There is a lot to know about an IEP (Individualized education program), there is a lot you won’t totally understand and there is a lot that the school may keep from you about it. It turns into a bit of power struggle at times and in my experience it is rarely a reflection of the “perfect” education you may have in mind for your child. Even the copy of the Parental Rights which you are required by law to be provided with can be confusing. Honestly, I’m not a lawyer, I never wished to study law so the fact that I am given 40 pages of legal junk…blows my mind. I only know one person who has the patience and time to read through 40 pages of parental rights, and that person is not me, but I did anyway…almost fell asleep…and I’m still confused. I did manage to figure some things out.
So, I want to break it down a bit. Give an idea of what you absolutely must know and what you will never be told, but should know anyway.
1. You have the power!
You can choose when you would like your child’s IEP to be changed. As long as you have a good reason for the IEP to be revised it could happen as soon as a month after the first was put into place. For us; it was Aurora’s new energy that made us rethink her education program. The change in energy was visible within a few days of a new seizure medication, it was important that her plan at school fit her new capabilities; such as the energy to stand and be more alert for longer periods of time.
2. You can choose to deny the new IEP, the revised IEP and the revised revision of the IEP.
If you don’t like it, you don’t sign it. That’s important because the school can’t force you to agree with a plan that does not fit your child. If you don’t think that the education program they wish to have your child in for the next year is adequate, then you can go back in and discuss it further until the IEP is exactly how the entire team wants it. Also, if a meeting feels rushed and is not going how you would like it to, walk out. You can stop a meeting at any time and ask that a continuation be scheduled.
3. Don’t be afraid to stand against the school.
In no way should your passion for your child’s education be held against you. If it is, that’s what lawyers are for. But fear is irrational, it causes you to lose focus on the priorities. I have spent an entire IEP meeting being attacked, made to feel small and like my opinions don’t matter. What did I do? I wrote a lengthy letter to the school rep. letting her know how wildly unprofessional it was for her to treat me that way. I went into the next meeting and spoke louder, clearer, and didn’t let a single person interrupt me. It’s important to never get discouraged.
4. You can have all the support you need.
You are allowed to bring in any individual that has contact with the child, basically anyone in your life who knows anything about your child. It can be a family friend, an uncle, a sibling, the babysitter…anyone and everyone. I’m not saying you want to bring 10 people in to an IEP meeting but if you think it will help the process go smoothly and the plan to be organized well…go for it.
5. The State provides you with a lawyer!
In the State of Vermont, if you are going through the IEP process for your child, you have the right to free legal aid. USE IT! If things aren’t going right, if you find yourself fighting for the basics and the school continues to deny simple things that your child needs to succeed, get a lawyer. It may seem like a lot of work, you may not want to go that far, but you may have to and that’s okay.
-I think it’s hard to wrap up everything that you need to know about an IEP in one or two or even 10 posts, which is probably why the parental rights is 40 pages long. I think it’s even harder to go into an IEP meeting not having any solid idea of what your rights really are. So, I hope this helps anyone going through this and if anyone has questions about our experience with the IEP they can feel free to contact me.
Thank you for reading, thank you for sharing and thank you for being awesome. 🙂
❤ Whisper Mom