You might be wondering what I was thinking when I entitled to this blog “IEP Meetings and the Weather.” The Atlanta weather in the past two months has been unpredictable. The initial weather forecast for snow jam January 2014 was for light snow or flurries north of Atlanta. In a matter of hours the weather forecast changed and Atlanta and the northern suburbs received about 2.5 inches of snow. Everyone was caught with their pants down so to speak. Everyone left their businesses at the same time. The school systems followed suit. The roads were not prepared for the snow. Everyone was on the interstates at the same time and the snow plows could not get through to plow the roads. The result – a mess. Trucks and cars got bogged down in the ice and snow cluttering the interstates and roads like a scene from the “Walking Dead.” For some, getting home was a day’s long event. People ran out of gas and tried to walk home or find a warm place to sleep. Atlanta made the national news but not in a good way . . . it showed how the lack of preparation for snow can wreck havoc on a city and metropolitan area. As government learned its lesson from snow jam January 2014, snow jam February 2014 was handled much better. There was communication and coordination among governmental agencies, counties and school systems. People were timely warned to stay off the interstate and roads if at all possible. People went to supermarkets and stocked up for a few days in the event that the snow and ice kept them at home for days. Preparation did make a difference the second time around.
Parents of children with disabilities must be prepared for IEP meetings or else they may face the same fate as many did in snow jam 2014. Of course, you will not be stuck in snow for hours and it will not take 10-20 hours to get home. But parents that do not prepare adequately for their child’s IEP meetings may jeopardize their child’s special education programming for weeks, months or even a year. There are many ways to prepare for an IEP meeting. Under the best of circumstances you should contact an attorney or advocate the concentrates in special education to meet with you at least two weeks before the meeting. You should share all educational documents with the attorney or advocate. You should be familiar with the goals and objectives and whether your child has made educational progress during the school year. Is the progress measurable? Do you want to modify or revise any IEP goal and/or objective? Do you want to add any new IEP goal and/or objective? You want to attend an IEP meeting with a clear understanding of your goal for the meeting. What do you want to accomplish? What compromises are you willing to make, if any? What if the IEP team disagrees with your proposed changes to the IEP? Do you request mediation, due process, file a State complaint, or do nothing? Have you asked for the proposed IEP goals and objectives for the new school year assuming that this is an annual IEP meeting in the spring of this year. Is a three-year evaluation needed for the next school year? Do want to obtain an independent educational evaluation (IEE) in case you disagree with the appropriateness of the school system’s psychoeducational evaluation? Are you prepared to pay for your own IEE, if necessary?
I could list dozens of other questions you should ask yourself before attending an IEP meeting for your child. An attorney or advocate can help you think through some of these questions and come up with good answers. For each parent the questions and answers may be quite different. An IEP meeting for seven year old child with Down’s Syndrome in second grade is likely to be very different than an IEP meeting for a seventeen year old high school student to meet the unique educational needs of your child. So make sure that you know the unique educational needs of your child before attending an IEP meeting and have a good idea what educational progress you should expect your child to achieve in the coming weeks, months and school year.
And under the best circumstances contact me or another attorney or advocate to get the help you may need. I have attended countless IEP meetings in the past 29 years. Many parents have told me after the meeting that my presence made a significant difference in the outcome of the IEP meeting for their child. They were very appreciative of my involvement at the IEP meeting. This is not to say that a parent cannot achieve success at an IEP meeting without an attorney or advocate. I am just saying that a competent attorney or advocate that attends the IEP meeting can make a difference in the development and implementation of your child’s IEP. So be prepared for your IEP meeting or else the unpredictably of the weather and your child’s IEP meeting may forecast the potential storm in your child’s special education program.