A lot of parents feel that once they have their child’s IEP in hand, their work is done. All they have to do is sign and submit. What they don’t realize or even consider is that there are often errors and/or misinformation that require adjustment. The most important reason to review your child’s IEP prior to signing, however, is to fully understand what the Team is proposing with regard to accommodations, goals and services. It’s one thing to walk away from a meeting feeling like the Team understands what your child needs. It’s another thing entirely to agree to the plan in writing.
When you leave your child’s Team meeting, you will likely have a basic understanding of what will be included in your child’s IEP and, typically, you will receive a copy of the meeting notes so you can confirm that the Team’s understanding of what was stated matches your own. However, I often find that the goals/benchmarks/objectives stated in the IEP are too general or are not measurable. It is important that your child’s goals are S.M.A.R.T. goals, which stands for:
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Uses Action Words
R – Relevant
It is also vitally important that your child’s Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance are correctly stated. If it’s not abundantly clear where your child’s current strengths and weaknesses are, how can you possibly measure progress? The present levels establish the baseline or foundation from which all progress is measured. If the present levels do not accurately represent your child’s current performance, it will be hard to determine if the services in place are effective and are allowing your child to make progress.
Another important reason to read through your child’s IEP is to make sure that your Parent Concerns accurately reflect your worries and concerns for your child. This is the place for you to establish a history of expressing concern about your child’s areas of weakness to the school. This section of an IEP is often underutilized, but if done well, can establish the foundation for indicating concern well before the issues are even addressed by the school. Should you ever need to file for Due Process, this history will serve you well. I always recommend letting the Team Chairperson know that you would like to send your Parent Concerns via email within 2-3 days of the Team meeting so you have some time to reflect on the outcome of the meeting and any new concerns that may come up. However, make sure that you follow through with what you say you will do. You don't want to be the one responsible for holding up the process.
Above are just a few of the many reasons why you should not only read through, but fully understand your child’s IEP. Once you accept and sign the IEP document, you are stating that you agree with the proposed plan for your child. Never should you just trust that the school has your child’s best interest in mind. You must become well-informed so you can successfully advocate for your child. Remember, you know your child best and you are your child’s best advocate. Trust your instincts and know your child's plan.