IEP annual review season is in full swing for kids with special needs identified by the public schools. Today Ellen Stumbo shares 2 ways parents can prepare.

As was mentioned last week in guest blogger Gillian Marchenko’s post, IEP annual review season is in full swing for parents of kids with special needs identified by the public schools. Gillian shared 5 ways to set a positive tone during an annual review. It’s a hot topic, as proved by the number of times the post was shared, retweeted, and repinned. No wonder I did a happy dance when another guest blogger, Ellen Stumbo, sent a piece about how parents can prepare for annual reviews. Today’s post shares 2 of Ellen’s tips. The other 3 tips will post tomorrow.

Simple Tips Parents Can Use to Prepare for IEP Annual Review Meetings

It is no secret that one of the biggest woes for parents of kids with special needs comes yearly in the form of an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). Often times, parents walk into an IEP meeting as if walking into a battle in which they are outnumbered. Parents vs. School (teachers, therapists, support staff, etc.) and the child’s future is in the hands of the winning party. The end of the school year often marks a time where IEP’s are being drafted for the 2012-13 school year. I want to share with you simple tips that can help you as you prepare for your child’s IEP meeting.

Tip #1: Make a List of Goals

Ask yourself: What do I hope my child will accomplish in the coming school year? Break the accomplishments down into the different areas where your child will be receiving extra support, therapy, or special education modifications.

Remember: IEP goals are for school settings only. What does your child need in order to excel in an academic setting? I would love for Nichole to learn to ride a tricycle, and while our school has great therapists that will work on that, riding a tricycle will not necessary for academic achievement. Building leg strength and coordination on the other hand is important as children participate in Physical Education; riding a tricycle might just be a great way to get her to achieve those goals. Here are some examples I came up with before the IEP:

Speech: Nichole will be able to spontaneously use 3 word sentences.
Speech: Nichole will respond to “wh” questions: what, where, which, who

Fine motor: Nichole will independently cut a 6 inch wide piece of paper using adaptive scissors.
Fine motor: Nichole will trace her name with capital letters.

Gross motor: Nichole will climb safely on the playground equipment.
Gross motor: Nichole will demonstrate proper gait when running.

Social/emotional: Nichole will engage in dramatic play with a peer.
Social/ emotional: Nichole will take turns.

Academic: Nichole will rote count to 10 consistently.
Academic: Nichole will identify “on” “under” “besides” consistently.

The more specific you can be with your goals, the better!

Tip #2: Ask for a Copy of  the IEP Draft

A draft IEP is prepared before each child’s IEP meeting, and you can request a copy ahead of time. One of the reasons you might want the copy before hand is to deal with the emotional aspecst of an IEP on your own, at home. I know how overwhelming it can be to read tests results and have your child’s delays “packaged” together in a document.

As we do life with our kids day to day, we do not deal with all of their delays all at once. It really doesn’t matter that your child is not able to identify letters when they have finally mastered using a fork at the dinner table and you are over the moon with this new accomplishment. But with an IEP, every single area where your child struggles is documented and this can be difficult. It is okay to cry. Deal with those emotions, so that when you are meeting  with the team, you can push those aside and remember that your child does have great potential. The goal of the IEP meeting is to make sure there is a plan set in motion so that your child’s potential is achieved, so keep that in mind.

The IEP will have a list of goals from the teachers, therapists, and other support staff that might work with your kid.  Remember the list of goals you came up with for your child? This is where you get to compare the goals. Were some of them the same? Are some of them confusing to you? Is there anything  you think is important and should be added? Make sure to bring a list of the goals you want to see added, as well as questions you have concerning the “why” or “how” of certain goals listed on the IEP.

Remember, parents are team members in the IEP meeting. Do your part and be prepared!

How Do You Prepare for IEP Annual Reviews?

Do you have preparation tips for parents? Leave a comment to share your best tips. Your experience can be of great benefit to others. And come back tomorrow when Ellen will share 3 more tips to help you be a well-prepared advocate for your child at IEP Annual Review meetings.

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