Advocating for Your Child: How IEP Meetings Can Help Them Grow
An Individualized Education Program (IEP; also referred as an Annual Review and Dismissal/ARD) meeting is an important meeting that occurs every year for children who receive special education services in the school. These IEP/ARD meetings are meant to be a collaborative meeting with parents and school personnel to ensure the child is receiving the supports he or she needs to be successful at school. Many parents, however, find these meetings to be a challenge. This blog will highlight the reasons why IEP meetings are important and why it’s imperative for parents to be active participants in IEP meetings.
What is an IEP?
When a child qualifies for special education services in the schools, an Individualized Education Program (or IEP) is developed. An IEP is specifically tailored to your child and what he or she needs to meet their educational goals. In order to utilize special education support and resources, your child’s school administrators, general and special education teachers, and other stakeholders in the school district will have an IEP meeting each year. This meeting is designed to give parents and educators (students may also be allowed to attend when appropriate) an opportunity to discuss available special education resources and determine what options will help the child achieve their academic goals. These meetings also discuss how to remove any educational or physical barriers that may impact their success. Accommodations and modifications are discussed in these meetings, including classroom support, extra time on tests, and even physical changes to the classrooms (like ensuring there is a desk that will work for a student who uses a wheelchair) or seating the child near the teacher or source of instruction.
IEP meetings are for students who have a disability as defined by their state. In Texas, children with the following disability conditions may be eligible for special education services:
What Are the Benefits of Attending an IEP Meeting?
No two students are alike, and their academic and physical accommodation needs won’t be
either. For this reason, the IEP meeting is your indispensable tool to ensure your child receives the right support in their educational environment. The goal of these meetings is to improve your child’s educational and academic experience and ensure they have every opportunity to be successful. Many parents choose to leave these decisions up to the teachers and school administrators, but it’s actually important ( and preferrable) for parents to be involved. No one knows your child or their needs more than you do. You are the expert on your child! You might feel like you don’t know what resources are available, but you’d be surprised how much your expertise and input about your child lends to the meeting.
Other benefits of parent participation in an IEP meeting can include:
Parents (and their child) bringing new ideas to the meetings that educators or administrators haven’t thought of
Helps you, as a parent, receive actionable tasks to help continue educational support at home as an extension of the classroom to work toward academic success
Ensuring your child's needs are fully understood
Keeping parents and their child in the loop on school decisions
Checking back in to see if the supports have been successful
Providing the child with new tools and strategies for academic success in the short- and long-term
Creating a more personalized approach to the child's educational plan
Is it Beneficial to Have a School Advocate at IEP or ARD Meetings?
School advocates can be helpful in some cases. If parents are new to the special education or IEP/ARD process, or they don’t feel confident navigating the meeting or available resources on their own, a school advocate can partner with them to ensure they understand what is available for their child. An advocate can also help you get the right accommodations and/or modifications for your child. At PEARS, PLLC, Dr. Arduengo is happy to offer school advocacy services for parents and children during IEP/ARD meetings and other school-based resource meetings.
If you would like to learn more, call or text Dr. Heather Arduengo at (817) 826-9572 or fill out our online form to get started.