My Child’s IEP Doesn’t Seem to Be Working. Now What?

By Amanda Morin
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Are you concerned your child’s IEP isn’t working? Are you worried that even though the teacher is following the plan, your child still doesn’t seem to be making the progress you expect? Here are steps you can take if you think your child’s IEP isn’t working.

Define what “not working” means to you.

It’s important to pinpoint what you’re worried about. Maybe your child is still frustrated with or having trouble with his homework. Perhaps you expected things to get easier sooner or that his grades would have improved. Or maybe you haven’t heard anything from the IEP team, and that concerns you.

Track your child’s progress.

Your child’s school should keep you updated on your child’s progress, but you may want to keep track on your own, too. What you see at home may be different from what the school is seeing, and that’s important information.

You can download an IEP goal tracker form to help you stay on top of your child’s IEP goals and the progress he’s making. You can also download a communication log to keep track of your interactions with the school and the IEP team. (These documents are key pieces of an IEP binder. If you don’t have an IEP binder, find out how to make one.)

Consider how long your child’s IEP has been in place.

If your child’s IEP has only been in place for a few weeks, it may be too soon to see progress. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue to keep track of your concerns. It just means it may be too early to have any definitive data to see if your child’s accommodations, services and supports are having a positive impact.

Talk with your child’s teacher or case manager.

Schedule a time to talk with your child’s teacher or IEP case manager or send an email outlining what you’re worried about. They may have some insights and stories about what’s happening in the classroom. Or perhaps they can show you work samples that will put you at ease. They may also be able to provide you with some ways you can support the IEP at home. And your input and unique perspective can help them evaluate whether the plan is working as intended.

Call an IEP meeting.

If after talking to the teacher and case manager, you’re still worried your child’s IEP isn’t working, request an IEP meeting. You can request an IEP meeting at any time by contacting the case manager. The case manager’s contact information should be at the top of the IEP form. (To keep all your school contact information in one place, download this contact list form.) In this case, you can ask for a program review meeting. This means you’re indicating that you have concerns about the plan and want to look at it again.

Bring any notes or work samples you have that support your worries. (Find out what else to bring to an IEP meeting.) At the meeting, talk to the team about what you’re observing and the questions you have. For more ideas, refer to this list of questions to ask before and during an IEP meeting.

Talk about adjusting the accommodations.

When the team meets, review and talk about how your child’s accommodations are working. Sometimes the accommodations that a team decides on don’t work as well in practice as it seemed like they would. And sometimes kids don’t like to use them because it makes them feel different or singled out.

Talk with each teacher about what the accommodations look like in practice in the classroom and if your child is using them. Ask if there are things that aren’t working and if there are suggestions for other accommodations that might work better.

Revisit your child’s goals.

Your child’s IEP is supposed to be standards-based. That means the goals are aligned with the academic standards for your state. But to make sure he’s getting the most out of the IEP, goals should also be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented and Time-bound.

The team should make sure the goals are SMART and being worked on in a way that best supports your child’s learning. Maybe your child needs more of a multisensory approach to learning. Or maybe he hasn’t mastered other skills that he needs to move forward.

About the Author

About the Author

Amanda Morin 

worked as a classroom teacher and as an early intervention specialist for 10 years. She is the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education. Two of her children have learning differences.

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Bob Cunningham, EdM 

serves as executive director of learning development at Understood.

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