Blog Archives

Mid-year IEP check-up time

We are just about at the halfway point in the school year.  Report cards will be coming home soon.  If your child receives special education services you should also get a report on his/her progress on their IEP goals.  This is a great opportunity to think about how things are going and whether or not some changes need to be made.  Ideally, we would all like to have a happy, socially-successful child who is learning and developing at or above the expected rate in all areas.  If that describes your child, you should give a word of thanks to all who have helped make this happen!

However,check-up-bottom not everyone is going to be so fortunate.  If there are things that concern you about your child’s education, there is still time to take actions that could help.

If your child’s grades are lower than you think they should be, try to get to the root of the problem.  Is your child having difficulty learning the material being taught? Is he doing poorly on tests even though he seems to understand the work?  Is she doing fine on tests, but has a low grade average because of zeros for several school assignments that were never completed or turned in?  Has your child missed a lot of instruction because of disciplinary actions that have taken him out of the classroom too many times?

Even if the grades are okay, there may be other reasons to be concerned.  The grades may seem to be inconsistent with what you see when your child is doing home work.  The progress on IEP goals may be moving much slower than expected.  Instructional assessments may show that the gap between your child’s skills and the achievement standard for his grade is getting wider instead of more narrow.  Is your child saying, or showing, that she does not want to go to school?  Are you getting more reports about problem behavior at school?

If you do see any red flags, the first action to take is to try to understand what is working and exactly where there may be some problems.  Talk to your child and your child’s teacher(s).  Ask what you can do at home to help your child be more successful.  Work with the teacher(s), other school staff, and the IEP team as appropriate to come up with solutions to any problems that are identified.  Make adjustments in terms of instruction, materials, strategies, accommodations, services, supports, environment…whatever makes sense for your child at this time.  Keep an eye on things to see if there is improvement or a need to try something else.

Your child is the winner when his educational team is working together toward the same goal!

Placement versus Assignment for students with disabilities

questions-and-answersWhat is the difference between “placement” and “assignment” when it comes to students who have disabilities?  This topic should actually fall under the heading of: Questions parents don’t ask because they don’t know what they don’t know.

“Placement” and “assignment” are often used as though they mean the same thing in conversations about the education of typical students. However, there are some very real differences in how these words are used when talking about students who receive special education services. There are also big differences in how decisions about placement and assignment are made.

Special education placement describes the type and amount of special education and related services a student receives based on their Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP will also describe the location where the services will be delivered. The IEP will state whether the services will be provided within the general education setting, special education setting, or the total school environment. The team of people who create each student’s IEP includes the child’s parent(s), a general education teacher, a special education teacher, and someone who can represent the local education agency (LEA) or school system. The IEP team can include other individuals, depending on what is being discussed or when invited by the parent or school.

Students with disabilities must be educated alongside students who don’t have disabilities as much as possible, as long as their needs can be met. The IEP team has to explain why a student is removed from his non-disabled peers and why they cannot be adequately served in the general education setting, even with the use of supplemental aids and services. The least restrictive environment for each student must be determined based on the unique needs of that particular student and not factors such as age or type of disability.

Some students with disabilities stay in the general education setting all day long, some removed for a short time each day, and other students require a specialized environment for most of their day. There is a wide range, or continuum of alternative educational placements that the IEP team can consider. The amount of time that the student is removed from their non-disabled peers will determine whether their placement on the continuum is described as regular, resource, separate, separate school, residential, home/hospital, etc.  The IEP team, including the parent(s), has full responsibility for deciding special education placement.

Educational assignment refers to administrative decisions that are made by people who have been given certain authority to make them, as well as the guidance of school board or other policies. For example, principals typically have the authority to assign students to specific teachers. In North Carolina, principals also have sole authority over each student’s grade assignment or classification, including promotion and retention decisions.

