IEP Issues

Hurdles slow you down. If you know they are there, you can run faster than if you don’t know they are there. But if you know that they are there, and have the opportunity to remove them, you’ll be faster yet.

Hurdles. It’s a good analogy in these IEP scenarios. I mean, you’re running along, making good time, and….damn. A big hurdle to jump over.


What if you didn’t even know the hurdle was there? I mean, it’s hard enough to jump over them when you can see them, but what if you don’t know that they exist?

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Or, what if someone told you once that they exist, but you don’t think that they’ll actually be there every time you go to the track, right?

I find that parents often have these “thought hurdles” when it comes to special education and IEPs. If you know they are there, you can plan for them. They won’t be in your way. Hurdles can slow down your progress in an IEP meeting and the IEP process.

I’m going to share with you some common themes that I see in the way parents think.

So take a look at these hurdles and do what you can to plan your jump over them or remove them altogether. Yes, two of them are lies. Remember that not everyone is out to get you.

There is a huge disconnect between what teachers learn in college about IDEA and what really happens in everyday life.

Many IEP team members rely on their coworkers to have the correct information, and often it’s just a game of “Whisper Down the Alley” gone wrong.

Sure, sometimes it is gaslighting. And sometimes it is just misinformation. When in doubt, I always ask, “Can you please show me where it says that in IDEA/State Regs/District Policy?”

mom who doesn't know IEPs

IEP Process: 7 Things to Remember

The educational model is often different from the rest of the world. This one comes up a lot and in various forms. Public education and special education operate much differently than in the rest of the world. And rules, norms, and laws that apply to the rest of the world often don’t apply to schools. Such as:

  • You cannot sue a specific person on the IEP team for damages.
  • You do not win punitive damages in most cases, and certainly not when you file an OCR complaint.
  • HIPAA does not apply to schools.
  • Things like restraining orders are handled differently in schools.
  • Medical models are very different from educational models (just because a doctor orders it, does not mean it is to be, in a school).
  • Yes, there is a difference between a medical diagnosis of Autism and your child qualifying for the IEP Eligibility Classification Category of Autism. You have one without the other.

I’m sure that there are many more examples but that is all I can think of now.

IEP Placement

Placement is the last decision, not the first. I see this one come up a lot, particularly when a child is going to either go through a transition (such as preschool to kindergarten) or change buildings (elementary to middle school).

It’s only natural as a parent, to want to picture your child in a particular setting, and envision what their day and their surroundings will be like. So when talk of a new IEP is approaching, right away their brain goes to placement.

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This hurdle is pretty easy to overcome. If you are thinking about placement first, just change your thinking. What is it about that setting that appeals to you? How do you see your child fitting in there?

How do you think that this setting will meet your child’s needs, that other settings cannot? What are they offering at this setting/placement that your child needs, that they cannot find in another placement?

IEP Process

IEP Placement is actually the last decision. The IEP process goes like this, first, you identify all the needs. Then, draw up goals. Then, the SDIs and services to help the child achieve goals. Finally, the team should look at that IEP and decide where it can best be implemented, and choose the placement.

Strengths-Based IEP

IEPs should be strengths-based. We tend to get so wrapped up in the “getting our child’s needs met” that we forget to focus on anything else in the IEP process. Take a look at this direct quote from IDEA Part B:

strengths based IEP

It’s the first one! Needs is actually the last one listed, but it is the one we spend the most time on. Make sure that you are spending an ample amount of time on your child’s strengths and allowing them to grow from a base of success.

IEP Outcomes

None of us are guaranteed outcomes. We are so worried about what is going to happen to our kids when we become adults, aren’t we? But the fact is, I have no guaranteed outcome with my non-disabled child either. I’m doing the best I can and hoping that it all works out, but there are no guarantees.

You are guaranteed by law for your child to receive everything that is in their IEP, but you are not guaranteed an outcome.

Longterm IEP Outcomes

Parents are {usually} the only ones with eyes on the finish line. I’ve had some school personnel dispute me on this one and take offense, but that’s ok. In my experience, it’s true the majority of the time.

Most school staff think from year to year. September to June. And that’s cool, I get it, that is how the school calendar works. It’s how we thought and operated when I was teaching.

But parents, our biggest source of anxiety and dread is what is going to happen to our kids when they exit the school system. We just think differently, and that’s ok too. We should, we’re the parents. But sometimes, you just need to remember that not everyone is playing the long game.

This isn’t meant to be a dig or a criticism. Just when you change your perspective and realize that others have a very different point of view, it can be helpful in solving disagreements.

IEP School Refusal

There is no “We don’t do that here!” Yes, yes you do. If it’s what my child needs and there is no other way to address the need, then you do that here.

IEP Classifications

Disability Classification matters. I hear all kinds of weird things surrounding this one. Members of the IEP team will hem and haw and change the subject. Or say things like “Well, we just put that there because of the type of services he’s going to receive. We don’t really think that he’s Emotionally Disturbed. We have to put that there.” Huh? No. IEP Classification matters.

Also read: 504 plan vs IEP

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