You’ve done it, the IEP is signed; everyone is in agreement, so joy and prosperity fill the air. Mom and Dad can now relax and revel in a job well done, or can they? What experience has taught me, is that there is a big difference between agreement and execution. Your child’s IEP should always have a statement regarding the special education and related services to be provided for the following year including the frequency, location and duration of those services. These are not mere guidelines for the Service Providers to follow, but are legally binding service amounts. So how can Mom and Dad figure out if their child is receiving the services outlined in their IEP? When your child is seen by a Service Provider (Speech Therapist, Occupational Therapist, Physical Therapist, etc) they need to document each session and provide notes on what was worked on during that session. This might be known as a Service Log or Service Notes. As a parent, you have a right to ask for a copy of these Service Logs and at a minimum, should request them prior to every IEP meeting. If you child didn’t receive the proper amount of services, you can request compensatory hours to be added at the next IEP to make up for the hours missed.
If there is a significant amount of missed hours, my personal preference is to request that the time be made up at a private therapist outside of normal school time paid for by the School District. I have two reasons for this request, 1) your child should not have to miss crucial academic class time to make up for the School’s mistake, and 2) once the School is forced to pay monetarily for their mistake they will make more of an effort to follow the IEP in the future.
One of the reasons I am bringing this up now, is because I was a guest on the Coffee Klatch recently and the topic we were discussing was, “Preparing for your Child’s IEP”. I was extremely impressed with the level of knowledge, dedication and questions that were being asked, but was surprised how many parents had never requested their child’s Service Logs. This was the “aaaahaaaa” moment for me and I knew I had my next blog topic.
The other reason I am bringing this up is because I got a call last week from a client who told me her son had not been receiving the pull-out speech services outlined in the IEP. The speech therapist had misread the IEP and had not been providing the accurate services. This was most distressing because the IEP had only been in place for three months and the School was already out of compliance. This was an IEP which had taken us 6 months, multiple meetings, and multiple Independent Educational Evaluations (IEE’s) to work out in the first place. This triggered us to request the Service Logs for all Service Providers, which they tried to ignore at first. When we finally did receive the logs we realized that her son was missing both Speech and Occupational Therapy hours. While I believe the Speech hours were missed due to an honest mistake, I cannot say the same thing for the missed Occupational Therapy hours. For instance, the OT showed up only once the whole month of January when the IEP called for OT twice a week. As you might imagine, we have requested a new IEP meeting to discuss the amount and location of compensatory hours owed.
This is why, one of the best tips I can give you is to request your child’s Service logs at least once a year prior to the annual IEP meeting. Making this a common practice will help ensure compliance with your child’s IEP and allow you to feel a little more in control of the process.