Most school systems have a written policy that details how students are assigned to particular schools. In addition to a “home” school based on the student’s address, there may be other school options that parents can apply for by following certain steps. There may even be an appeal process if the request to change schools is denied.

If the IEP team has decided that a student’s disability-related needs require a specialized setting at, or beyond, the “separate” level of service, that student will be administratively assigned to the school closest to home where his or her needs can be met. School system administrators can decide where to locate various specialized classrooms, and they can be moved from one school year to the next. In most cases, parents of these children will not have a choice about which school their child will be assigned. Parents also do not have a right to pick and choose their child’s teachers.

If there are special considerations that make the standard administrative process or the resulting decision, not appropriate for your child, find out who has the authority to do something different. That would be the contact point where you should focus your efforts to advocate for your child. Communicate with the decision maker(s) to help them better understand all of the issues involved. If necessary, reach out to the school board members and others who actually create the policies that everyone else has to follow.

The IEP team process gives parents a clear role in making decisions about special education placement decisions, but parents can sometimes influence administrative decisions as well. It is important to be clear about which decisions you are talking about.

 

Look beyond the school building for resources

We often have to remind parents of children who receive special education services that it is the school district as a whole that is responsible for providing a free appropriate public education (FAPE) for their child. They are not limited to the resources within their child’s specific school building. This would seem like a no-brainer, but it is surprising how often that detail is missed when an IEP team or other school staff are trying to address the needs of a student who has a disability.

School staff will sometimes only think about the personnel that is currently assigned to that school when they are considering instructional strategies, adult-to-child support, equipment and assistive technology, behavioral interventions and supports, etc. Sometimes good ideas are dismissed because “we don’t have the resources for that.” Lack of resources is not a legitimate reason to fail to meet a child’s educational needs, but it is also a reality that resources are not unlimited.

One of the qualifications to serve as the LEA Representative on an IEP team, is for that individual to have knowledge of the resources of the entire school district or Local Education Agency (LEA). The LEA Representaive should be able to tell the team about LEA staff with special expertise who can be brought in as consultants who can provide ideas, training or help create a plan of action. Behavior Specialists and Psychologists can lead the functional behavior assessment (FBA) process and help develop positive behavior support plans. Reading specialist can help identify which reading program might be a better fit for a particular student. Specialists can also help staff better understand a particular disability, how it may impact the child in question, and offer research-based interventions and strategies that have been proven to be effective. Many school systems have staff who can conduct assistive technology assessments and help identify devices or equipment that might be appropriate for a specific child. Other specialist have much to contribute as well.  Somebody just needs to invite them in!

There may also be specialized programs offered within a school system that not everyone knows about. In a worst-case example of that, there was child who received only very limited home bound services for months due to his behavior. The school had told the parent that they had tried “everything” before removing the child from the school.  After the parent sought help from the Parent Training and Information Center, an IEP meeting was held with several Exceptional Children’s Department central office staff members present.  It turned out that the school district had three different alternative education programs that could have provided this child with a full-time education in a less restrictive setting. These programs were not considered because the people in the school building were not aware of them.

Many state education agencies also offer consultants who can be called on for help, often at no cost to the school district. There may be centralized funds that can be used to meet a student’s disability-related needs. There may also be clinicians and programs available within the local community that can help either during or outside of school hours.

The bottom line is that school teams should keep looking and asking questions until they find something that will work for the child.  When they have tried everything in the school building tool box without success, they should go out and get more tools. Giving up or settling for anything less than true FAPE is not an option.

Let’s Get Physical (Education)!

In most states physical education is part of the standard school-age curriculum.  In North Carolina, all students in kindergarten through 8th grade have physical education at least once per week, with daily opportunity for other outside activity.  Students who have disabilities are also expected to participate in some form of physical education.

