IEP Meetings — Another round

In Texas they’re called ARDs.  Everywhere else they’re called IEP Meetings.  They are the meetings about a special education student that lays out the plan for the next 12 months.  These meetings occur at least annually; if you’re lucky (said with much sarcasm), then they occur more often.  Sitting around the table at most IEP Meetings are the general education teacher, the special education teacher, all therapists, at least one administrator, a parent, and a diagnostician.  Sometimes there are even more people at the meeting.

I will just say that no one sitting around the table looks forward to the meeting.  Parents dread it because it is either filled with info about how their child is not measuring up and/ or the parent is having to go into the meeting prepared to fight yet another battle for their child to receive the services he or she deserves.  The teachers and administrators dread it because it interferes with their regular schedule, they have to gather info and data to present at the meeting, and it so oftentimes just seems like a waste of time.  (BTW, I can speak for the teacher / administrator because I was a teacher for years and I am friends with many teachers/ administrators.  But I must also admit that I am speaking in gross stereotypes here, too, so if you don’t fit the mold, then please forgive me.)

We just finished another round of IEP Meetings.  Even though Chloe wasn’t due for her annual ARD until April of this year, we called an ARD the first six weeks of school because things were going so badly for her.  At that time we planned to sit down for another ARD Meeting after November to discuss Chloe’s reevaluations.  Also between ARDs, we’ve had several meetings and staffings to discuss Chloe and her needs and her placement.  So we’ve had more than our fair share of such experiences this year already.  (And, BTW, we will still have to go back to ARD at least one more time this school year as we improve some goals and objectives for her.)

I will not go into detail here today of the ins and outs of our latest meetings.  Suffice it to say that they have been somewhat intense and challenging; all of our ideas were not met with agreement; decisions were made regarding Chloe that will cause many to step beyond their zone of comfort and expertise; but large steps were taken toward what I believe is best for Chloe.  How’s THAT for the nutshell version?  I’m cracking up thinking of the details I’m leaving out. . . .  🙂

But what I wanted to do here today is to list a couple of the biggies that I’ve learned/ gleaned from the last few months — really the last few years.  I know many of you who follow my blog are parents of special education kiddos or are teachers or other personnel who find yourselves sitting in an IEP Meeting.  So here are some thoughts on Inclusion, Special Education Placement, Modified Curriculum, ARD or IEP Meetings, etc.

1.  Did you know that you, as a parent, can take a friend with you to IEP / ARD Meetings?  Yes, you can.  And I encourage you to do so.  I have taken a good friend of mine to the last several meetings.  I recommend that you choose (like I did) a friend who knows your heart and your desires, knows the ins and outs of special ed, is willing to stand up and fight with you if needed, and is familiar with your child and his / her challenges.  My friend spoke up in the meetings at times she didn’t agree or was unsure of what was said.  My friend took notes and pointed things out to me so I wouldn’t overlook things I wanted to address.  My friend met with me for hours before the meetings while we talked and planned about what I wanted to happen in the meeting.  I don’t plan to ever attend another IEP Meeting alone.  Don’t get me wrong, when I attended alone before, I didn’t just sit silently when I should have been speaking up, but there were times when I left from meetings wishing I had spoken up or realizing on the way home that I had forgotten to ask a certain question or something.  By taking a friend, there are 2 people with the list of agenda and 2 people remembering the issues at hand.  If for no other reason, it is just nice to have someone there with you since it sometimes feels like you are way out numbered.  I attended an IEP meeting a couple of years ago — I was alone against nearly 20 people at the table.  The district had called in lots of people to back up what they thought was best, knowing that I was in disagreement.  It can be very intimidating!  I highly recommend taking a buddy.

2.  Did you know that you can take a break in the middle of an IEP / ARD meeting?  I haven’t done this yet, but my friend and I had talked beforehand that if things got emotional or out-of-hand that one of us would call for a break.  You can go to the restroom or just go out into the hall to talk and cool off for a minute.  Then everyone just goes back to the table to finish the meeting.  If your ARD / IEP meetings are usually quick and easy, then a break probably doesn’t make a lot of sense, but for those who are sitting in meetings for 2, 3, and 4 hours, I encourage you to take a break.

