Events, features and things to do for families in New Hampshire
By Elizabeth Feingold
In my last column, I discussed how parents can prepare for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting. This month, I’ll discuss what to look for in the IEP documents and what parents need to know before signing them.
The first thing you should be asked to do is sign in as a team member. All members at the meeting need to do this, including your child and any other family members. If someone is not present, you will be asked to review and sign an excusal form, which asks you if the team meeting can proceed without the presence of that particular member.
You’ll also be asked if you would like a copy of The New Hampshire Procedural Safeguards Handbook for Special Education (i.e., parental rights.) The answer to that question is yes. An abridged version of the rights are usually given out at IEP meetings, but you have the right – at any time – to request the comprehensive version of the rights.
At either the start or end of the meeting, the case manager should review the continuum of services with you. If you agree this has been thoroughly explained to you, you will be asked to initial this on the sign in sheet as well. This is a very important part of the meeting – it’s when the team must explain the spectrum of services afforded to your child, and the least restrictive environment in which your child’s needs can best be met.
Each team member should thoroughly review each goal that she/he has developed for your child. Always check to make sure the goals are measurable, clear, and something that can be accomplished, with support, guidance and direct instruction. The goals should include short-term objectives and/or benchmarks.
I can’t state this strongly enough: The goals must be measurable. If they are too broad, vague or unwieldy, ask for them to be clarified and revised during the meeting. Also check to make sure there are regularly scheduled times (usually when the school’s progress reports and report cards are given out) when you will receive written updates on your child’s progress toward meeting his/her IEP objectives, benchmarks and goals.
According to the law, this must be clearly stated, and the team must adhere to this guideline.
Among the other forms you may be asked to sign at the meeting is one seeking consent for outside agencies to attend, which means you would like agencies such as Community Bridges or Vocational Rehabilitation to participate. Another common form is one that releases information between school and other agencies or personnel (e.g., your child’s physician, therapist and/or outside provider.)
Once the IEP draft has been thoroughly reviewed, you will be asked if you would like to sign your agreement with the plan; in my district, we call this the IEP Assurance page. You also will be asked to sign your agreement with your child’s placement. These should be separate documents.
The assurance page not only allows you to indicate whether you are in agreement with the IEP, you can also sign “with exceptions,” which means there are some things you would like changed in the document that have not fully been addressed at the meeting. You also may sign to indicate you disagree with the document.
By law, you have 14 days to review and sign the documents, which mean you can also have the paperwork finalized and sent home for your final review.
The Placement Page should delineate where your child’s services will take place. This is a very important page to review. If you do not understand what has been outlined on this page, make sure you ask for clarification prior to signing.
At IEP meetings, I always tell family members and students that the document is “a living, breathing one,” and that it is always subject to change. If something isn’t working, then it’s important for the team to reconvene to hold an IEP review meeting. If something was mastered – great, then the team should meet to figure out what should next be accomplished.
Remember, being armed with as much information as possible will help to ensure your family and your child’s educational team are working together to create a dynamic and successful educational plan for this school year.
As you can see, the process is very complicated, and there are some details I haven’t discussed here. If you have any questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elizabeth Feingold is special services coordinator at Kearsarge Regional High School in North Sutton. She’s been a special education teacher since 1984. You can reach her at email@example.com.