Because IEPs are ultimately a very human process, mistakes are bound to happen. Despite a few horror stories about lazy case workers and perfidious administrators, most IEP irregularities result from ineffective note-taking or simple oversight.
The best way to avoid mistakes on the written version of an IEP is to have a friend or family member attend the planning meeting to take notes, or better yet, to tape the session. But, even with proper meeting documentation in place, parents should always double-check the written version of the IEP for accuracy and clarity. Once an IEP meeting is over, parents may simply file away the written version, thinking that the effort has been completed. But a careful reading is a must-do to eliminate the possibility of any misunderstandings later.
1. Check to make sure all services agreed upon are listed. One mother noticed that after reading through her son’s beautifully detailed IEP that something seemed to be missing. It was. The resource teacher had forgotten to include that her son’s aid [and academic lifeline] would continue for the next school year.
2. Check the minutes for each service. When multiple services are listed, the units of time may differ. For example, Johnny’s IEP called for him to receive 180 minutes of speech therapy per week and 60 minutes of occupational therapy per month. The written version showed Johnny receiving a total of 240 minutes of services per month instead of what was intended — 780 total minutes per month for both services. Mixing up the units of measure can result in understating the actual time the child receives for services.
3. Check for facts on the present level of performance. Sometimes parents are so nervous during the IEP meeting that they gloss over written facts that can be misleading at a later time. A phrase like “Suzie’s behaviors were accounted for by her medications” sounded much more permanent and far more serious than the actual situation–in this case, the only medicine Suzy was taking was a temporary course of antibiotics for a sinus infection.
4. Check for discussion outcomes. IEP discussions can get spirited and stray off-topic. For example, during the back-and-forth dialog of what assessments were needed for one child’s triennial evaluation, the team approved some types of testing and discarded a few others. The mother’s notes clearly showed “approved to conduct assistive technology screening,” yet the written IEP came back as “assistive technology screening was discussed, but disregarded by all parties.” Fortunately, the parents also sought a private evaluation with a highly respected, accredited pediatric developmental team which clearly showed the need to pursue assistive technology screening.
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