Learn Your Special Education Laws, Special Education Rights, and Share IEP Goal Ideas

May 23
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by Dennise Goldberg

If your child has an IEP, the following top ten list is comprised of generic questions that all parents should be asking.  This list is not specific to any disability or situation.

10.  How has the School updated the present levels of performance?

The Present Levels of Performance (PLOPs) are crucial to writing a successful IEP.  Since many IEP Teams only perform assessments every 3 years, for the triennial IEP, it’s important to understand how this section is being updated.  “This section forms the basis and justification for all goals and objectives. In turn, the goals and objectives form the basis for all services and placements.” (Brannigan and Margolis, IEP Goals and Objectives are these any good)

9.  Has there been a goal written for all of my child’s needs?  If not, why?

As mentioned above, goals form the basis for all services and placement.  For this reason there should be a written goal for every one of your child’s needs.  The list of goals in the IEP help you obtain the services your child needs to be successful.  It will be impossible to negotiate for a specific service if that service doesn’t help your child reach one of their goals.

8.  How is the School collecting data to measure progress on goals?

IDEA states that the IEP must have, “a description of how the child’s progress toward meeting the annual goals described in subclause (II) will be measured and when periodic reports on the progress the child is making toward meeting the annual goals (such as through the use of quarterly or other periodic reports, concurrent with the issuance of report cards) will be provided.”  Since all goals need to be measurable, parents need to understand how the data will be collected to measure progress on the goals.

7.  What research-based instruction will the School be using to teach my child?

IDEA of 2004 added language that the School must use research-based instruction based on “Peer-reviewed research.”  Peer-reviewed research is a process by which one's colleagues assess the quality and accuracy of one's research papers. Peer review is most frequently employed within academia, where professors evaluate each others' work before it is published in major research journals.

6.  Can I get a copy of my child’s service logs?

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.  Asking for copies of these logs will help you determine, 1) if any sessions have been missed, and 2) what was being worked on during these sessions.

5.  When and where will my child’s services take place?

There are many locations that a child’s services might take place.  These could include the classroom, a resource room, an intervention room or elsewhere.  The IEP should specify the location of the services and at a minimum should state whether the services are push-in where the service provider comes into the classroom or pull-out where the service provider takes the child from the classroom.  Also, when the child will receive these services is important.  For example, if your child is struggling in math he/she should not be pulled out of class for speech during classroom math instruction.

4.  What percentage of the day will my child be removed from the general education setting?

The IEP needs to find the proper balance between providing an appropriate education and keeping your child with their non-disabled peers to the maximum extent possible.  This should be part of the discussion when determining your child’s placement.

3.  How and why have the accommodations in my child’s IEP been chosen?

Accommodations help provide access to the curriculum, but should not be included if they are unrelated to the student learning needs.  The IEP Team should make accommodation decisions based on the child’s individualized needs and include those accommodations that reduce the effect of the disability to access the curriculum.

2.  Is my child on a graduation track or are they working on a modified curriculum?

Modifications actually lower learning expectations and should only be used if this is the only way for the child to be successful.  Parents must understand if modifications to grade level standards are being made their child may be at risk for not meeting graduation requirements.

1.  Can you please explain that again?

The IEP Team members conducting the assessments must be professionally trained and competent.  They also need to be able to explain the test results in language the parents can understand.  If you don’t understand what the team members are saying, it is their responsibility to figure out how to explain it in clear and easy to understand language.  Do not let them off the hook; if you don’t understand ask them to explain it again in layman terms.

Your child’s IEP is a legally binding contract with the School District, so you should have a full understanding of what you are signing!!!

If you have additional questions that parents should be asking in an IEP please provide them in the comment section below.

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14 Responses to “Top Ten Questions to Ask at an IEP”

  1. Be sure to also ask about services like bus transportation that need to be in the IEP but are usually not discussed at meetings. I have a friend who twice forgot to ask, and twice realized on the first day of school that the bus was not coming for her daughter. Avoid the frantic phone calls and make sure it’s in the document. Ditto for paraprofessional support, lunchroom support, special accommodations for gym class and other specials, playground support, medication distribution, anything that’s been “understood” but someone might forget to spell out.

