and navigating this document can be cumbersome. Parents are in a unique situation with IEPs because they know their child best but must rely on a team of professionals to help create a plan for their child. Together, they must discuss the child’s best options, but sometimes not everyone sees eye to eye. 

Sometimes parents might bring in legal action if things have not been going well. Other times, there is a mix-up in paperwork, and parents experience the pressure of deadlines to get things in order. 

Overall the process can be overwhelming for parents. They are given unfamiliar terms and are asked to sit with a team of professionals and teachers to discuss their child and their academics while still processing their child’s diagnosis. 

With COVID-19, things seem to become more complicated when ensuring children with autism and other disabilities get the support they need.

Navigating IEPs 

The good news is navigating IEPs during COVID-19 does not have to be complicated. With these five simple steps, parents can feel more at ease during these times of uncertainty.

Be Prepared

Being prepared to enter an IEP meeting, whether in person or online, can make all the difference. You will find better results being prepared. To prepare for a meeting:

  • Review your child’s IEP and take notes
  • Write down what you would like to say in the meeting
  • Make sure to write down questions
  • Speak with other members of the IEP team before the meeting 

If IEPs are still confusing, look for other resources to help. Podcasts, online resources, and books are all great when understanding IEPs. 

Focus on Collaboration

While in the meeting, keep your focus on collaboration. If things arise that you disagree with, talk it out and collaborate with the IEP team members. As the parent, you clearly understand your child’s needs as you spend the most time with them. IEP members may only spend small amounts of time with your child, so collaborate on solutions when problems arise.

Ask for Ways to Support

Support is one of the main goals the IEP was created for your child. They will require that support every step of the way from everyone involved in their lives. From their home to the classroom, children with autism and other disabilities need support. This can be from the community, family members, friends and the school. When navigating an IEP, the team should be like a support system for the child and the parent.

Follow Up with Questions After Meetings

After a meeting, it is best to give yourself time to take in all the information and review any notes you took during the session. If things seem unclear or you are just not sure about a line item that came up, follow up with questions.

Getting clarification can help neutralize any conflict or communication issues that may arise. Asking questions will also ensure your child is getting the proper support in the classroom.

Keep Communication Open Always

Communication is critical when it comes to the progress of your child. If something is not understood or something is not working the way it should, that needs to be communicated. Open and free communication with the teachers and school will allow for quick, efficient change.

IEP meetings may have its challenges, especially during these times, but with preparation, collaboration and continuous communication it can be done efficiently and effectively. It is important to keep the end goal in mind as it will help to navigate the best option available for your child. 

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