"These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." - John 16:33

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Guest Post: IEP Advice for Parents

It seems IEP season has come and go, but  as the school year has gotten into full swing, many parents discover it may be time to revise their child's IEP.  We homeschool and do not utilize the school system for services, but many homechooling families do.  I am excited to have Sarah Fudin from the University of Southern California's online Masters in Education program as a guest writer to give parents advice during the IEP process.  Please join me in welcoming Sarah!

If your child is among the 13 percent of American students who receive an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), then you are probably familiar with the IEP process and how a student is deemed eligible for services. According to USC Rossier Online’s recent  special education graphic, an IEP is essentially a blueprint for your child’s education, a “detailed description of all special education services a student receives.” While an IEP is meant to provide the most appropriate education for a child’s unique needs, the process of creating an IEP can be confusing and even intimidating for some parents. To help, here are a few tips and pieces of advice on how to prepare for and what to expect at an IEP meeting:

Laura Hutton, a special educator and parent of children with disabilities, gives several key tips. A few weeks before the actual meeting, talk to your child’s case manager and request any copies of test results, assessments and drafts of the IEP, and discuss any concerns or recommendations that will likely be voiced. Make a list of your educational priorities for your child, and be ready to discuss them in order of importance. Also, list any questions that you do not want to forget. Ensure that you have communicated with your child’s teachers and other service providers so that you are knowledgeable of his or her current progress and goals. Sometimes, parents are blindsided at meetings with surprising recommendations or evaluations. This problem can best be eliminated through good communication.

During the Meeting
The Parent Mentor Program suggests that you “personalize your child.” You want every team member, including specialists with limited contact, to view him or her as a unique and special student. You may want to create a short video or even bring a scrapbook. Begin the meeting positively, since positive behavior invites compromise. Remember: Power struggles are rarely effective. Ask questions when you are confused or write them down to ask someone later on if you do not feel comfortable doing so at the time. Bring along an advocate, like a community service provider, parent advocate or family member. While you must sign that you were in attendance during the meeting, do not feel obligated to authorize or agree to anything that you are unsure of. It is your legal right to refuse or to take time for further consideration.

Your Rights
The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) outlines families’ specific rights during the IEP process. Kids Source Online identifies specific rights, such as the right to a free and appropriate education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). The school must notify you if your child is going to be evaluated or have his or her educational placement changed. You have the right to request an evaluation if you believe that your child needs specific services, all at no cost to you. You should be allowed access to your child’s school records, you must be invited to IEP meetings, and you can request an IEP meeting at any time. Should you be unhappy with your child’s placement or services, you can request mediation and a due process hearing if problems persist with the school district.

Home schooling
Many parents home school their children with special needs in order to provide them with the best educational program. Since special education funding primarily comes from the state, you may be entitled to IEP meetings and related services in the home.  Homeschooling a Struggling Learner offers a state-by-state guide on what may or may not be offered. You will want to check with your state and local school district.

Sarah Fudin currently works in community relations for the University of Southern California’s online Masters of Education Program, which provides current and aspiring teachers the opportunity to earn a Special Education Certification.  Outside of work Sarah enjoys running, reading and Pinkberry frozen yogurt

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