How Happy Are You With Your Child’s IEP?

Like “PT” and “OT” and “CP,” “IEP” were initials I’d never heard until I had a kid with special needs. But now that Max is nine, I am a downright veteran of the Individualized Education Plan. Wait, that makes me sound old; change that to “a master of the Individualized Education Plan.”

It seems like most parents are satisfied with their inclusion in IEP meetings, according to a study that just came out in the Journal of Disability Policy Studies. Researchers looked at the experiences of families of more than 10,000 students with disabilities around the country. Most parents said they’d attended their child’s most recent IEP meeting; of those parents, 70 percent felt their level of involvement in making decisions was “about right.” Disability Scoop notes that parents of kids who have challenges with behavior or social skills were more likely to be dissatisfied with the IEP process.

I am one of those satisfied parents, starting with the fact that I think the school my son is in is excellent. Not only are the teachers and therapists knowledgeable and competent, they care deeply about the kids. When I go to the IEP meetings, I feel like I am on a team—and I do not have to play defense. They listen to concerns I have and offer to follow up on them (and they do), and they address all of my questions. I also usually walk out of there with a list of websites, equipment and even toys that could help Max.

Over the years, I’ve had to push for additional therapy sessions for Max. Sometimes, I’ve gotten them and sometimes, I haven’t. Once, we made a concession; I wanted Max to have an extra speech therapy session, and we agreed we would do one with other kids—communal speech therapy! He’s loved that, and it’s been great for all the kids. I’ve learned that while I am there to make sure Max gets what he needs, I need to be open-minded to compromises, too.

I usually type up a list of points/concerns ahead of time, so I don’t forget stuff. The other thing that could make IEPs go better is a pitcher of margaritas. But I’d settle for white wine.

What have your experiences been with IEPs? Got any good tricks for navigating them?

Image: Row of binders via Shutterstock


From my other blog:

Stuff special needs moms say

25 things that make special needs parenting easier

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  1. by Tooner

    On January 27, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    As a person with a disability; I’m just going from stories and experiences that my parents have told me. I have been in some IEP meetings but I found them useless (unfortunately). You said that you get a list of things that would maybe help Max, this is great! But I never got that. Maybe your experience is different because of the kind of school Max goes to (it seems more open to IEPs and IEP meetings).
    When you’re mainstreamed, I think there should definitely be better IEP meetings and the resource teacher should actually care about you and what you are doing. My resource teacher never even knew what I was doing.

  2. by Renee

    On January 27, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    My meetings with my school have been more like kamakazie meetings. We sit down and they bomb us with details and recriminations about how our child isn’t doing what they expect, and any suggestions we make are shot down because they are not from “evidence-based studies”. I will NOT give up.

  3. by Lori H

    On January 27, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    I am generally pretty happy when I leave my son’s IEP meetings. He is a 9 year old 4th grader in a regular education classroom. Our biggest challenge has been finding ways for him to access the curriculum. I mostly find that the school staff is open to new ideas, innovative in identifying devices and programs that are useful and caring. My son does not receive as many minutes of service I would like, but it’s a real balancing act. Every hour with a therapist is an hour away from academics. I try to think about it like this… In ten years what will he have derived the most benefit from? If it is the therapy then I will fight for it. If it’s an extra couple hours of academic instruction that’s the direction we will go. Every kid is different and will have different needs. If you generally leave your child’s IEP meeting feeling unhappy you should find an advocate to attend meeting with you. It’s great to have another person “on your side”!

  4. by Lelah

    On January 27, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    I actually find IEPs not to be a nightmare, but a lot of work. I go in with a list of what I want (based on my son’s needs). I say what I want and then give a list of reasons why the school wants to provide those things (the benefit to them) and why it is needed for my son. Works like a charm. Even when they haven’t initially agreed, my well prepared argument convinces them. I’m always ready to meet their objections (if any) with solid evidence.

  5. by kadiera

    On January 30, 2012 at 9:26 am

    We weren’t satisfied, but then our older child had a fairly rare medical condition (which our infant daughter also has, and the nightmares of how IEP/IFSP meetings will go with the same cast of characters have already started). In general, it seemed that they needed a box to put my son in to know what to do with him, and he didn’t fit any of their existing boxes.

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  7. by Tammy

    On January 31, 2012 at 3:53 am

    I not very happy with my daughters current IEP. Whule I do feel her teachers are doing as much as they can to help in most cases I also think there is so much more that needs to be done or done differently. Unfortunately do to budget cuts or policies the teachers have no control over there is no way to provide these other accomadations that would help.