Some students have disabilities that require some accommodations in order for them to successfully participate in a typical physical education (PE) class.  Other students require specially designed physical education, based on the unique needs associated with their disability.  If the student has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) the goals for special physical education (sometimes called “Adapted PE”) will be determined by the IEP team, just like goals for other academic or functional skills.  Needed accommodations for physical education will also be documented on the IEP or Section 504 Accommodation Plan.

While this seems pretty straight-forward, there are a couple of specific situations that were unclear enough that guidance was sought from the U.S. Department of Education.  In both cases, the children involved were at an age or grade where physical education was not an automatic part of the regular education program for students without disabilities.

Most high school students are only required to take one physical education class in order to meet graduation requirements.  The high school may offer additional PE classes as electives, but those classes are not required.  In most public preschool programs the children will usually have the opportunity for play and outdoor activity, but it is not part of a structured physical education program.

Does this mean that school systems do not have to provide physical education services for students who have disabilities in preschool, or after the PE graduation requirement has been met?  As with most things having to do with students who have disabilities, the short answer to that question is, “it depends.”

The U.S. Department of Education issued two letters in 2013 which clearly made the point that, if a student with a disability has an IEP that calls for specially designed physical education as a way to meet their unique needs, the school system must provide that service, either directly or through another public or private program.  The letters further clarify that, in this situation, the right to a free appropriate public education, in conformity with the IEP, would include special physical education regardless of the location where most of the student’s services are delivered.  Even students who participate in a community-based transition program would be entitled to special physical education services if it is listed on their IEP.

Ultimately, the decision about whether a student with a disability requires specially-designed physical education rests with the IEP team.  The IEP team is also responsible for determining the accommodations that will allow a student with a disability to participate successfully in a PE elective course, whether that course is taken out of interest or as a way to maintain an adequate degree of fitness.  The school district’s responsibility is to implement the IEP.  It’s really not that complicated after all.

 

Re-engaging parents in the IEP process

Most of the time I think of parents as my primary audience when writing an Ask ECAC blog post.  This time I would like to “flip the script” and address the educators and other professionals who have a lot of influence on the type of experience parents have as they participate in their child’s education.  First, I’ll share a personal anecdote and then I’ll offer a few ideas that I think might make a positive difference for many parents.

When my son started high school there were several indications that things were not going to go as smoothly as they had with his older sister.  The first clue was his class schedule that had everything wrong except for the PE class.   Apparently the school had made the assumption that, because my son had an IEP, he needed to be placed in the lowest level courses that were available.   There were a couple of bumps after that, but let’s fast forward to October when I received an Invitation to Conference notice about his upcoming IEP annual review meeting.

There was a name on the list of invitees that neither me nor my son recognized.  When I asked his EC case manager who that person was, she responded, “That’s the regular education teacher that we use for IEP meetings.” It was clear that she was not prepared when I suggested that it would be better to invite at least one of the seven regular education teachers that had him in their class.  When I later came to the school for the IEP meeting, the case manager had actually left the school grounds and two of the teachers had to leave before she returned.  She started circulating the signature page of the IEP while we were still on page one.  When she asked why I didn’t sign it and pass it along, I explained that we were not finished developing the IEP.  Her reply, “that’s what we’re doing now,” referring to the fact that she was reading the draft that she had prepared, without so much as a pause that would allow anyone else to offer input, let alone invite us to participate.  When I asked how case managers were assigned, she was eager to get rid of me as a parent who “asked too many questions.”

The new case manager was a teacher that I knew and loved from her previous work with my daughter.  As generally wonderful as she was, I was surprised one day when I came for a scheduled IEP meeting and watched her scramble to find a room and round up the appropriate staff. I didn’t say anything, but she responded to my very expressive face by saying that, “you have to realize that only about 20% of parents come to IEP meetings.” I was shocked to hear this because I know that 99% of parents care about their kids and want what’s best for them. How could it be that so few of them come to high school IEP meetings?!

