Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Preparing for an IEP or 504 Plan Meeting: The Basics for Parents

An IEP (Individualized Education Plan) or 504 Plan (for students with disabilities under the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act) meeting with teachers, special education administrators, school psychologists, school counselors, and principals can seem pretty intimidating for some parents.  This simple guide will not get you through everything you need to know.  As the parent of a traumatized/RAD-ish kid who may or may not have other learning challenges, you need to educate yourself.  Read.  Ask.  Read more.  Ask more.  Don’t take “there is no money” or “that’s the way it’s done” for an answer when your child’s needs are not being met.  Keep learning.  This is a 24/7/365 process.  (At least it seems that way sometimes.)

First of all, whether you’ve requested the meeting, or your child’s teacher has requested the meeting, take it seriously.  It matters.  It’s about your child.  Dress appropriately – even a little better than the way most teachers in your district dress, if possible.  Come prepared.  If you’ve requested the meeting, bring along the documents and the observations you’ve had that warranted the request for exploring an IEP or 504 Plan for your child.  (Know the difference between the two.  Learn about that HERE and in other places.)  If the teacher’s requested the meeting, be prepared with questions.

Some parents have equated these meetings to a kickboxing workout.  Knowing your “stuff” and bringing the documentation you need to back up what you know will defuse some of that.  Participating in the meeting like a team member will be of great advantage.  Present what you know, then listen to their answers and suggestions.  Offer additional information where needed and work together to come to the best plan for your child.


Talk with other parents in your district who you know have a child with an IEP or 504 plan.  Ask them about their experience with the district.  Take what they say with a grain of salt, but listen for clues about who is most helpful.

Use social media to ask questions of other trauma mamas and papas.  Read blogs.  Watch You Tube videos about the IEP and 504 Plan process in schools.

Get a draft of any documents the staff have prepared for the meeting.  Request to have them no less than 5 days in advance of the meeting.

Take a photo of your child and place it in the center of the meeting table.  This will remind everyone there they are discussing a real child, not just a “problem” that needs to be solved on paper.

Take treats – the good ones the schools don’t let you bring in for kids anymore. 

Bring a folder with all pertinent records, including last year’s IEP/504 Plan if you have one.  Bring copies of medical tests, medication updates, records of psychologically significant events over the past year, report cards, copies of school tests, etc.  And pens.  Don’t forget pens.

Consider making an “all about me” book or PowerPoint presentation that tells about your child, and gives the basics about PTSD, RAD, PDD, ADHD, hyper-vigilance, post-institutionalization, language delay due to living in the orphanage, and whatever else you want to include.  Use a lot of pictures.  Write it on a 5th grade reading level at the most.  Keep it short.  Most teachers I’ve worked with have very short attention spans.

Bring copies of pertinent articles.  Highlight important phrases.  (Don’t expect them to read the articles.)  But show them you have resources and can serve as a good resource for them.  See some helpful articles HERE and HERE.

Go to the meeting knowing what you want.  Is it testing for visual learning disabilities?  Developmental delays?  Language processing?  (Not just ELL/ESOL.)  Take copies of any neuropsychological test results you have from private testing you’ve done.  Ask for specific testing.  Learn what’s available.  See my blog post HERE and read other resources as well. 


Found this cartoon here.
Do not be intimidated.  Bring reinforcements if that helps you, such as another experienced therapeutic parent, knowledgeable about the IEP/IDEA and 504 processes.  You could also bring your therapist, social case worker, or psychologist.

Do not simply rely on “the pros'” opinions.  Lay your own solutions on the table and then have those pros prove why, or why not, those solutions can work.  Have your concerns formally attached to the IEP/504 Plan “for the record.”

Don’t allow any plan to be written without specific details of any therapies used clearly spelled out.  This includes speech, physical, occupational therapy, etc.  Include how often per week and the number of minutes per session.  Is it an individual or group session?  What methods will be used?  Who will be present?

Don’t allow plans for inclusion to be nebulous.  Spell those out as well.

If your child needs accommodations for acting out behaviors, don’t allow someone who does not know him to write that plan alone.  Present your own plan, using the therapeutic parenting techniques you know that work with your child.  Teach the behaviorist these techniques.  Don’t let them tell you that they already know them all.  They don’t.  (None of us do.)  Ask them who Dr. Karen Purvis is, Heather Forbes, Dr. Boris Gindis, and Dr. Michael Popkin?  You can ask them about Becky Bailey, but they’ll probably know that one.  Love and logic are big in schools.  The problem is schools use that for all behavioral situations and it DOES NOT WORK on attachment disordered, trauma-triggered, post-institutionalized kids – at least not those who are home the first few years or so.  Since they don’t know the techniques, YOU need to know them.  You need to show them You Tube videos and give them the print outs.  You need to direct them to the trauma mama blogs.  You need to teach.

Don’t sign any IEP or 504 plan that is not realistic, does not have measurable specific goals, and no time frame to meet those goals.  Don’t take anything for granted, or accept anything as a matter of “understanding.”  LIST specifics, including:

One-on-one assistance
Instructional aid
Inclusion teacher
Resource Room
Alternative Assignments
Assistive Technology
Adaptive Gym
Extra time for tests
Modified tests/assignments
Reduced homework
Bus transportation
Bus aides
Lunch aides
A “safe person” to whom the child can retreat
A “safe room” where the child can process triggers

Again, I want to emphasize the best approach to getting your child the services they need to succeed in school and receive the Free Appropriate Education (FAPE) accorded by law is to be prepared and to advocate, educate, and be tenacious.  Look at some sample IEP’s and 504 Plans online.  Check out Wrightslaw website.  And add more resources below in the comments section!


Stephanie said...

We are preparing for an ARD tomorrow and ran across your blog. Well done! It gave us some good ideas. Thanks for sharing.

melmat1216 said...

Thank you for this, if u have time is like to ask you some ?s I have about our 11yo, adopted internationally 4 years ago. Please email me at melmat1216@yahoo.com. Thanks! (Regarding iep/504 teacher stuff)

Mama T said...

Melmat1216 - I'm always willing to try to help. Check your email!