Before I started working at Oakland Neuropsychology Center, I was a parent trying to navigate the special education world. Through this, I have experienced highs and lows. I am sharing some of the things I have learned along the way. First and foremost, each parent is their child’s first teacher in life and their best advocate. No one knows your child as well as you do. If your child is having challenges in school and/or at home, it is important to seek a professional evaluation by a pediatrician or neuropsychologist to explore any possible diagnoses. Once diagnosed it is empowering to know what your child’s challenges are, their strengths and weaknesses, and their learning style; it enables you to seek the proper supports to put into place to help your child be successful. Supports may be a combination of school accommodations, therapy, or tutoring.
Parents can formally request special education services through their public school district. Schools may also perform their own evaluation of your child. It is important to draft an IEP, an Individualized Education Plan with the IEP team. The IEP team is made up of school staff and administrators that work with your child as well as parents and at times, with outside professionals. An IEP is a legal document and must be followed as written.
When preparing for an IEP meeting it is important to be organized and have all of your child’s most recent documents with you including: current evaluations (both by school and outside professionals), any communications with school such as letters or emails, and the most current IEP if one has already been drafted. Please refer to the video posted below from Understood.org, to help you be best prepared for the IEP meeting. It is also important for parents to be informed about the laws surrounding education (Wrightslaw.com).
Be prepared with a list of specific goals you would like to be addressed as part of the IEP, so that the school team can help draft specific interventions that will target these skills. Parents may also request a copy of the preliminary IEP report from the school a few days before the meeting in order to have time to review the document and be as prepared as possible. I have found that it is helpful to have support people accompany you, the parents, to meetings such as a spouse, grandparent, friend, professional, advocate, or mediator. These meetings can feel overwhelming and can quickly tap into your emotions, as you discuss your child’s needs and difficulties. In that regard, having someone else there to take notes and to hear what is being said can be so beneficial. I hope you find these strategies and ideas helpful!