What to Ask for on your IEP
“I don’t know what to ask for on my IEP!” That question comes up often in our Facebook group. And, I can tell a lot about a parent who asks that question. It tells me that you are either a newbie or you don’t know the IEP process very well. Neither of those is meant to be a ‘dig’ on anyone. We’ve all been there.
Because, really, when it comes down to it, parents can ask for anything. Yes, really, you can. However, asking and receiving are two different things. So that’s what I’m going to tackle here-
- Learning what you can ask for on your IEP
- How to ask for something on your IEP
- How to get your IEP team on board with what you’ve asked for
Learning what to ask for on an IEP
The IEP process is well defined.
- First there are evaluations. Evaluations determine eligibility and help construct the child’s Present Levels section of the IEP (if they are deemed eligible for one).
- Once the IEP present levels section is written, goals are developed. IEP goals are constructed using the data from the baselines from the evals.
- Now that goals are in place, the IEP team decides what supports, services and interventions will be used to help the child achieve the goals.
- Almost finished-the IEP has present levels, goals and supports/services. Time for the IEP team to look at that IEP and decide what placement is best suited to implement that IEP.
- Once implementation starts, the IEP team should monitor progress and adjust as necessary.
So, in deciding what to ask for, the best place to start is to break down your IEP by section.
I need something in IEP Present Levels.
If there is something missing from this section, chances are you need to ask for evaluations. Or, if you gave your team an outside report and they didn’t include the information in PL, you need to ask for that.
Many times a team will fail to identify an area of need. They may brush off a possible reading disability due to ADHD issues. They may be uninformed and claim that since that issue is not academic, it doesn’t need to be in Present Levels (not true).
Whatever the reason is, if you are missing something from Present Levels, ask for IEP evaluations in that area.
My child needs more/different/better goals.
Now you’re reading the goals section. If you want to add or change goals, the first step is to go back to Present Levels and make sure that this is an identified area of need. If your child does not have any mention of Executive Functioning or SEL in PLOP, the team will not develop a goal for it.
In that case, you’re back to asking for something in Present Levels.
If the area of need is identified, make sure the data is there–check for solid baselines, etc. Decide what you want to be changed about the goal.
And, if you want a new goal added, perhaps for an area of need not currently being addressed with its own goal, you ask for that.
How do you ask for new or different goals? Submit a Parent Concerns Letter to your IEP team. You either send this letter prior to an annual IEP meeting or send it and request a meeting.
My child needs Support/Services added to the IEP.
Ok, for starters, this is one of the most common questions from parents, and again, it requires a bit of analysis.
Chances are, the reason you are asking for more or different supports and services is that you are unhappy with your child’s progress.
So, again, we have to backtrack. First, look at the goals. Do you think, that with proper supports, that your child can achieve those goals? What do his baselines say in present levels? What does your IEP progress monitoring say, and is that data the same construct as Present Levels?
I say this only because many parents often ask for more services when what the child really needs is different services. You may need help critiquing an IEP at this level, so feel free to put it in the Facebook group.
I want my child in a different placement
As stated above, placement is the last decision in the IEP process. So, before you move on to asking for a different placement, you must do the analysis on your IEP.
What placement are you looking at, and why? Why does your child need that placement? What are they doing at that placement that can’t possibly be done in his current placement? I have a whole separate blog post about IEP placement decisions, so I suggest you read it, especially if asking for a different placement.
There is no “IEP List.”
Ok, you’ve analyzed your IEP. You have a pretty good idea of what your child needs, but you still don’t know what’s available or what to ask for.
The school is not ever going to hand you a list of programs, placements, interventions or accommodations and say “Pick what you think your child needs.” It’s on us as parents to work with the IEP team, and network with other parents and professionals to determine what is out there and available.
Getting the IEP team to agree.
You did your analysis. You sent your letter and are waiting for the IEP meeting. How do you get them to agree to what you’ve asked for?
IEPs are data-driven documents. You must have the need identified, and a goal in place. As a parent, you also do need to consider what the school is offering in lieu of what you’ve asked. From there…none of us has a crystal ball. We don’t know if a child is going to respond better to one intervention or another. We have large group data on some pedagogies, but IEPs are part science, part art.
Make sure you have the data to back up your request. Why does your child need what you are asking? And, why won’t what the school is offering work to help your child? You have to prove two things–that yours will work, and that theirs won’t. Not always an easy task, but remember that IEPs do not require fail-first.
Once you have a solid plan for what you want, time to construct a letter of parent concerns and submit to your team. I have a whole separate post on how to write a kick-ass parent concerns letter.
From there, the IEP team is required to provide you all decisions on a PWN. Follow up your meeting with an after-IEP-meeting letter, and request a PWN for everything.
Yes, you really can ask for anything on an IEP.
I have seen some IEP teams really do some phenomenal and creative programming for kids. Yes, you can ask for anything–just make sure that you have the data to support it. And, you have to be realistic about what the school offers. They are not required to provide interventions that are not evidence-based. Schools also do not have to provide you with something if what they already have will achieve the same outcome. If you haven’t demonstrated that the child needs this, you’re not likely to get it.
Despite our best efforts, and following the IEP process, you still may hear “No.” That’s what the PWN is for, and you have some decisions to make.