Back to school Series: 1) Checking the Box? Is the IEP good enough

Over-reliance on mass generated forms

Parents of children with disabilities can become used to the 'same old' IEP form. Year after year, it looks the same with some narrative here, data there and a lot of checked boxes. Have you received meeting notices where there is a line of checked boxes? This practice bleeds over into every IEP related communication. You wonder how the ARD committee will get through so many checked items in an hour- a big commitment for so little time. If a school is setting an agenda this way, where does your agenda come in? Send a polite email with your top 4 pressing topics that need to be covered. You are part of the ARD committee and it's your agenda too.

What is always required in an IEP

Set aside the meeting notice for a minute. It's important to compare the IEP to the TEA or USDE model forms. The Texas form is posted on TEA's website:

You'll be surprised by the lack of boxes- for a check-mark anyway. This document contains the required elements for construction regardless of disability. Additionally, however; the TEA form includes all the supplements required for other considerations at the end. Note that:

"A statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services, based on peer reviewed research to the extent practicable, to be provided to the student, or on behalf of the student, and a statement of the program modifications or supports for school personnel...."

must be included and is fundamental to the IEP contract.

Descriptions that are one word or not explanatory

If a box is checked for extra time, breaks, positive support, organizational strategies, is that alone a sufficient description to meet the definition of a "description."? You may have anecdotal information from teachers that they are implementing accommodations differently-that's a red flag.

On March 27, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (M.C. v Antelope Valley Union High School District) found that by failing to identify the student's AT device or provide an accurate statement of the AT service, a school district had violated a parent's right to meaningful participation in the special education process:

"When a parent is unaware of the services offered to the student-and, therefore can't monitor how those services are provided- a FAPE has been denied, whether or not the parent had ample opportunity to participate in the formulation of the IEP."

Consider that if you dropped your child's IEP in the street, would a stranger be able to read it and understand what is being offered to your child? Review it with a Special Education Advocate if you are unsure and watch this space for more topics in IEPs.


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