When you’re the parent or caregiver of a child with disabilities or disorders, sometimes you feel you’re the only one who’s got their back, especially when it comes to educational access.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates an Individualized Education Program (IEP) team so you don’t have to champion your child all alone.
Knowing who the law wants at IEP team meetings and why helps you:
- Communicate with the team more effectively and make sure everyone’s working toward the same goals.
- Streamline meetings to make them more efficient and productive.
- Ensure the team directly contributes to your student’s success through careful and cooperative IEP writing, refining, and implementation.
At Pediatric Therapeutic Services (PTS, Inc.), we know families often have questions and even apprehension about IEP meetings. We want to help you feel comfortable and confident as part of the IEP team, and excited about moving forward.
Identifying the Required Members of the IEP Team
Here’s who is entitled to a seat at the table as an IEP team member:
Other team members bring specific knowledge or special expertise regarding how to educate children with disabilities and disorders. But, no one knows your child as you do. Your voice matters. Share your opinions and concerns.Also, remember the bigger picture. Think about what balance of therapy and general education will help your child make the fastest progress.
- Your Student
IDEA requires that students receive an invitation if the meeting will discuss postsecondary goals and transitional services. But, unless your child is of age or your parental rights are limited, you choose whether your child attends the IEP team meeting with you.Students receiving special education usually benefit from participating in these meetings. So, talk to your child about the possibility. Consider discussing it with their teachers as well. The experience can help students gradually take a more active role in shaping their education. Introducing themselves and talking about their learning experiences can boost self-confidence and social skills. Older children even have the option to lead their IEP meetings themselves.
- General (Regular) Education Teachers
IDEA states at least one teacher from outside the special education services program must attend. This provision matters in particular, if your child is or will be participating in a general (regular) education environment.General education teachers understand your student’s grade-level general education curriculum. They can help make key decisions about reading materials, graphics with written materials, and other accommodations for your student.All your child’s general education teachers should have access to the IEP. They must understand your student’s classroom goals and needs. As a parent, you can ask how your child is performing in the general education class.
- Special Education Teachers
Special education teachers have direct training in—and experience with—teaching children with disabilities and disorders. They work with your student separately from the general education environment. They understand your child’s academic and non-academic goals, and use appropriate strategies to help your child achieve them.At the IEP meeting, at least one special educator gives observational data and suggests instructional changes. You can learn more about your student’s strengths and weaknesses from this teacher, and vice versa. This information can help the team as a whole decide how to move forward with the therapy and related services plan.
- A School District Representative
This individual has authority to suggest and approve school resources for your student.As an IEP team member, a district representative must be qualified to either provide special education instruction (or supervise such instruction’s provision). This person must also ensure resources discussed during the IEP meeting are attainable and accessible.
- An Individual Who Can Interpret Evaluation Results
Evaluations determine the extent of your child’s disability as well as the amount of therapy and related services needed. At least one member of the team at the meeting must be able to explain evaluation results—either someone already on the team such as a special education teacher, or a new member such as a school psychologist.
- Related Services Providers
Your child’s occupational, physical, speech, and other therapists bring direct knowledge of your child’s skills and progress to IEP meetings. If the relevant related services providers can’t be at the meeting, you must agree to waive their attendance.
PTS Supports You as You Support Your Child
Special education law doesn’t always seem straightforward. Its requirements may not always be convenient. But, it does intend to give you a community of professionals who can support your student alongside you.
(True, sometimes you may need reinforcements. Click here for our discussion of when and how to call in outside IEP help).
We take our role in this community of support seriously. We hope you’ll explore the resources for parents and families on our website.
And, we invite you to reach out to us for help working with your child’s IEP team or therapists. Call us at 610-941-7020 or contact us online.