Many parents are unsure about their role in the Individualized Education Program (IEP) procedure and what they can contribute to the process. It’s important to remember that while they may not be well-versed in special education law, they are the foremost expert on their child. To play a key role in the development, monitoring, and revision of a child’s IEP, it’s important to understand more about the parent’s role.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is the federal law that governs exceptional education that specifies a team acts to determine how and where a child with an educational disability will be taught. The team is made up of the following members:
- The child’s parents
- The child, when appropriate
- At least one of the child’s regular education teachers
- At least one of the child’s special education teachers
- A public agency representative (usually a school administrator) who provides or supervises instruction that meets the specific needs of students with disabilities, knows the regular education curriculum, and understands the availability of resources
- Someone who can interpret the results of the educational assessments (usually a school psychologist)
- Other individuals with specific knowledge or expertise regarding special education and/or the child, sometimes including an advocate or legal representative.
The parent’s participation on the IEP team is critical and is more than just a team member. As the resident expert on their child, they should provide important personal information that is key to developing an appropriate plan.
- Assistance with assessment: The IEP is based on the PLP, or “present level of performance,” a snapshot of the child’s current abilities, which allows future progress to be measured. Parental input regarding strengths, weaknesses, emotional state, and current academic knowledge will help you and the team create an accurate overall picture.
- Create educational goals: Once the PLP is established, you and the IEP team will write annual goals for the child. The parent should assist in ensuring these goals are ambitious yet realistic. These goals give their child concrete objectives to work towards and provide a way to keep the school accountable for helping the child succeed.
- Monitor supports and services: According to the IEP, the child will receive specific services and supports. Part of the parent’s job is to ensure these are custom written for their child’s needs.
Source of Continuity
The child’s education will progress throughout their lifetime. Teachers and administrators will come and go, but parents are a constant in the life of their child. Perhaps the parents’ most important role in the IEP process is to partner with their child in the stumbles and successes over time. Once the student enters high school, they will start playing an active role in determining their own goals, but parental input will always be valued and welcomed.
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