Know Your Forms-IEPs

This is the last post in the “Know Your Forms” series.  It is a lengthy one, however, we feel it is important to understand all pieces of your child’s IEP (whether it’s your child’s first one or the annual review).  Your team should discuss each piece of the IEP during your meeting.

You’ve been through the process and you are FINALLY at the point where your child is eligible for an IEP. IEP stands for Individualized Education Plan. The IEP meeting can be held at the same time as the eligibility meeting or it can be held up to 10 days after the eligibility meeting, but still within the 90 day deadline (Know Your Forms-Eligibility and  Know Your Forms-Referral For Help). After your initial IEP meeting, you will have this meeting annually to review your child’s progress and update his/her goals.

You should receive an invitation to the IEP meeting. You always have the right to ask for a different day or time. Your child’s team should be present for all special education meetings.  (Who Is On Your Child’s Team?).

The first section of the IEP reviews your child’s strengths, any progress he/she has made, and how your child performed on any assessments. This will be a summary of all the data that you have already discussed at the initial referral and eligibility meetings.   If it’s the annual review of your child’s IEP, it will be a summary of data on his/her goals, testing data, and progress from the year.

After this, you will be asked for any concerns you have for enhancing your child’s education and what your vision is for your child’s future.  Take your time here! Really think about your concerns regarding your child’s education. When considering your vision for your child’s future, you can consider the future to be tomorrow, the end of the school year, or even after your child has finished school.  This is something that you can prepare ahead of time and bring with you to your child’s IEP meeting.

Next, the special education teacher will ask if there are any upcoming transitions for your child as well as document any special factors ( such as deaf, blind, special communication needs, specially designed physical education, or limited English proficiency).

The next area is known as “PLOP”–Present Level of performance and written goals.  You will have a separate page for each area of your child’s needs.  For example, you could have a present level summary and goals for  math and another one for reading.  Measurable annual goals will be written to match your child’s present level of performance summary.  You may also have short term objectives or benchmarks written. This is required if your child is on extended standards. Some districts do not require objectives or benchmarks for annual goals if your child is following the standard course of study.  Each annual goal will align to the common core/ NC standard course of study for your child’s current grade level. At the bottom of  each present level and goals page, your special education teacher will document how he or she will gather data to track your child’s goals.  For example, it could be through anecdotal notes and student work samples.  It is ok to speak up here too. Make recommendations or express concerns. Don’t worry if you don’t know the verbage or how to fully express what you want. The team should help with this. During this time, the team will also decide if any related service your child qualified for should be integrated into this goal or if any assistive technology is needed.  What that means is, if your child is also going to receive speech language services or occupational therapy services, will those therapists also work on the same goal as the special education teacher?   Typically,  you will receive a progress report on your child’s IEP goals with each report card.

Accommodations and modifications, North Carolina testing, and least restrictive environment will be discussed next. Accommodations are a way the general education teacher (i.e.. classroom teacher) can help your child be more successful in his/her school day. For example, an accommodation may be that your child uses a slant board and a modified pencil during writing assignments. A modification is typically done by a special education teacher and related service providers but can be used in the regular education classroom. Modifications are specific strategies and tools that will help your child achieve their IEP goals. For the North Carolina testing program, your team will decide what accommodations or modifications are necessary for your child.  For example, your team may decide that your child needs extended time on tests or needs to be tested in a smaller group in a separate room. Any accommodations for any state test must be implemented throughout the year for classroom tests. Please remember that you can always make suggestions for accommodations that you have seen your child use successfully. You are a part of your child’s team.  Least restrictive environment (LRE) will be discussed and decided upon next. This will determine where your child will receive their special support within the general education classroom or the resource classroom. If the team decides that your child will be more successful within the resource classroom, a statement will be written justifying why the decision was made to pull them from the general education classroom.

Please note that this section of your child’s IEP could be “visually overwhelming”. It breaks down your child’s school day (including lunch, core academic subjects, and specials/connect classes) into sections where each accommodation is listed in detail. 

The team will then consider how much time is needed for specially designed instruction. Services will be broken down into how many times per week, month, or reporting period and for how many minutes per session. This includes times spent with the special education teacher as well as times with any related service providers.

Continuum of Placement should be considered next. This is the percentage of minutes your child spends away from their general education classroom. If your child attends a special education preschool or is served in a different setting (home, separate school, etc.) there is a box to be checked.

The last few boxes let you know how you will receive progress reports (typically sent with report cards). Extended School Year can be considered during this meeting, but typically is a separate meeting if your child is a candidate. Finally, everyone will sign the IEP. If this is your child’s first IEP, you will also sign a form called a DEC6. This simply is a form granting the school permission to serve your child in special education.  As always, you will also sign and receive the DEC 5 The Importance of a DEC5

A note for High School students: once your child is 14 years of age, he/she will be invited to attend the IEP meeting.