Admittedly without having conducted peer-reviewed research on the matter, I utilized my 25 years of experience working with parents to come to the conclusion that the poor attendance rate was largely the result of the experiences that the parents had up to that point.  Many of these parents had been trained to believe that their input wasn’t needed or welcome.  They showed up at meetings only to be read to and handed copies of a document that they really did not help create.  When they made suggestions, most of them were shot down for reasons that they did not understand or agree with.  Some of the IEPs have become so repetitive and/or generic that the meeting feels like a mere exercise in compliance.  In some cases, there are parents whose children exhibit behavioral challenges, who have grown weary of hearing about how terrible their child is, or worse, made to feel like people consider them to be a lousy parent.  Who would take time out of their life and make the effort to go the school for that?

If you are reading this, you are probably one of the good guys who try very hard to not do the things that I mentioned.  However, you may know folks who have gotten into some bad habits, or you may be in a position to have a positive influence on staff that are involved with IEP meetings by raising awareness and cultivating good habits using formal (e.g. staff development) and informal (e.g. modeling, peer-mentoring) strategies.  Parents will engage in the IEP process if they feel valued!  Some very obvious “Don’ts” are imbedded in the text above. 

six raised hands joined together

Here are some “Do’s” that should help staff establish and maintain a productive working relationship with parents, based on mutual respect:

  • At the beginning of the school year, initiate communication with parents so that know who you are, what role you play in their child’s education, and how they can reach you.  Clearly express that you want to hear from them if there are questions, concerns or information that they feel you should know regarding their child.
  • When you are planning for an IEP meeting, let parents know what is on the agenda (sometimes the check boxes don’t provide enough information for a parent to really know what to expect).  Ask parents if they have any additional matters that they would like to discuss or people that they want to have invited.
  • Make sure that enough time is allotted for the meeting so that important discussion isn’t curtailed and the meeting doesn’t feel rushed.  Nothing says, “I don’t care” like starting a meeting with, “we only have 20 minutes so let’s move on.”
  • Allow a few minutes for the parent to tell you about their child and what they think makes him special and unique.  It not only helps the parent feel that you truly care about that child, but may also reveal  information that could be useful to the IEP team and others who work with him/her.
  • Send the parent a draft of the IEP proposals in advance of the meeting and invite them to think about any changes or additions that they would like to see.  This gives the parent time to digest what is proposed, get clarification if needed, and come into the meeting with the same information as everyone else.  Remember, information is power, so share it.
  • Pause at the end of each chunk of the IEP, look at the other team members (make eye contact with the parent) and ask if anyone has any comments or suggestions.  At points you can shorten this to a pause,  look around and “Is this okay?”, but you want to set the tone with very deliberate invitations for parent input–not just with the parts of the IEP that require it.
  • Recognize that the parent knows their child best and regard the information that they share as data that has as much value as the data generated by school staff.  If there are important discrepancies between how the parent describes their child’s skills or behavior and what is seen at school, rather than declare that the only thing that matters is what happens at school, try to find an explanation.  This could lead to a better understanding of the child and more effective educational planning.
  • Be open to the parent’s ideas for accommodations, modifications, supports or strategies.  Even if there seem to be some problems with the original suggestion, an earnest discussion about why the parent thought that it was a good idea can lead to another suggestion that the team can reach consensus on.  That would feel so much better than simply being told “No.”

Just as negative experiences can discourage parents from attending IEP meetings, positive experiences can get them back in the game.  The stakes are too high to simply allow parents to sit on the sidelines.  The right coaching and teamwork can lead to the result that everyone wants: the child wins!

Is my child ready for Kindergarten?

https://askecac.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/firstdayofschool.jpgFrom late winter through the end of the school year, many parents of kindergarten-eligible children wrestle with the option of keeping them in preschool for one more year.  The child may have a late birthday that would make them among the youngest in their class.  Many parents assume that boys have a particular challenge with maturity that might make them good candidates to sit out a year and continue their social development before going on to the “big school.”  As always, these are very personal decisions that parents have to make based on their knowledge of their child and a host of other factors.

