The first semester is ending fairly quickly huh? It is almost winter recess. How is your child performing at school? Should I request an IEP meeting to tweak the IEP or are there more larger problems that I want to address: behavior, lack of educational progress, suspensions, placement? To ask for an IEP meeting or not to ask for an IEP meeting . . . that is the question. There is no simple answer to this question.
You should know a parent can request an IEP meeting at any time during the school year. You are not limited to an annual IEP meeting once a year. I have represented parents who only attend an annual IEP meeting once a year which usually occurs in March, April or May of each school year. On the other hand, I have represented parents who have requested an IEP meeting to review their child’s IEP two, three, four or even five times during the school year. It just depends upon the circumstances of your child’s education, instruction, services and placement at this time of the year. For example, I have parents who call me at this time of year because they realize their child has made no or little educational progress since the beginning of school. Parents should be at least curious or upset that no progress has been seen. I would recommend parents look at their child’s IEP progress reports to determine what progress, if any, has been made on IEP goals and objectives. How much progress should be expected of your child? It depends upon the individual educational needs of your child. If your child is above average intelligence and he or she is still lagging behind and seems to be making no progress then you should make further inquiries and perhaps request an IEP meeting to find out why your child is not making adequate educational progress. A child with a severe intellectual disability, for example, may not make as much educational progress during the first semester of school but may have increasingly behavioral problems at school. If so, has the IEP’s behavior plan adequately addressed your child’s behavioral challenges? If not, then you should consider requesting an IEP review at this time of year. What is your child has transitioned to a new school in mid-semester and you have concerns how he or she is doing. You might want to request an IEP meeting for the purpose of acquainting yourself with the IEP team and show that you are involved with your child’s special educational program. What is your child develops medical problems at school and has been absent from school frequently? Has your child received hospital homebound instruction and remediation to make up his or her work? What adjustments have been made to the IEP so that your child can make educational progress after missing classes and school? What if your child has received an independent educational evaluation during the semester that has revealed the child needs speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, assistive technology or other specialized instruction? You should consider requesting an IEP meeting to ask the IEP team to provide such related services to your child at this time. These are just a few examples of reasons why you should consider requesting an IEP meeting at the end of the first semester of school. Believe me, it is more common than you think for a parent to request such a meeting in December.
I have attended a number of IEP meetings for parents in November and December this year. There are a host of reasons why the parents requested an IEP meeting. Suffice it to say that we had rather long IEP meetings to address the parents’ concerns. Some of these IEP meetings were are as long as or longer than an annual IEP review meeting. Why? The parents had many concerns, and the solutions to these concerns were complicated. In these meetings, there were may questions and comments made by the parents and IEP members alike. There is no common denominator why these meetings were lengthy. The point is that sometimes parents have a number of concerns about their child’s instruction, services, placement and programming and they do not want to wait until spring to address and voice such concerns. I agree. There is no reason why a parent should ever wait until the annual IEP review meeting in the spring of each year to voice their concerns. Speak up. It is your child’s educational future at stake and waiting too long to address your concerns may result in educational harm or lack of critical services for your child.
You may want to bring an advocate or special educational attorney to your end of semester IEP meeting review. I would say in most cases, the school system will respond quite differently if you bring a special education attorney to any IEP meeting. More IEP team members are invited to the meeting. The tone and substance of the IEP meeting will be different with a special education attorney present. This has been my feedback from parents over the years when I have been asked to attend an IEP meeting. Virtually every parent found that bring a special education attorney to the IEP meeting improve their child’s special educational program, IEP, and services but also set a better tone for their child for the remainder of the school year. If you have questions about the issues I have raised in this post, please give me a call or write an email.