An Introduction to IEP 101
IEP: Individual Education Plan
What Is An IEP?
An IEP is the plan that is crafted between you (the parent) and the educational team (- at school).
The IEP is about figuring out what your child needs in order to successfully learn in the least restrictive environment for him/her in school.
What Does an IEP Do?
The IEP creates an action plan for the school that will help your child reach their goals.
It includes everything that relates to your child. Social skills training, speech therapy, occupational therapy. reading and writing, school subjects, (and so forth) might be in the IEP.
A few things to remember:
- the IEP is a contract between the school and yourself
- you – as a parent – have rights – and a lot of them!
- the IEP follows a set process
- there is a lot of help out there if you need it
The thing about the process of the IEP’s is that they can be totally demoralizing and draining.
Many times the school team whip out assessments of your child that only point to their delays or weaknesses; all the areas that they are not good at or in.
Alternatively, the school might say everything is just hunky-dory, so that they get out of any hard-core specialized planning and work with your child. Either way, it’s hard.
The best scenario is when the school focuses on positives, when they are knowledgable in writing out measurable goals and action plans that make sense, and when they are willing and ready to do the work.
I have found 5 things to be very helpful in navigating IEP’s:
- IEP Books
- IEP Groups
- IEP Inclusion Toolkit
- IEP Binders
- The One-Pager
IEP Books: Books That Help You Understand The IEP Process
The Holy Books of the IEP process are the Wrightslaw books.
These bad boys will take you to town and show you all around.
They are definitely a “must-have” in your arsenal. I also think it’s great to bring them along to the IEP meeting, unpack them very slowly and visibly from your bag so the school team gets a chance to see!
There are some other great books, which are:
More IEP Book Resources:
The following are helpful and can tie into the development of your child’s IEP, but are not as essential as From Emotions to Advocacy.
From understanding the ropes of an IEP, the law, structure, processes, and so forth, I think it’s very useful to have as solid a grasp as possible on your child’s disability.
For Parents of People with Down Syndrome:
These books were very helpful for me in figuring out areas to adjust my daughter’s IEP goals:
- Supporting Positive Behavior in Children and Teens with Down Syndrome: The Respond but Don’t React Method
- Teaching Math to People with Down Syndrome and Other Hands-On Learners: Strategies and Materials (Second Edition)
- Teaching Reading to Children With Down Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Teachers
- Fine Motor Skills for Children with Down Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Professionals
- Gross Motor Skills for Children With Down Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Professionals
2. IEP Group Resources
There are a ton of IEP groups on Facebook, and they are gold.
Here are a few private Facebook groups that you might want to join or check out:
- A Day in Our Shoes
- IEP/504 Assistance
- IDEA and IEP Tips: Parents to Parents for Children with Disabilities
- DSDN IEP/IFSP Support (for Parents of Children with Down Syndrome)
My advice is to join the disability-specific group on Facebook that fits your child, and ask within those groups for more information and resources.
Don’t forget to join the ADULT version of the disability group too, and ask what they would have appreciated.
For example, if your child is deaf, find and join a group of hearing parents of deaf children, then also join the regular deaf group, and ask BOTH GROUPS.
Never forget! Us adults with disabilities are experts in our own disabilities!
3. IEP Inclusion Class: One Massive IEP Resource Toolkit
Get ready to get your mind blown by this massive site, Inclusive Class.
It’s got it all, I mean click on each of the tabs at the top of the page and you’ll find that they are actually portals to alternate IEP worlds, not just tabs.
Just go visit after you finish this post, okay? I don’t want to lose you just yet.
4. Creating an IEP Binder
The IEP is a paper-hog and it’s a job in and of itself to keep everything organized.
But it’s really-super important that you DO keep your IEP resources organized!
You need to be able, as I just did at my last IEP meeting, to pull out that Occupational Therapy Assessment and be all, “um…. how is this progressing? Do you have an update on how these suggestions were implemented?”
This binder format was developed by the Kansas City Down Syndrome Guild, bless their hearts. They made it free for everyone; I just uploaded it to gumroad. You can go ahead and download it for yourself here:
5. The IEP One Pager
I used to feel like this fell under the “nice but not necessary” category, but now I think it’s more along the lines of “pretty darn important, but not necessary.”
The IEP One Pager is your vision statement.
It’s where you write out stuff about your child, stuff that the school team isn’t likely to know about. It gives them a chance to meet your child in a different way, and it can shift the way the team feels about your child.
That’s pretty important.
I made mine on Canva, using a template that Tiffany developed (my post about it all is linked here).
The latest One Pager that I made for Moxie looks like this:
IEP Vision Statement, "One Pager"
The IEP is ultimately supposed to be about helping your child get what they need to learn and thrive.
It’s not about egos, it’s not about winning anything, it’s not about fighting, it’s not about anything other than making sure your child gets what they need to learn and thrive in school.
I have a temper. I get mad when rubbed wrong, and I have a hard time keeping my cool. I strive to though, because this isn’t about ME; this is about my children. If I blow up in the meeting, it might be gratifying for me, but it’s not going to serve my children well.
I really try and keep that in mind, and I try to tap into all of the support I possibly can.
I’m not an expert in this, so I’m constantly trying to learn more and become better at IEP’s and helping my children get what they need to thrive in school.
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Meriah Nichols is a career counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one gifted 2E). Deaf, with C-PTSD and TBI, she’s also a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.