For parents of children who experience disabilities or significant developmental delays, things are a bit more complicated.  Many of these children already receive special education services as preschoolers.  Even if their child is making progress, many parents  think about what is typically expected in a regular kindergarten class these days and they don’t see their child as being able to meet those expectations.  Some children are also small for their age, can’t communicate well, have poor motor skills or are medically fragile.  The parents may conclude that their child is just not “ready” for kindergarten, and therefore should remain in preschool.  This may sound logical, or make sense on a parent gut level, but there is still more to consider.

1)  The child may not continue to receive the special education services that they now get as a preschooler.  The special education funding that comes from the Federal special education law, IDEA, is connected to the different parts of the law.   In general, a school system cannot use preschool money to serve school-aged children, and they will not be able to draw down funds for a school-aged child unless the child is enrolled in school.  That basically leaves no special education funds available to serve a school-aged child who is not enrolled in school, except for in a couple of specific rare circumstances.  Unless  you have another way to obtain the services that your child needs, you may have to weigh the cost of not having services against the benefit of more time.

2)  Are you just delaying the inevitable, or will this extra year be a game-changer?  Some children may be behind in their development due to challenges that have been reduced in terms of impact.  For example, a child may have had a visual,  hearing, or motor problem that has been corrected or compensated for.  Other children may have experienced medical conditions that limited their ability to interact with the world and do the developmental work of childhood.  For these children, having a year to grow and gain skills under much improved circumstances may make a tremendous difference in their overall functioning.  One could still debate whether planning for two years in kindergarten to allow time to catch up, would be just as, or more beneficial than the extra year in preschool.

3)  All children should be expected to make progress in their development if they are provided with stimulation and proper nutrition.  Many children, however, will probably continue to be functioning well below their typical peers, even after an extra year.  A 5-year-old with a chronic condition, who is functioning at the 3 year-old level, will probably still not be ready for kindergarten a year from now.  He’ll just be a year older.

4) Is kindergarten ready for your child?  That’s the real question.  Don’t think of school as a one-size-fits-all situation that your child has to fit into.  As a child with a disability and an individualized education program (IEP), your child is entitled to a free appropriate public education that meets her unique needs.  You and the rest of the IEP team will decide what that should look like for your child.  Your child can get extra support in the regular education setting, in a special education setting, or a combination of the two.  She can spend time with typically-developing children and still get the special education and related services that she needs.  She can have modifications and accommodations that will allow her to access her education and participate in school activities in a way that makes sense for her.  An individual health plan can be developed to address any special health or medical needs.

Instead ofhttps://i0.wp.com/www.angelamaiers.com/images/2011/08/happy_first_day_of_school_card-p137598077267411672q53o_400.jpg trying to keep  your child out of school until you can make a round peg fit into a square hole, you and your child’s IEP team can design a heart-shaped hole that the child you love can fit into with relative ease.  School doesn’t have to be scary.

Who comes to IEP meetings?

The Individualized Education Program (IEP) that describes special education services and supports for a qualifying student with a disability is created by an IEP Team that is defined by federal law.  The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) lists the core membership of an IEP team as including the parent, a special education teacher, a regular education teacher (at the student’s assigned grade), and a representative of the Local Education Agency (school system).  The student is a required member of the IEP team when their transition to adulthood is being discussed. In addition to this bare-bones requirement, there are others who can or must be invited under varying circumstances.

Whenever evaluation results are being discussed, the IEP team should include individuals who are qualified to interpret those evaluation results and the educational implications of them for the child.  Most parents can read evaluation reports with some degree of understanding, but the IEP team needs input from individuals who are in a position to connect the dots and make sense of the various pieces of information available when an evaluation has been conducted.

