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You are a parent and your child has just been diagnosed with a learning difference. Or, maybe you’re a teacher and today your principal called you into her office to say that your classroom is now going to be piloting a “full inclusion” program for students with special needs; you will be co-teaching with a special education teacher and consulting individualized education programs (IEPs). Perhaps you are a student teacher who is (quite reasonably) feeling overwhelmed by the volume of information being thrown in your direction. Whatever the reason, many educators and parents are looking for a clear, concise introduction into the world of special education and IEPs. The following articles should help you navigate the IEP process, clarify its purpose avoid potential pitfalls.
In The IEP Process Explained, you will find a quick reference that will help you to better understand the origin, purpose and goals of the IEP. This section covers topics such as how to evaluate for eligibility, when to hold an IEP meeting and necessary team members and documentation. Remember, the point of having an IEP team is to draw upon the strengths and skill sets of each member, so even if you are a parent with no prior education experience, a general education teacher or a student teacher, you are there for a reason! This information can help you to be a better, more active member of your student’s IEP team.
Of course, within any group dynamic, differences of opinion can occur, and the IEP process is no different. In The Collaborative IEP: How Parents and Teachers Can Work Together, you will find a practical guide with specific tips to help you work collaboratively during the IEP process. This guide draws upon the experiences of current and former special education teachers, as well as parents who have advocated for their children through the IEP process. The best, most successful education plans are products of teams that can work together to best meet the needs of a child. By utilizing some time-honored, field-tested strategies, your team can develop strong, child-centered IEPs that will yield positive results. These strategies will also help members of IEP teams avoid potential pitfalls that can lead to breakdowns in communication and trust, disagreements and the dreaded litigation.