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  2. Thanks Terri, I love your additions!!!

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  3. I have known of students with IEP’s having modifications made in the work they are doing, but it was not documented in their records that work was modified because their IEP didn’t show eligibility for those modifications. Another question I would ask:
    Have any modifications been made in my child’s work which aren’t documented in his records, or aren’t included in his/her IEP?
    I would also want to know if my child is receiving services one-to-one, or in a group, and if in a group, the number of students in the group.

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    • Darlene,

      Can you provide any more info on the modifications? My son’s school recently modified his spelling list from 20 down to 10. At our meeting to discuss what evaluations to use for upcoming 3 yr reeval, I asked whether it should be included in IEP and they said no because they regularly do that for students. Then a month later they removed my son’s entire IEP saying he no longer qualified, even after having one for 6 years, AND they had modifications in place……Not sure where to go with this…

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      • If you feel that your child still needs help fight,do your homework i’m fighting the district, i had to get an advocate and i called state board for help they were very helpful

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  4. Great blog there can never be too many tips to help guide parents and flagging for them questions to continually remind themselves of when it comes to their child’s IEP.

    One that I always remind parents to ask is more of a clarification (push back) on what exact modifications are made to the curriculum and for these modifications, what accomodations were provided as an alternative before the school modified the curriculum expectations. I find it that parents need to continually remind the school through the IEP reviews that the goal is to modify as little as possible if the student is able to complete the work and keep at grade level with the right accomodations in place.

    Crawford Dedman
    Special Education Consultant

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  5. Questions regarding summer school should also be addressed…does the district have a summer school program? What does the instruction look like? Is it an appropriate choice for my child? Is my child eligible? Will the other services (i.e., OT, Speech, PT, APE) be provided to my child the during summer school session? Will summer school be provided on the child’s home campus or at another location? Will transoportation to another site be provided?….stuff like that…

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    • I hope its not too late. In my experience(im in NY)… It was rather difficult to get special needs child to attend a summer program at a center-based program( held at a specialized school). Its considered a 12mnth program that starts in july, instead of a 10mnth program that starts in sept. It depends On what is mandated on the IEP, to know which services can be provided by the school…ex: SPCH,OT, PT etc.

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  6. The other thing that can, but should not be overlooked, is that any accomodations the child receives also be listed for any state mandated testing (such as the MCAS test in Massachusetts). For example, if your child receives extended time for tests, she should also receive that extra time for state or other school-mandated assessnets. This is often listed on a separate piece of paper towards the end of the IEP. Be sure to be proactive about this as you might not know exactly when the tests are being administered, and better that they are written on the IEP in advance.

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  7. Another question that you can ask regarding tests, if your child needs to have the questions from the tests read to them. This accomodation was given to my son in elementary school, but no longer needed it once he got to high school. Also, are there any allowances for additional time given to complete homework/assignments. Once a child with special needs is at home, they need decompressing time, which often decreases the amount of time that is available to complete the homework. You certainly don’t want them staying up until midnight because they couldn’t complete their homework otherwise!

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  8. You have provided great questions to help us, as parents, obtain vital information to assure that the school is truly addressing our kids’ needs and providing the services we expect via the IEP. In addition, as an educational therapist in training, I am learning how crucial it is to ask what our children’s strengths are during the IEP meeting. I believe that this not only encourages acknowledgement of their accomplishments and talents, but it also reminds us to harness these strengths to encourage and motivate them in their educational endeavors. Educational therapists design personalized programs to both address weaknesses and utilize strengths to help a child become a stronger and more self-confident student.

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  9. What I am having a hard time understanding is how my child is graded. They say the class teacher and pull out teacher work together on a 40-60% 60 being class room work if my child is not working at classroom level how can she be graded on it? Can anyone help with this?

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  10. Everything that your child needs to be successful in school needs to be discussed at the meeting. From transportation to if they have special eating habits. When our daughter started school they were pushing juice boxes and she had just come off the feeding tube and was using a soppy cup. I finally had to have them put it in her iep. And don’t sign it unless you are 100% satisfied with what is in it.

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Top Ten Questions to Ask at an IEP

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