Your IEP journey doesn’t end now that your child has a plan for special education services. In fact, the actual work of the IEP is only just starting.
You may wonder how you can stay involved now that services and supports are in place. What’s your role in the process moving forward? What can you do to make sure the IEP is as effective as possible?
Learn about what happens once your child’s IEP is underway. And get ideas for making this ongoing part of the journey easier to manage.
Making sure your child’s IEP is working
Staying on top of your child’s IEP and working with the school can take time and effort. But it’s worth it. The more involved you are, the better able you’ll be to ensure that your child’s supports and services are working.
There may be times when your child’s progress seems to have stalled, or when you’re noticing a slip in grades in one or more areas. If you have any concerns or questions about how things are going, you can meet with the IEP team to discuss it.
It’s also important to keep in regular contact with your child’s teachers about the IEP. They can share information about what’s happening in the classroom. You can make sure they’re aware of all aspects of your child’s IEP, and that the IEP is being used properly.
The goals outlined in the IEP will be the measure of your child’s progress. Knowing what they are allows you to 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.
- Learn how to tell if your child’s IEP goals are “SMART.”
- Download a list of questions to ask when developing IEP goals.
You might also have questions about how your child’s IEP will work. For instance, does it cover extracurricular activities? Will naming your child’s disabilities in the IEP lead to better services and supports? Or how do you reinforce IEP goals during the summer?
There’s also a trend in special education that you might want to talk to the IEP team about. It’s called strengths-based IEPs.
Finally, sometimes a child’s IEP needs a reboot to address something that isn’t working out.
View a collection of resources for overseeing IEPs here.
Organizing your 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.
One way to organize all that information is by creating an IEP binder. This is a great tool for keeping everything in one place. It can also be a stress-reliever. Having all of the documents at your fingertips means you don’t have to scramble to find something important during an IEP meeting or any other time you need it.
Get helpful downloads to keep in your binder. These include a parent-school communication log, an IEP binder checklist, and an IEP goal tracker.
Managing 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. When disputes happen, there a few ways you can try to resolve them.
The first is informal negotiation. This means working directly with the school to come to an agreement. Another option is mediation. This involves an outside professional who helps you and the school settle a dispute.
Due process is 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.
- Download sample letters and scripts for dispute resolution.
- View a checklist for preparing for different types of dispute resolution.
- Learn more about dispute resolution and get tips for handling disputes.
Transition planning, and transitioning out of an IEP
If you worry about what will happen when your child leaves high school and begins the next chapter, you’re not alone. It can be a stressful time for parents — and kids.
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. But part of having an IEP is preparing for life after high school. 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 all of the 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.
- Download sample IEP transition plans and goals so you can help shape your child’s IEP.
- Learn about your rights when your child with an IEP turns 18.
- What types of educational services are there in college? An expert explains.
Both you and your child will play important roles. Participating in the process can help your child build vital self-advocacy skills that will last far beyond high school. (You don’t need to wait for the transition planning years to have your child attend IEP meetings. Being part of the process earlier helps your child start developing self-advocacy skills at a younger age.)
- Read about how one teen became an early self-advocate.
- Get some sentence starters your child can use to self-advocate.
- Find out whether self-advocacy goals can be included in your child’s IEP.
Advocating 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. Learn ways to be an effective advocate for your child at school.
Don’t forget to connect with other parents of kids with IEPs in our secure, online community groups. You can also explore a collection of IEP personal stories.
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About the author
About the author
The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.
Melody Musgrove, EdD served as director of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) in the U.S. Department of Education.