My child has an IEP but is still failing. Now what?

Students who require additional support and help in school may be qualified for special education services like Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), access to assistive learning devices, and accommodations, among the many services offered to children with special needs. IEPs are free of cost to kids enrolled in the public school system, and it outlines the goals and supports the child may need to succeed in school. 

In many instances, the services and goals outlined in an IEP can be offered in a general school. While the implementation may be actively carried out, the results may prove less than satisfactory. Many guardians chalk this outcome to the child’s poor performance and insist on hard work. At the same time, others may wish to talk with the authorities and alter the plan but would be shy or worried about where to start. This article aims to address this issue and empower parents. 

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) stipulates the importance of parents and guardians and their role in educating children with disabilities or special healthcare needs. The act mandates that educators must work with the guardians to determine the best decision for the children. Therefore as parents/guardians, it is important to understand these services and their usage to help your ward with happy schooling. 

When an IEP is not working?

One of the recurring questions from the parents is structured around their dissatisfaction with the IEPs or how they can mend or adjust a part of the IEP provided. 

You need to pinpoint the issue’s root to arrive at a solution. Are you concerned that your child’s IEP is not appropriate? Or are you concerned with the implementation of the plan? Is your worry about the pace of the goals? 

Here is an 8-point list to crosscheck and to understand if your concerns are valid and require immediate attention

1. Your ward isn’t making reasonable progress.
2. Your ward is losing skills they previously acquired (i.e., regression).
3. Your ward doesn’t have goals in all areas of need. 
4. Your ward’s objectives or goals aren’t measurable.
5. Your ward’s IEP goals are replicated yearly with only slight modifications, if any. 
6. Your ward’s service times are insufficient.
7. The school frequently calls you to pick up your ward early.
8. The school should evaluate (or re-evaluate) a particular area but hasn’t.

If there is a significant issue in any one or multiple points, then it’s time to rehaul and get back to the drawing board to ensure that your child is getting the best out of their education system.

What to do next?

The role of parents is crucial to the formation, ideation, and implementation of the IEP. One key step that parents often overlook is the process of documentation. Creating a way to record the goals, implementations, additional supports, and frequency of services can come in handy when trying to adjust or rewrite the needs of your ward. 

As a parent, you are crucial to the IEP team. While the school is not mandated to enforce every proposal, they are required to regard your input. The first step to ensure you are heard is to become an enthusiastic team member by asking queries and listening to the responses. If you’re anxious about articulating your concerns, type up your apprehensions beforehand and share them. If you still feel your concerns are overlooked, send a follow-up letter with any remaining recommendations, inquiries, or proposals.

Before altering goals and services, parents must note how much time the student has spent on the plan. If it is too less, then waiting is advised. However, if considerable time has passed, the parent’s prerogative is to call for an IEP revaluation.

Here is a step-by-step approach IEP revaluation meeting checklist to escalate the matters:

1. Talk with your child’s teacher or case manager.

Schedule a day/time to connect with your child’s case manager/educator. They may have insight into your problems and share the behavior/performance of your child in the class. Frequently the performance in class may differ from that at home. They can offer you strategies to implement at home to make the IEP more efficient. Your unique perspective and insight about the patterns of the child at home can help your child’s teacher adjust goals if needed. 

2. Call an IEP meeting.

If, after talking to the teacher, you are still not assured, you can request an IEP program review meeting. Carry your notes, records, and work samples will support your claims. Start by describing the basis for your request. Use samples and recorded documentation to show that this is something your child needs, not the demands of a parent. IDEA requires the school to fulfill your child’s needs, but it does not mandate them to provide the ideal schooling. If the school states that your requests violate the school’s policy, ask for a written copy of the policy. 

3. Revisit your child’s goals.

Your child’s IEP plans should contain goals that are measurable and achievable. The goals should ideally be aligned with your state’s academic standards and should be met within the school year. The goals should also be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented, and Time-bound. If you feel that goals are vague and don’t add to any growth, communicate those to the teachers, who should reframe or alter them. 

4. The Last Resort

If, even after following all the above steps, your issues are not resolved, consult with a special education attorney or educational advocate. They can help you understand parental rights better and to file appeals to the court if need be. An impartial hearing officer will decide whether your ward’s educational rights have been infringed upon. The hearing officer’s decision is binding but can be appealed to higher authorities. 

Final words

The IEP process is intricate but also an effective way to manage how your child learns. If you have apprehensions, air them out with the IEP educational team. Parents are the strongest and best advocates for their children, so trust your guts and don’t give up till their educational needs are met. 

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