Staying on top of your child’s IEP

By Rana Waxman

Expert reviewed by Kate García, MEd

Updated August 18, 2023

Your role in the IEP process doesn’t end when your child has a plan for special education services in place. In fact, the actual work of the IEP is only starting. Here are six ways to stay on top of your child’s IEP and make sure your child is getting the needed support.

1. Stay involved and aware.

Managing the IEP is a team effort. To stay on top of your child’s plan, you’ll want to work with the school and your child’s teacher. When you’re more involved, it’s easier to make sure your child’s supports and services are working.

Make sure the teachers are aware of all aspects of your child’s IEP. And that the IEP is being used in the proper way.

For instance, the goals outlined in the IEP will be how your child’s progress is measured. Knowing what these goals are (and making sure they’re SMART) lets you keep an eye on how much your child is improving. Every year, the team will create new goals to meet your child’s changing needs.

At times it may seem like your child’s progress has stalled. You may also notice a slip in grades in one or more areas. You can meet with the IEP team to discuss your concerns and questions. The teacher can also share details about what’s happening in the classroom — so keep up regular contact.

2. Be prepared so you can speak up.

The more you understand about your child’s IEP, the easier it is to oversee it. If you have questions about how the IEP works, write them down. It can help your meetings be more productive. For example:

  • Does the IEP cover extracurricular activities?
  • Will naming your child’s disabilities in the IEP lead to better services and supports?
  • How are IEP goals reinforced during the summer?

There’s a trend in special education that you might also want to talk to the IEP team about. It’s called strengths-based IEPs.

Sometimes a child’s IEP needs to be changed. You may want to bring up an area that isn’t working out.

3. Create an IEP binder.

There’s a lot of paperwork to keep track of when your child has an IEP. To begin with, there’s the plan itself. And there are other documents that you’ll want to keep handy for when you meet with the team, like evaluation results and report cards.

To cut back on stress, create an IEP binder. It’s a great tool for keeping everything organized in one place. Then you won’t have to scramble to find something important during an IEP meeting or any other time you need it.

4. Learn how to deal with IEP disputes.

It’s possible that you’ll disagree with the school about your child’s IEP or specific supports at some point. Issues like cutting or denying services, for instance, can lead to conflict. There are a few ways you can try to resolve disputes.

  • Informal negotiation. This means working directly with the school to come to an agreement.
  • Mediation. This involves an outside professional who helps you and the school settle a dispute.
  • Due process. A formal way to resolve disputes. But it’s only for disagreements that have to do with rights to special education. This process can take a while, and you might need to hire an attorney or advocate. It should only be used as a last resort.

5. Prepare to transition out of an IEP.

There are no IEPs in college or in the workforce. IEPs are part of a special education law (IDEA) that only applies until your child exits high school. Parents and kids may worry about what will happen after that.

But part of having an IEP is preparing for life as a young adult. This formal process of transition planning begins by the time your child is 16. And many schools start it before then.

The process may not remove every worry about the future. But it helps your child chart a path based on interests and strengths. And it creates IEP goals and provides services to help your child get there.

6. Learn to be a strong advocate for your child.

Having an impact on your child’s IEP means being a strong advocate. That doesn’t come naturally to some parents. But there are ways to build those skills and be a voice for your child when necessary.

Learn ways to be an effective advocate for your child at school. You can also connect with experts and other parents to find out how they’ve navigated the process in Understood’s Wunder app.

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