Understanding IEPs & How They Work

“We would like you to come to the school for an IEP meeting,” can be the scariest words a parent can hear from a child’s school. It means one or more of the parents must meet with a district representative, a special education teacher, a school psychologist, a regular education teacher, and anyone else the district may call in to go over the Individual Education Plan the school has developed for that particular student. This is done after a child has been tested by the school to determine if the child needs to be placed into the Special Education Program or when the IEP is being reviewed for someone already in the program. The IEP meeting can be very scary and make one feel intimidated because you have to face so many professionals all at the same time.

A student who has a three year difference in their learning, for example, my daughter as a freshman in high school was at grade 11 in math, grade 10 in schience, but grade 6 in reading because of her dyslexia and problems with her lazy eye making her reading speed so much slower. Since there was more than a three year span in her core subjects, she was able to get help and/or accomodatins through the Special Education Program. This might be what you as a parent may be looking at.

There are a couple of things a person should do when they go to an IEP meeting. The first thing a person should do is have a friend, relative, or advocate with them to listen to what is being said during the meeting. Often when we are presented with the information about our chldren, our brain may shut down making it so we don’t hear everything being said. That friend or relative can listen and take notes. They can also help with asking questions. When you return home, you can go over the notes to make sure you agree with and understand everything brought up during the meeting. If it’s not possible to take a friend, take a tape recorder. The district may not like it, but you are entitled to record the information to insure you hear and understand everything the school personnel are presenting. You also want to know who is representing the district at the meeting, so be sure to ask which person is preresenting the district. Someone should always be there on the districts behalf. You have the right to ask for a delay in the meeting until a district representative can be present.

You will be presented with a number of forms to review and sign at the meeting. These forms have various goals and accomplishments your son or daughter needs to meet. These goals must be measurable. Read the papers carefully to make sure all the goals are measurable. In other words, they should show the progress that will be made, what time frame it will be made in, and how it will be measured. Be sure to ask questions if you have any. If you want to take time to review the documents before signing, tell them this is what you would like to do. You have that right. Let them know when you’ll bring the documents back, and be sure to have them there at that time. Again, it is a good idea to have someone with you to witness that you have returned them and signed them.

For further suggestions or Discussion, about IEP’s  please visit http://www.dyslexicinamerica.info/


  1. LeslieHill says:

    I fought for an IEP for nearly two years for my son. My child's school tried to tell me that dyslexia wasn't a recognized learning disability. I had to "threaten to get P & A involved(which I did speak with) and they decided he maybe needed and IEP. After the IEP was in place, I am seeing that it is not being followed. His problems is with spelling and reading and even his spelling tests are supposed to be pre-written and he is supposed to circle the right one, but he is still having to hand write them. I think fighting so hard for it was a waste of time when the school won't follow it like they should

  2. Mandy says:

    To LeslieHill,
    By law they have to follow all of the accomodations listed on his IEP. I had an hour long meeting w/ the principal on Tuesday because some of my daughters accomodations were not being followed and we got it resolved immediately! It is so important that you stand up to them and make them do their job! ITS THE LAW!!!! I would suggest calling the principal and telling him/her you would like to have an ARD or perhaps just a conference as soon as possible so that everyone can get on the same page. If you let them get away with not doing what is in his EIP it is an injustice to him. You are his only true advocate.

    A mom in Texas

  3. maria says:

    My daughter has a 504 for her dyslexia, which is a little different than an IEP, but still allows accomodations for her in the classroom. The school does pretty good with it, but I had to be a very firm advocate from the beginning. I recommend the Wright's Law website and their book, "From Emotions to Advocacy" for any parent of a child with any learning disability.

  4. Debra says:

    I hope Im not too late in responding to your post Leslie. Your story is no different from many of us. We fight to have our child tested, we fight to have the proper services in place, and then we fight to have the IEP followed. I encourage you to document everything the school is and isnt doing in writing, and request an IEP meeting every single time they violate your childs rights. Good advocatecy starts with a paper trail. I wrote countless letters and copy in every single member of the IEP team, including the principal, Director of Student Support Services, and the Super…a few times I even cc'd our board of ed. If you dont have the book Wrightslaw From Emotion to Advocatecy, I highly recommend you get it…make it your special education bible. Best wishes!

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