This meeting can be LONG. If you need a break, don’t hesitate to ask for one. This document is very important, but it’s also fluid. You or any other team member can call a meeting to reconsider any part of the IEP at any time.

Our intent with this post was to give you a general idea of what to expect during your child’s IEP meeting, understanding the IEP (which is also called a DEC 4),  and how to be prepared. This document is very detailed and lengthy. As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us via email .

 

With appreciation,

Wendy and Christina

 

 

 

Appreciation

Nature's Bouquet quote wm

Appreciating the unique needs of our children is important. We use the word “our” because it does take a team to help a child.  As teachers, find that connection with your child that has unique needs in your class.  When you recognize his/her gifts, we promise your heart will fill with gratitude.  All children have gifts and strengths.  When we take the time to notice those gifts in detail, we appreciate what they have to offer to us as educators and parents.

With Appreciation,

Christina and Wendy

Who Is On Your Child’s Team?

As we begin a new school year, it’s helpful to remember who is on your child’s team at school.   By definition, a team is “a number of persons associated in some joint action.”  Special education meetings are made up of a team that meets to discuss and make decisions about your child’s specialized needs.  Ideally, just like a team, all members are participating for one common goal…to help your child succeed.  There are certain members that are required to attend each meeting and it is okay to put a meeting on hold until all members are there.

So who is on your child’s team?  Who should be at a meeting to discuss your child’s specific needs in special education?  Teachers are stretched for time these days with the requirements that are put on them by the state.  However, legally, you should not have a meeting when one of these members is absent. These members must be present even if your child is in a separate setting and even if your child is a “speech only” student.  They are the following:

LEA Representative: This will typically be your school’s principal or assistant principal. This person is responsible for making any final decisions and is the person who has all knowledge regarding budget and how your district meets state and federal requirements.

Regular Education Teacher: Typically, your child’s general education teacher will be at your meeting.  There are times, however, where another teacher that works with your child may be in attendance.  Sometimes, there may be more than one general education teacher that attends.  This is more frequent in middle and high school where your child has several general education teachers. Even if your child is in a separate setting, there should still be a regular education teacher present from your child’s grade.

Special Education Teacher:  The exceptional education teacher will most likely be running most of your meetings and answering specific questions regarding the process.  This EC teacher will typically also be your child’s case manager and the contact person for specific questions.

Parent or Guardian: This will be yourself.

If the meeting is to discuss special education services from a school evaluation, than someone who is qualified to interpret the results needs to be present (for example, a school psychologist or a speech language therapist).

As a parent, you also have the right to bring people who can speak on behalf of your child such as: advocates, your child’s tutor, therapist, or person that privately evaluated your child to the meeting.  When you receive your invitation to your child’s meeting, you can write in who you are bringing to the meeting as part of your child’s team.  Once your child turns 14, he/she is legally invited to attend the meetings as well.

 

With Appreciation,

Christina and Wendy

 

What Can I Do if My Child is Struggling in School?

The RTI system is a lenghty process.  Perhaps you, as a parent, have outside evaluations and information that you can share with your child’s school.  North Carolina schools must consider your private evaluations as part of the data finding process in identifying your child’s unique learning needs.  A parent can also formally request a special education meeting to evaluate for special education services.  Once the parent has made this request, the school has 90 days to start and complete the process.  Please read the blog post Knowing Your Forms (coming very soon) to learn about the different forms and what they mean.  During the first meeting, the team will discuss your child’s strenghts in various areas and his/her areas of need.  The team will also discuss any evaluations or inofrmation you might have and what interventions have been tried prior to this meeting.  After all data has been discussed and documented, one of three decisions will be made: 1. conduct an evaluation 2. determine your child is eligible for services or 3. do not conduct an evalution.

If the decision is to conduct the evalution, the team will decide based on the areas of need which evaluation will be conducted.  If there is enough data to support finding your child eligible at this meeting, eligibility forms can then be completed and an IEP implemented.

The third choice of not conducting an evluation could happen as a reult of not having enough data.  It could also result in your child moving to a meeting for a 504 instead (there is an upcoming blog post coming soon about the differences between IEPs and 504s). If the team decides that there is not enough data the team may decide to also have your child go back into the RTI process to gather more information, observations and overall data on what your child needs to be more successful in his/her school environment. The law says, however, that the RTI process can not be used to prolong or delay evaluating. If it is decided that your child should be evaluated based on current data, then the information that would be collected through RTI must be complete before the timeframe for the special education process is complete. In North Carolina, that would be 90 days from the day the school received the referral.

If you need help writing a letter to your child’s school, please check out this link: http://www.parentcenterhub.org/repository/evaluation-2/

 

With Appreciation,

Wendy and Christina