When children are aging out of the Infant-Toddler Program and are being considered for eligibility for Preschool services, the Child Service Coordinator or previous service providers can be invited to the IEP meeting.    If you want to have your child’s Service Coordinator or others attend an IEP meeting, invite them directly yourself because the school system may not automatically send them an invitation.

At an annual review when the IEP is being totally re-written (rather than amended), all of the people who are currently providing special education services to the child will normally be invited to the meeting.  Sometimes a related service provider (e.g. speech, occupational or physical therapist) will submit written information and some proposed goals when they are unable to attend an IEP meeting.  If you feel that it is important that specific school system staff members (regular education teachers, clinicians, administrators, classroom assistants, etc.) participate in the IEP team discussion, communicate that to the person who is coordinating the meeting so that they are invited and the meeting scheduled at a time when they can attend.

In addition to the required IEP team members, the school system and the parent each have the right to invite others who they feel can contribute to the IEP process.  Individuals who have particular knowledge of the child or specific expertise can be involved upon request.  For example, grandparents, Sunday School teachers, tutors, behavior specialists, psychologists, individuals who have disability-specific information, or private service providers can become invited members of a child’s IEP team.   These individuals can either attend in person, submit written input, or participate via conference call or another technology-supported means.

When your child’s next IEP meeting is being planned, communicate with the meeting coordinator to make sure the all of the right people are at the table to create an educational program that effectively addresses your child’s unique educational needs.

Re-evaluation in high school?

Our federal special education law, IDEA, requires that a re-evaluation occur every three years for all students who receive special education services.  This does not mean that every child has to go through the full battery of tests and assessments that were done when the child was first evaluated to see if they eligible for special education services.  What it does mean is that the IEP team must have a discussion about whether additional evaluation information is needed to determine:

  • If the student continues to be eligible for special education and related services;
  • Present level of academic achievement and developmental needs;
  • Whether changes need to made to the student’s special education and/or related services.

If some additional assessment information is needed, the IEP team then decides the areas in which the child will be evaluated.  The re-evaluation can include some or all of the initial testing, or may include new areas where there are concerns.  if the parent gives permission, the school will move forward with the evaluations.  The IEP team will meet again to discuss the evaluation results and what they mean for planning the child’s education.

When the re-evaluation meeting happens in high school, the team often decides that no evaluation is needed.  This can cause problems later if the young person tries to access adult services or accommodations with outdated documentation of their disability.  For example, most colleges will only accept evaluations that have been conducted within the last three years.  Some will want the evaluation to be current within one year in order to consider accommodations for a student that has a specific learning disability.  Students who are seeking accommodations on tests like the SAT and ACT also have to provide current documentation of their disability.

Another reason to think about conducting some evaluations in 8th grade or high school is to gather information that could assist with planning for the student’s transition to adulthood.  Students who have an IEP that meets their needs in a typical school situation may need to learn new skills in order to function as independently as possible as an adult.  having current information about the student’s skills and functioning can help the student and IEP team identify appropriate post-secondary goals and the transition services and activities that could help the student reach those goals.  Occupational therapy,  assistive technology, and vocational evaluations may be important for some students as the focus shifts from how the student participates in the classroom to how they can access and function within the larger community.  The evaluation results may impact several parts of the IEP.

Do not allow the re-evaluation meeting to become a compliance exercise.  Have real discussion about how obtaining additional assessment information about that particular student might be truly beneficial.  Also remember that, even if the rest of the IEP team does not feel that new evaluation information is necessary, the school is required to conduct the evaluation if the parent requests it.

Is that a question? Communication tips for parents

Parents generally contact ECAC when things are not going well with their child’s education.  Ineffective communication is often a part of their frustration.  Today we will look at the use of questions versus statements.  The distinction between the two is usually taught in first grade, but as an advocate for your child, it is important to know when it is better to choose one over the other.  This is especially important during parent-teacher conferences or IEP meetings.

