It has been said, “You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions” (Naguib Mahfouz, Nobel Prize Winner for Literature). These are words to live by and my wife, Dennise, and I have found that asking questions in an IEP meeting is a very effective strategy for advocating for your child. Yesterday, Dennise wrote in her blog, “Needs Drive Goals and Goals Drive Services in an IEP”;
….. if you think your child needs additional services always remember to start at the beginning. First, update your child’s present level of performance. Next, write multiple goals for every area of need including all of the components. Lastly, use the present levels of performance and goals to justify additional services. If parents remember to work from beginning to end they should have a much more productive IEP meeting.
What I’m going to expand on with my blog is how to use questions to help achieve a productive IEP meeting. I use questions in an IEP meeting in five ways:
- To learn new information;
- To confirm information I already know;
- To make other IEP Team members aware of information they might not be aware of without having to bring it up myself;
- To guide the conversation where I want it to go; and
- To weed out dishonest members of the IEP Team.
As you can see from the list, asking questions can accomplish much more than you might have thought. Always remember the person asking questions is in control of the discussion. That control can help you navigate the IEP to a successful resolution or give you the additional information you need to file a successful Due Process Complaint. The key to this strategy is preparation, knowledge and accurate information. In order to use questions for more than just gaining knowledge it’s imperative that you prepare for the IEP meeting. If you need guidance, please read, “How to Prepare for Your Next IEP Meeting”.
Recently, I attended an IEP for a second grader with visual processing disorder who was struggling in class. Before the IEP meeting Mom gave us a stack of classroom assignments an inch thick that the Teacher had sent home to be completed. It turns out her daughter hadn’t been completing assignments for months and the Teacher finally sent it home. When the IEP meeting started we expressed our concerns about the child’s struggles academically. For the next 5 minutes everyone on the Team explained how well she was doing and they didn’t understand why we had called another IEP. I then asked the Teacher a direct question, “How is she doing in class?” The Teacher went on to explain she was a pleasure to have in class, started and completed her class work with minimally prompting and seemed to be making tremendous progress. At this point I pulled out the stack of uncompleted classroom assignments and said, “I’m confused, did you send this stack home and ask for it to be completed?” She responded that she had sent it home and that it was indeed uncompleted classroom assignments. After asking some clarifying questions the Teacher finally admitted the child needed additional support since she couldn’t complete classroom assignments and that she, the Teacher, also hadn’t been using the accommodations listed in the IEP. This is just one example of how to effectively ask questions in an IEP.
As you can see, when you are prepared and have accurate information you can then use questions to determine your child’s Present Levels of Performance (PLOP) that might not show up in a standardized test or though informal observation. Once that information is included in the PLOP and a need is determined a goal must be written. Remember, if the School tries to rush you through your questions remind them that they are required to make sure Parents understand what is being presented.