Improving Your Child’s IEP Month by Month
A monthly article series by Jacqueline Lembeck, Esq. of McAndrews Law Offices, P.C.
In talking to parents of children with disabilities, I’ve realized that answering the question, “where do I begin?” is sometimes the hardest part. Navigating special education can feel like drowning in a sea of acronyms (IEP, RR, PTRE, NOREP, LEA . . .) or climbing an endless mountain of paperwork, or both! For those of you who have a resolution to make 2017 a more organized, successful, and peaceful year, this article series is for you! Month by month, I’ll discuss a way to improve your child’s IEP and give action items to focus your journey. It will still be a mountain, but I hope these tips will provide some trail markers along the way.
Wrapping Up the Year
As you ready yourself and your family to close one year and welcome a brand new one, you may want to take a moment to reflect on your child’s special education journey during the last twelve months and your hopes for the future. Even when we are thoroughly on top of special education matters, there is just so much to consider that, inevitably, there are some loose ends. Were there records you requested that you never received? Are you waiting for the school district or charter school to respond to your request for an IEP meeting? Did you start off strong with your electronic and hardcopy filing and then get buried in documents? In my experience, many important but not urgent matters can get left behind as we focus on the most critical day to day issues. For that reason, it’s important to set aside time regularly to look at the big picture.
December—already a time for seemingly-endless wrapping—is an ideal month to set aside time to wrap up those loose ends and create a plan for the new year. As we did in January, I would recommend that you start by gathering your documents. If there is anything new, unread, or not saved, take the time to address it now. Respond to any e-mails that require answers and send any communications you have been putting off. Most importantly, try to “zoom out” and take a look at the big picture to determine what your next steps should be.
While December is not an ideal time to set up meetings or make big program changes for your child due to the lengthy holiday break, it is a great time to set up expectations and lay the ground work for swift movement in January. You may want to preview your intentions or concerns (e.g. “I’ve been noticing X lately, which I’d like to discuss with the team when we get back in January. Can we schedule a meeting to review Y?”) so that everyone arrives on the same page after the break. December is also a great time to review a plan for returning to school from break if your child is struggling with transitions.
Finally, you should take a moment to appreciate how much work you have done for your child this year! There is no question that parenting a special needs child is among the most difficult endeavors and your efforts to advocate for and improve your child’s education are so very important. We at McAndrews Law Offices wish you a happy holiday and a successful new year!
December Action Items:
- Gather your new documents and save them electronically and in hardcopy
- Organize your e-mails relating to your child’s program
- Respond to or send any communications you have not gotten to yet
- Take a “zoomed out” look at your child’s program and look for loose ends to address
- Preview your intentions to the school team for January