3.  In researching laws on Inclusion, I (and my friend who happens to be quite a researcher, too!) found some great stuff.  It is my desire for Chloe to be included in general education classes with non-disabled students as much as possible.  We found some great info on court decisions pertaining to that very thing.  A big one stated that if it benefits a child to be in a general education classroom with non-disabled students, then that is where the child should be placed regardless of whether or not that is the best academic placement for the child.  Did you catch that last part?  Even if the child would be better serviced academically in a special education classroom, if the child benefits in any other ways from being with other non-disabled students, then the child should be placed in general education.  I’m claiming that court case for Chloe, but I also think that it speaks for every disabled child!  So again, an encouragement for you is that if you think your child would benefit from being in the regular ed classroom, then ask for it and push for it.

4.  Did you know that you don’t have to sign the paperwork at the meeting?  You can request a copy of the paperwork to take home with you to review before signing Agree.  The ARD / IEP Committee does NOT have to meet back in order for you to sign it.  You have 5 school days to return to the school and sign the paperwork without the committee having to meet again.  I have done this the last few meetings and plan to always do it.  There is no way to know for sure if everything that’s been decided and everything that’s been said is recorded correctly unless you read it with your very own eyes.  Whether those mistakes are omissions or typos or what . . . do you really want to sign Agree only to find out when you receive the paperwork that something isn’t right?  Be prepared to surprise and frustrate the committee by requesting time to review the paperwork — most committee members have no idea it’s legal.  But stand your ground and take it home and study it.  Once the committee knows it’s permissible and knows that is your habit, then at subsequent meetings they won’t be surprised and all will be fine.

5.  Perhaps the biggest thing I’ve learned from these IEP/ARD meetings is that the professionals at the table are NOT necessarily the experts.  Similar to how I used to be with doctors, at first I was all trusting with the professionals at my children’s school.  After all, they ARE the experts, aren’t they?  What THEY say is best for my child is probably the best, right?  NOT NECESSARILY.  Just as I learned with doctors — they are experts in their field, but they are NOT experts on my child.  I love, love, love doctors, but they DON’T know it all.  Same goes with educational professionals — they have an area of expertise, but my child is MY expertise.  And I have been surprised by the ignorance at many IEP meetings.  Now let me point out the meaning of the word ignorance so that I don’t offend someone.  Ignorance is not stupidity or meanness or refusal to do what is known.  Ignorance is the lack of knowledge or education — meaning they just don’t know.  Many professionals leading the IEP meetings of my children just don’t know the answers and just don’t know the options and just don’t know the law because my child is presenting them with a situation that they have never experienced before.  It is completely new ground for them.  Therefore, it is MY JOB as my children’s #1 advocate to know and understand the law and our options.  I have to be the expert because it is not a given that anyone else at the table will be.  So let me encourage you to do the research!  If you don’t know where to look, then contact someone for help.

Ok.  I’m stopping with that since this post has gotten so long.  Some other day I will continue my thoughts on IEP/ARD meetings, but I don’t want to run you off or bore you.

Let me also point out that the purpose of this post is NOT to bash my children’s teachers, administrators, and therapists; instead, my purpose is to pass on helpful information to other parents who are going through IEP meetings perhaps for the first time.  And for any educational professionals reading, maybe it will be helpful to hear the thoughts of the person across the table.  Let’s learn without being offended.

Feel free to leave me comments about what YOU have learned as you have gone through IEP meetings with your students or your children.

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21 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Regina on January 11, 2011 at 10:10 AM

    I think I can understand your frustration. Chloe has special needs. I know you want the best for her. Ideally, wouldn’t every child have an individualized education plan? I would love for my kids to have a “gathering of minds” to try to figure out how to best meet their educational needs. That has never happened. And it never will. I don’t think we can expect the educational system to meet all of their needs. They are serving such a huge population of diverse individuals. I have come to the conclusion that if I want more for my child that a)I have to provide the enrichment at home b)move them to a private school setting c)hire tutors to provide enrichment. This is necessary despite paying my school taxes which should provide enough. GT kids need special education too, in my eyes. There are very few (if any) accommodations for them. The school district is required to teach my kid but when they couldn’t figure out how to do that adequately we had to make some very costly decisions. This ended up being a way long comment, sorry. But my point is, every parent has to do what they feel is right for their child. Sometimes, the answer is not what you expect. I am so thankful for a God who created my children and knows them and their needs better than I do. I have faith that God will guide each of their paths! Including Chloe’s!!! Praying for you today. Parenting keeps you on your knees, doesn’t it??

