Crocus blooms and melting snow can mean just one thing: You'll soon be attending the annual review of your child's Individualized Education Program (IEP). Most school districts hold this meeting in spring, so that educational team members can review current ADHD accommodations and set goals for the coming year. Here are suggestions to help you prepare.
If your child receives special services under a Section 504 Plan, the school isn't legally required to hold an annual review or to involve parents in meetings. However, you may request a meeting at any time, and many schools invite parents to participate in the process. Many of the tips that appear below will also prove helpful to you.
- Review your child's progress. Read the current IEP, and consider whether it has been meeting her needs. Look over the year's report cards, test results, and notes from teachers. Use the spring parent-teacher conference to discuss which techniques and accommodations have been most effective. Review your child's schoolwork to see which academic skills have improved, and note any continuing trouble spots.
It's also a good idea to involve your child. Solicit her thoughts about which special-ed services have been helpful, and where she's still struggling. At age 14, she may attend the meeting if you feel she can comfortably participate. By the age of 18, her presence will be required.
- Prioritize your wish list. Determine which goals to emphasize, and which to put on the back burner.
- Arrange for a friend or family member to accompany you to listen, take notes, and lend support. If you'd like the assistance of an educational advocate, you can find one through the Learning Disabilities Association of America, CHADD, or the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates. Some advocates provide free services; others charge an hourly or flat fee.
- Provide team members with new test results if you've had your child assessed privately since the last meeting.
At the meeting
- Be specific about your goals. Use the phrase "I'm requesting" to indicate the skills you'd like your child to get help with. It's best to leave specific teaching methods to the professionals, although it's reasonable to request a change if you feel a particular approach isn't working.
- Press for details. Make sure the plan specifies who will implement each provision, how often services will be provided, and how the IEP will be monitored. Build in a feedback loop—like weekly e-mails from teachers—to inform you of your child's progress.
- Take notes or audiotape the meeting, and take the plan home if you need more time to digest it. Sign only the parts you agree with, and share the results of the meeting with your child. When you're satisfied, send thank-you notes to team members.