What areas of an IEP are the MOST important to get right? (for example–The annual goals? The PLAAFP? The accommodations?)
The Present Level of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (PLAAFP) would be the most important because it drives the rest of the Individualized Education Program (IEP), then the special education accommodations which tell how the student will be able to meet the IEP goals through particular accommodations and strategies. The annual IEP goals/IEP objectives are important, but are so heavily driven by state mandated curriculum that they are not able to be very individualized for the students, while the accommodations can be.
Which areas of an IEP are the hardest to get right? (for example—which areas are typically cited as out of compliance?- but you can’t say it that way, they might not understand)
Matching all of the sections to the PLAAFP, for example, having the IEP goals/IEP objectives match the present level and the accommodations support both the PLAAFP and the IEP objectives AND the testing accommodations. If all of these things align correctly with the PLAAFP, then the IEP is a very useful document, otherwise it really doesn’t mean much of these sections are all disjointed.
What should every parent do to prepare for their child’s IEP meeting?
I always brought last year’s (current) IEP and present levels from report cards or progress reports to be able to see what progress we can make for next year and set our IEP objectives based on how well my child progressed in the previous year. Also any information on behavioral or health changes to make sure the school was current on what was going on with my child as it related to these areas or particular medications if applicable.
Should a parent make the time to talk with my child’s teacher before the IEP meeting?
If you have particular questions that are not typical I would talk about them before the IEP meeting so the teacher knows what to expect. If you bring up things “out of the blue” for the teacher to answer, she/he may not be as prepared on how to problem-solve at the IEP meeting without researching or talking to others on the team for ideas. For example I just did an IEP meeting where the parent wanted a “younger” paraprofessional (the current one was over 65) to go to PE with her daughter with moderate intellectual disabilities to make sure the paraprofessional could keep up in PE if the daughter needed extra supports during a physical activity, a reasonable request. If I had known before the meeting that this is what she wanted I could have had the school schedule to see if this was possible, since I didn’t know, I had to then research the schedule and make a switch for that one period and then get back with her that it was doable. But I couldn’t do that right at the IEP meeting without working with the principal and the special education teachers involved with the switch. If things are going well and you don’t really have questions about your child’s progress an IEP meeting before is not really necessary.
Janet Goodman is the go-to person for special education in her small rural district. In the role as Executive Director for teaching and Learning and Student Services, she makes sure the district provides high quality services for their students with disabilities. But Janet is also the mom of 3 kids with special needs. She has been through the IEP process for two of her kids’ speech needs, but she has worked along with the school district folks to make sure her oldest daughter received support as she battled health issues throughout her k-12 education and now into college. Janet answered my questions wearing her special ed professional hat, but thought about each response in terms of what parents might want to know. I appreciate Janet writing down her responses and hope they provide you with some valuable info.