    Reply

    • Yes, it keeps us on our knees, for sure. Your comment is more argument for us parents being the expert on our child. As the experts, we do have to do what we think is best for our children. I wish with you that paying school taxes would be the end-all, fix-all solution. And I truly wish all families had the financial option to freely choose from your b) choice and c) choice above. Thanks for your prayers! And for your faith that no matter what happens in the school building, God is guiding our children’s paths. Thanks, Regina!

      Reply

  2. EXCELLENT post Kelly! I might link it to my blog because I couldn’t have said it any better. I’m very proud of you. You inspire me!

    Reply

  3. Yup, great post!
    I learned the hard way about not signing the IEP on the day of the meeting. I NEVER do it anymore and always ask to take home a copy.
    Also, I always make sure every little detail is in the IEP, no matter how small the detail is. I learned this the hard way too!
    I agree with taking a friend too. It can be so hard to talk up and disagree with all 15 people.
    One thing that I have a hard time with is knowing all of the laws. I feel very overwhelmed with this and don’t even know where to start. I think I know the laws, but then they throw something out that I am not aware of and that makes me feel very unprepared. It is like we are playing a game and only they know the rules.
    Thanks for this post and I am glad that you meeting is over, for now!

    Reply

    • Learning the law can seem very intimidating, but there are organizations that break it down into an understandable statement for us parents. I hope you can find an organization to help you organize and understand it all — specific to your state. But for the national stuff (supreme court stuff) I can help you anytime you need it. Just comment on here and I’ll help you locate some info about specific issues. Hang in there, friend!

      Reply

  4. Posted by Tia on January 11, 2011 at 11:07 PM

    Kelly, thanks for putting your parent perspective on this process out there. One thing I would add to your list: spot check with your child and with your school that the accomodations are being implemented and how things are going. We have 23 kids in our program at our school with one sp.ed. teacher and two inclusion aides (one of them being me). That may not seem like a lot of kids, but considering the detail of each child’s accomodations, it’s a lot to keep up with. I have had to review accomodations for kids in the classes on occasion and have brought to attention accomodations not being implemented correctly in the classroom. As your child’s advocate, ask their gen.ed. teacher how they are implementing the classroom accomodations and if they are helping your child or not. Teachers are human, but really do want your child to succeed and prefer an involved parent to an absent parent.

    Reply

  5. This is a great post. I was talking to Ed about Joseph’s ARD on Monday. I said, “that’s a very intimidating meeting. You’ve always been on the other side.”. He said, “It is very intimidating, but you are the boss. They won’t tell you that, but you are.” Interesting.

    Reply

  6. Posted by Renee on January 15, 2011 at 11:02 PM

    If I ever put Ben back in school then I will be more informed. This was great information. I was so intimidated when I went to the meetings. But it seems like his school was so worried about losing their exemplary rating than really helping Ben.

    Reply

  7. Posted by heidi on January 24, 2011 at 11:15 AM

    That post needs to be printed and placed in every ARD meeting room!

    Reply

  8. Posted by CM on January 24, 2011 at 6:11 PM

    Great post, I came across your blog while looking for an answer to my own question. I have been battling my son’s school and ended my last ARD in disagreement. I have another one Friday and received my Notice Response Form. I knew I could bring someone with me but do I have the right to allow everyone they invite to come? I am used to 18-1 but at this last meeting the school brought in district personel (dyslexia department and special education facilitator) which I felt influenced ARD committee answers. At one point, one of them responded to my request but looking at the principal and saying, “You wouldn’t want to do that as an ARD committee, would you?!?” to lead them to say no. I would like everyone but those ppl there.

    Reply

    • Wow. THanks for your comment. I just sent you an email reply . . . but my email has been acting crazy. Please let me know if you don’t receive it. Here is a helpful link for you that a friend of mine sent me:
      http://www.nichcy.org/educatechildren/iep/pages/scheduling.aspx
      It seems that the district (the public agency) can invite whoever they want to invite but they are supposed to inform you beforehand. I can tell you in my case a couple of years ago, they did not let me know that the room would be filled to standing room only (literally) with people they had invited. You can certainly write a letter asking why those certain people were invited and what they are expected to add to the meeting. Also, you can write a letter requesting that they send a written report to be read and considered at the meeting instead of their actually attending. (Always request these letters be added to the special ed permanent file.) But in the end, the district can decide whether they attend or not.
      I am praying that Friday’s meeting will go surprisingly well for you and that you will have wisdom. Let me know if I can research anything else for you . . .
      I would love an update from you after Friday’s meeting.

