8 Back to School Tips: Managing the IEP Team and Process

As these last summer days wind down, our community of parents prepare for a new school year and implementation of a new IEP/ 504 Plan. We know that a new school year brings a new IEP Team, new teachers, new caseworkers, and sometimes even a new building!

We’ve compiled 8 of our favorite “Pro Tips” to help you focus in on the nuances of IEP implementation and how to best position your child for success. Read on!

8 Back to School Tips: IEP Team Management

1.     Accountability Check!

Request an IEP (or 504) meeting, in writing, to take place 1 month into the school term. You can then know how your child’s IEP is unfolding with new teachers and routines and make modifications before too much time has passed. We all know how fast the school year goes and how difficult it is to coordinate schedules. Having a meeting on the books sets an automatic check in. You can always cancel this meeting if you feel your child’s year is on track. Pro tip: schedule this check-in meeting during your annual IEP or 504 meeting- yes, even if it is months in advance!

2.     Smooth Transition.

If your child will be entering a new school building (transferring to the middle school or high school building, for example), you can request meetings and/or tours so your child can become familiar ahead of time. You can and should request that at least 1-2 staff members from the new school attend your child’s IEP transition meeting for a smooth hand-off.

3.     Transition Planning.

If your child is approaching age 14 ½, be on the lookout for the school team’s legally-required transition planning, which occurs within the IEP meeting. In some cases, transition planning must begin even earlier than age 14 ½, depending on birthdates and rule requirements. Be on the lookout for this planning around age 14.

4.    Parent Permission to Participate.

When your child reaches age 18, you must have his or her written consent to participate in his or her IEP meetings. Ensure you have access to your child’s records and presence at the IEP meeting by completing this consent form.

5.     Decision-Making Tools.

If your child is approaching age 18 (this includes all typically developing children as well as those with special needs), consider Powers of Attorney for Healthcare and Property so you can continue to participate in making important decisions. When your child becomes a legal adult, you will not have access to health records, medical professionals, school records and personnel, and many other important relationships. For those with special needs, it’s time to consider long term decision-making tools like Guardianship or Powers of Attorney.

6.     Get Involved!

Ask your child’s caseworker about extra-curricular activities and clubs, and how your child can be supported at such activities. He or she is entitled to support at school-related activities, but this is often not included or mentioned at IEP meetings. Don’t be afraid to meet with your school’s principal or superintendent to advocate for support to bring opportunities like Best Buddies, Special Olympics or Unified Sports to your school.

7.     Get Creative about Work Skills.

Our team firmly believes that developing work skills at all ages is incredibly important. During your IEP meeting, ask about ways to embed goals that relate to job skills or therapy settings that work on multiple skills. Opportunities are everywhere to build work ethic, social skills and a sense of responsibility.

8.   Establish Channels of Communication.

School can be a “black box” for many families, especially when a child has communication challenges. Work out a communication plan with caseworkers, homeroom teachers, or whomever is your child’s point-person. This can be a simple worksheet to gather basic information about your child’s day, activities, or other feedback. If a teacher or other staff member is reluctant to participate, ask for this to be included in your child’s IEP to ensure good communication.

Have More Questions?

Our Team is here to respond to all of your Transition Questions – Decision-Making, Special Needs Legal Planning, or preparing for transition to adulthood – give us a call or contact us here. Cheers to a great school year!