Preparing for IEP Meetings: Managing Expectations

Submitted by Tim on Fri, 06/01/2012 - 10:42 AM

Your child’s IEP is very important because it is the plan the school will follow in educating your child for the next school year. Go to the IEP meeting with a purpose – to see that good goals are included in the IEP and services are provided that help make it likely that the goals will be achieved. But the school district is not required to do everything any parent asks be done. Therefore, it is very important to prepare for the IEP ahead of time, thinking about what you want to ask for and how you will persuade the school district that it is legally obligated to provide the services you are suggesting.

  Persuasion is extremely important, because the school district is only required to make a plan that has a decent chance of providing educational benefit, even if that does not actually educate your child. As the federal appeals court for Georgia explained*, school districts are only obligated to provide a basic floor of opportunity. If you can’t persuade the school district, you will have a very difficult time forcing the district to increase what it is doing, given the low legal standard the district must meet.   In short, you must manage your expectations. You are your child’s champion, but you are also the world’s greatest expert on your child. You must be honest with yourself in order to figure out what you (as champion) want for your child and what you (as expert) know your child needs. Once you have focused on your expertise, you can think effectively about how to explain your reasoning to the school officials.   Again, you must be brutally honest with yourself about whether a desire for your child is a want or a need.  It would be nice if every child with special needs received a one-on-one tutor in every subject, but this simply isn’t possible.  School district officials are only human – if they decide (rightly or wrongly) that your first request is unreasonable, that will affect how they view your later, smaller requests.   *JSK v. Hendry County Sch. Bd., 941 F.2d 1563 (11th Cir. 1991)

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