      Reply

  9. […] IEP Meetings – Another round (ourordinaryday.wordpress.com) […]

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  10. Posted by jane on April 20, 2011 at 1:53 AM

    May a parent request that her child’s general ed teacher not be present at the IEP meeting. This teacher is in dire need of disability sensitivity training, and does not want my son in her class. We are at the end of the school year, and I would prefer to discuss next year, instead of past year. I don’t want her there.
    Please answer asap. IEP meeting scheduled for 5/3/11.

    Reply

    • Hi, Jane. Thanks for your question. I’m so sorry that your son and you have to experience such prejudice! It is maddening! Persevere, Mom, persevere! I am sending you an email answer to this. The short answer is that at least one gen ed teacher of your son has to attend. There are some exceptions . . . and it has to be done in writing prior to the IEP meeting and agreed upon by the school. FYI, my info is coming from IDEA, and here is the pertinent part to this situation. Thanks to my friend Cindi for locating it so quickly! Notice especially the bold sections below:

      IDEA
      § 300.321 IEP Team.
      (a) General. The public agency must ensure that the IEP Team
      for each child with a disability includes—
      (1) The parents of the child;
      2) Not less than one regular education teacher of the child
      (if the child is, or may be, participating in the regular
      education environment);

      (3) Not less than one special education teacher of the child,
      or where appropriate, not less then one special
      education provider of the child;
      (4) A representative of the public agency who—
      (i) Is qualified to provide, or supervise the provision
      of, specially designed instruction to meet the
      unique needs of children with disabilities;
      (ii) Is knowledgeable about the general education
      curriculum; and
      (iii) Is knowledgeable about the availability of
      resources of the public agency.
      (5) An individual who can interpret the instructional
      implications of evaluation results, who may be a
      member of the team described in paragraphs (a)(2) through
      (a)(6) of this section;
      (6) At the discretion of the parent or the agency, other
      individuals who have knowledge or special expertise
      regarding the child, including related services personnel
      as appropriate; and
      (7) Whenever appropriate, the child with a disability.
      (b) Transition services participants.
      (1) In accordance with paragraph (a)(7) of this section, the
      public agency must invite a child with a disability to
      attend the child’s IEP Team meeting if a purpose of the
      meeting will be the consideration of the postsecondary
      goals for the child and the transition services needed to
      assist the child in reaching those goals under §
      300.320(b).
      (2) If the child does not attend the IEP Team meeting, the
      public agency must take other steps to ensure that the
      child’s preferences and interests are considered.
      (3) To the extent appropriate, with the consent of the
      parents or a child who has reached the age of majority,
      in implementing the requirements of paragraph (b)(1) of
      this section, the public agency must invite a
      representative of any participating agency that is likely
      to be responsible for providing or paying for transition
      services.
      (c) Determination of knowledge and special expertise. The
      determination of the knowledge or special expertise of any
      individual described in paragraph (a)(6) of this section must
      be made by the party (parents or public agency) who invited
      the individual to be a member of the IEP Team.
      (d) Designating a public agency representative. A public agency
      may designate a public agency member of the IEP Team to
      also serve as the agency representative, if the criteria in
      paragraph (a)(4) of this section are satisfied.
      (e) IEP Team attendance.
      (1) A member of the IEP Team described in paragraphs
      (a)(2) through (a)(5) of this section is not required to
      attend an IEP Team meeting, in whole or in part, if the
      parent of a child with a disability and the public agency
      agree, in writing, that the attendance of the member is
      not necessary because the member’s area of the
      curriculum or related services is not being modified or
      discussed in the meeting.
      (2) A member of the IEP Team described in paragraph
      (e)(1) of this section may be excused from attending an
      IEP Team meeting, in whole or in part, when the
      meeting involves a modification to or discussion of the
      member’s area of the curriculum or related services, if—
      (i) The parent, in writing, and the public agency
      consent to the excusal; and
      (ii) The member submits, in writing to the parent and
      the IEP Team, input into the development of the IEP prior to the meeting.

      (f) Initial IEP Team meeting for child under Part C. In the case of
      a child who was previously served under Part C of the Act, an
      invitation to the initial IEP Team meeting must, at the request
      of the parent, be sent to the Part C service coordinator or
      other representatives of the Part C system to assist with the
      smooth transition of services.

      Reply

  11. […] the meeting with Paul and me were my two friends.  (Remember I said I will never attend an IEP meeting alone.  No way.)  The four of us arrived at the school in our four separate vehicles about 15 minutes […]

    Reply

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