Don’t ask a question when you are trying to tell someone something.  I often share the story about a meeting that I had with my son’s 3rd grade teacher after weeks of spending entire evenings struggling with him over homework.  My son has ADHD and a learning disability in writing, and it took him three times as long to get work completed.  Evenings had become miserable for both of us.  After meeting with the teacher and learning that she expected the average child in her class to spend 45 minutes to an hour completing homework, I told her that we were going to spend no more than two hours on homework from that date on.  The madness had to stop, so I did not give her an option.

Sometimes parents really want something to happen for their child and they ask ” can we…”, “how do you feel about…”  and other questions, when they could more effectively make statements such as, “Michael needs…” or “I think it would work better if…”.  There is a place for the other approach, but if you have already made up your mind about something, it’s okay to be more assertive with your communication.  Asking questions in a certain way gives people the opportunity to say “no”, and you don’t want to do that if “no” is not acceptable.

On the flip side, there are times when parents are seeking information, but they make statements that don’t require a useful response.  A statement that, “I don’t see why…” might sound like a request for an explanation, but it leaves enough room for other participants in the conversation to treat it like it was a personal observation that could be acknowledged without further comment.  Asking the question, “why…?” has a much better chance of producing more information or greater insight.  It’s hard for people to ignore a direct question without appearing to be rude.  Don’t forget to ask follow-up questions if more detail is needed.

The bottom line is to not expect other people to read your mind, or to  know what you “mean”.  Say what you mean and ask for the information that you want to get.  Re-word and try again if necessary.  That’s a whole lot better than being ineffective and feeling frustrated.

Did you get that?

Using IEP Progress Reports

Parents of children with disabilities who have an Individualized Education Program, or IEP, should receive reports on their child’s progress toward meeting their IEP goals at least as often as report cards are issued.  The IEP team can require more frequent progress reports if appropriate, and document that decision on the IEP itself.  Many parents, however, are not quite sure what to do with the progress reports when they get them.

Some school systems, or good teachers operating on their own, do a great job of providing details about the child’s developing skills, continuing struggles and even some insight as to the strategies that they are using. Other progress reports are perfect examples of minimalism.  There will be a single letter such as a “P” to indicate that “the student is making progress at a sufficient rate to reach the IEP goal” or a “T” to indicate that “progress is limited due to more time needed.”  When the progress reports are adequately detailed, there may not be a lot of clarification needed.  When the report contains only letter codes, there will almost always be a need for some sort of follow up in order for the parent to get the information that they need to effectively participate in their child’s education.

Additional information can be obtained in a variety of ways.  Parents can request a conference with the teacher, during which they can view work samples and materials used for instruction.  Seeing the classroom setting may also be helpful to understanding why their child is responding or behaving in a certain way (good or bad).  For example, after noticing that the place where my son’s 1st grade class did “circle time” was right next to the classroom computers, it was quite clear to me why the teacher was having difficulty keeping his mind focused on the lesson and hands off the computers.

Parents can also request a telephone conference to get more information from the teacher and ask any questions that they might have, or perhaps exchange email messages to accomplish the same thing.  Most teachers will understand that requesting more information is simply a way for you to better understand what’s going on with your child’s education and how you can best support your child’s learning.

After gathering information, parents should ask themselves (and maybe the teacher) whether the child’s progress is satisfactory. 

If the IEP goals truly reflected what the team thought the child could reasonably be expected to do by the target date, there should be evidence/data that they are on pace to achieve those goals.  If progress is slower than expected, there should be some discussion about why that may be, and whether changes should be made in terms of instructional strategies, supports or services (type, amount, frequency, location, delivery, etc).  Those changes could require the involvement of the whole IEP team, or sometimes a change can be implemented for a trial period before determining that it should be documented on the IEP.

In any event, IEP progress reports, and any supplemental information, are intended to serve as a guide for parents and the rest of the IEP team.  They are an important tool to help insure that the child is receiving adequate benefit from his or her educational program.  Tools have no value if they are left unused.