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When IEP's Fail

Now that your child is on an IEP you can breathe a sigh of relief, right? Not necessarily. This is a big step, however your childís Individual Education Program won't work if it is not properly implemented.

In order to prevent your IEP from failing, you first need to understand why it is that they fall short.

One factor is that teacherís do not always understand them. The school districts take the time and resources to test your child and develop an IEP, but do not give the teachers the proper training to understand and implement them. These are important documents with legal ramifications yet the people primarily in charge of making it happen are often left in the dark. Sometimes, IEPís are as foreign to the teachers as they are to you.

Another reason is that they are open to interpretation. These are typically written on standardized forms with similar terms, but if you ask two teachers what a specific modification means, you will often get two very different answers.

Take the term ďpreferential seatingĒ, for example. This is a common term used on many IEPís. What does it mean? One teacher told me that as far as they knew, it could mean, ďlet them sit where they preferĒ. Based on that interpretation, what was once a well intended modification is now pointless and can do nothing to improve your childís success.

And finally, another harsh reality is that some teacherís just do not like IEPís. Maybe because they have spent too many years trying to implement something that they were never properly trained for, followed by the inevitable attacks by frustrated parents where they are always first in the line of fire. As a result, some seem to have decided that these are pointless packets of useless information that do not work, which is exactly what your childísí will become unless you take some precautions to prevent it:

∑ Set up an IEP meeting within the first week of school and send a
written request that all of your studentís teachers be in attendance.

Schools hold these IEP meetings to develop a meaningful plan involving parentís, counselors, and at least one representative from the special education department and usually another to take notes. They often bring in an examiner to the initial placement meeting and possibly some administrators as well. However, I canít tell you how many of these meetings I have been to with no teacher. For the initial meeting of the school year, request that they all be present.

∑ Go over the modifications one at a time.

Ask specifically how each one will be implemented. For example if the IEP lists extended time for tests, find out how much extended time? How will the extra time be issued if it is needed? Will the child be removed from the class in order to achieve that and if so, when? Will it be during some other instruction, gym class or recess? These are all important factors that can impact the success or failure of an IEP.

∑ Go over the goals and benchmarks.

All IEPís contain measurable goals that are specific to your child. These are intended to track your childís progress, or lack of. Make sure everyone understands and agrees how these goals will be assessed and reported. If at some point you feel that the IEP is failing, you will want these to be computable measurementís that give a true reflection of your childís progress that cannot be influenced by someone elseís interpretation.

Do not dismiss your concerns based on the assumption that they know how and you do not. If you do not fully understand the purpose or meaning of any part of the IEP, ask. Remember, if you do not understand, chances are that someone else in that room doesnít either. If they donít understand it, they cannot implement it in a way that is meaningful for your childís success.

For more information on IEP and IEP issues, I highly recommend The Complete IEP Guide: How to Advocate For Your Special Ed Child . This is one of my favorite tool's that I use regularly as a parent of a Special Ed child.

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