From Amy Shepherd, MDE-LIO Parent Liaison, MEd, Perkins-Roman Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI) Range Endorsee
Be the “captain” of your child’s individualized education program (IEP) team! Being prepared, communicating effectively, and leading by action are all skills that can enable a parent to lead their child’s IEP team. As a parent, you have the unique perspective of your child’s world away from school. Your expertise and knowledge of your child’s daily routines, strengths, interests, and challenges are incredibly valuable and should be shared with your IEP team.
Below are three ways you can prepare for and lead your child’s IEP team. The suggestions below are optional; none are required.
Create a Parent Report
One way to be prepared and have your voice heard is to create a written parent report for the IEP. Your parent report should set high expectations for your child! Share your dreams for your child (short-term and long-term) and make a list of strengths and interests followed by a list of challenges.
Strengths: What Does Your Child Do Well?
- Positive personality traits
- How your child performs at home and in the community (functional and academic)
- Likes: What does your child choose to do with free time? What motivates them?
- Adaptations used successfully at home
Challenges: What Areas are Difficult for Your Child?
- Specific tasks your child struggles with at home and in the community
- Dislikes: What does your child not like to do? What discourages them?
- Difficulty achieving age-appropriate behaviors/skills and keeping up with peers
Create a Student Report
Your child is the IEP team’s “most valuable player.” Including your child in the IEP process from a young age is an invaluable part of the process. One easy way to start is to work with your child to create a student report. A student report is your child’s opportunity to tell their story:
- What do you want to be when you grow up?
- What activities are you involved in outside of school?
- What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
- What are you good at doing?
- What do you want to do better?
- What do you like most about school?
- What do you like least about school?
Contact your child’s service providers to share ideas about potential services and goals. If you created a parent report or student report, email it two to three weeks before the IEP meeting to the IEP team members (e.g., classroom teacher, teacher for the visually impaired, orientation and mobility instructor, or occupational therapist). You can also include questions for consideration, such as:
- What skills has my student been working on?
- Have any assessments been given? Results?
- Have any successes or challenges stood out?
Learn About the IEP Process
The IEP can feel like a daunting document. Taking the time to learn about the IEP and the parent’s valuable role in the process can be empowering. Michigan Alliance for Families offers many valuable IEP resources for parents.