An IEP Review for Special Education
If your child qualifies for free help in the special education program under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), he will have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). This written document spells out the specific services to which he is entitled in school. The IEP team is required to review the IEP annually to determine if it still suits his needs. If it does not, the document will be modified. However, if you believe that your child’s IEP no longer suits his needs prior to the annual meeting, you can request an IEP meeting at any time. It’s a good idea to periodically look over the IEP to refresh your memory and decide if a change is in order. Mark your calendar every few months to remind you to review the IEP. The back-to-school season is one good time to do it.
Why Request an IEP Meeting?
When you periodically review your child’s IEP, check with his speech-language pathologist (SLP) and ask about his progress toward meeting his goals. Inadequate progress toward the IEP goals is one reason for requesting an IEP review meeting. You might bring up your child’s inadequate progress as a reason for requesting additional speech therapy sessions. On the other hand, if your child has met one or more of his IEP goals, an IEP meeting can establish new goals. A major change in your child’s life, such as a new diagnosis, can also necessitate a review meeting. Your child’s needs are continually evolving.
How to Request a Meeting
Procedures may vary from state to state; check your state’s special education law. In general, however, always send a written request to the principal and/or other representative at your child’s school. In your letter, state that you are formally requesting an IEP review meeting in accordance with special education regulations. Include your full name and contact information, as well as your child’s full name. Sample letters can be found here. Always keep a copy of your letter for your records, and mail it return receipt requested.
Preparing for the Meeting
To prepare for the meeting, read your child’s IEP again, review his school records, and review samples of his classwork. Review the procedural safeguards. Make a note of anything that would support your case for requesting additional services or otherwise modifying the IEP. As well, talk to his teachers, his speech therapist, and any other professional who works with him. If possible, obtain written notes from them regarding your child’s progress and his needs.
After organizing all of your notes, write a list of all new or modified services that you would like to include in the IEP. Write some new IEP goals. Write a list of any questions you have for the IEP team.
What to Expect
You can expect the IEP review meeting to follow a format that is similar to the other IEP meetings you’ve attended. However, you and the IEP team will likely focus the discussion on your child’s progress toward meeting his goals. Don’t hesitate to take charge of the conversation; it’s about your child, after all. If the IEP team feels that he is making adequate progress and you do not share their views, say so and point out any evidence that supports your view. However, try to keep the conversation civil and positive. Collaboration is usually in the best interests of your child.
Discuss your proposed changes to the IEP and make a compelling argument for why they are necessary. Discuss any new goals you would like to see added to the IEP. Expect the IEP team to have a few suggestions for changes.
What If You Don’t Agree with the Team’s Proposals?
If you don’t agree with the IEP team’s proposals and they don’t agree with yours, try to brainstorm other options. Consider a compromise, so long as it is still in your child’s best interests. If nothing works, ask to continue the meeting at another date. This will allow you to gather additional evidence to support your argument. You might also request an independent evaluation of your child’s current speech therapy needs. If negotiations are still unsuccessful, consider requesting mediation or a due process hearing.