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Setting New Year Goals: Actionable steps for parents of students with IEPs. Recommendations from a special education advocate.

special education advocate

Happy New Year!  The new year is an excellent time to reflect on progress and set goals.

Have you ever:

  • felt lost in a system that is supposed to be supportive and student-centered?  

  • left an IEP feeling like you were just in a meeting that didn’t accomplish anything except helping the district meet its compliance measures (IEP was held on time)? 

  • left an IEP feeling like the team barely knows your child? 

  • left an IEP meeting without copies of the IEP, including the notes?  

  • left an IEP meeting feeling like you were on a carnival ride that never seems to end?

  • ever received a draft of the IEP with enough time to read it before the meeting?

With the New Year upon us, let’s make sure you never feel lost, confused, or frustrated by the educational system. Sage EAC wants you to feel powerful and provide you with the same inside knowledge the district has! Our last blog was about school discipline. We talked about ways to empower yourself if the school engages you in a conversation about discipline related to your learner. This blog is about you being in control of your child's learning through the IEP process.  

Over the next few months, your child will begin to be bombarded with many new challenges that come with the second half of the school year, including:

  • preparation for state assessments, including cramming before state testing

  • changing social expectations as they age

  • field trips

  • increased social and academic rigor

  • picking classes for middle and high school

Before long, schools will also be preparing for the next school year. Yes, NEXT school year!! Schools will soon begin reviewing budgets, class sizes, teachers, special service providers, support staff, and curriculum innovations for next year, making decisions about the structure of the school. 

Amongst all of this, it is easy for schools to lose sight of students’ individual needs, IEP goals, and accommodations. We want to ensure your learner is still getting their needs met, as outlined in the IEP, and making progress towards their goals. The new year is a good time to reflect on your child’s progress and set goals for the second half of the school year. Here are a few simple ways to ensure you are knowledgeable, empowering you to hold the school accountable for your child’s IEP.   

  • Reread their last evaluation report and current IEP. Reread the recommendations section and cross-check that they are incorporated into the IEP. Generally, not all recommendations are incorporated into the IEP because teams struggle to understand the root cause of the learning challenge and end up using very general strategies like “extra time” and “breaks during the day.”  As a parent, you get to see how your child learns outside of the classroom, which is often overlooked yet is extraordinarily powerful data for the IEP team. For example, if at home you have a checklist to help your child keep track of what they are supposed to be doing and they are not using something similar at school, that is a connection you will need to make for the school team.  

  • Create a document for yourself that includes:

    • Annual IEP Date

    • Reevaluation Date

    • Eligibility - only what has been identified through IDEA and on the IEP. 

    • Strengths - things your child enjoys doing outside of school. What they are good at—list a lot!  

    • Areas of growth - this should be related to their disability. In what ways do you see your child struggling? 

    • Hopes and dreams for your child. 

  • Mark your calendar for a month before your child’s annual IEP due date. Use this date as a reminder to ensure your child’s meeting has been scheduled. Use your document to help prepare input for the meeting.

  • Reach out to your child’s teacher(s) and/or case manager. If you haven’t already, ask if they have recently read your child’s IEP. Many may respond with something like, “I have read the accommodations” or “of course, yes.” The reality is that most have not read the IEP and have not been given a snapshot of your child's IEP. Some questions that can guide your conversation include:

  • “How is the _____ accommodation working out in class for my child?”

  • “Will there be opportunities for my child to practice using their accommodations in a state testing like setting?”

  • “Do you know if transition meetings have been scheduled yet? I want to be sure we are on top of picking classes for middle/high school.”

  • “Was there anything before break that was not an official accommodation but that you felt was beneficial? I am thinking ahead to the upcoming IEP meeting and what may be good to consider.”

  • Have a conversation with your child. Discuss:

  • What do you like the most about school?

  • What might help you enjoy school more?

  • Ask them direct questions about their IEP.

  • What accommodation helps you the most?

  • Why do you think so?

  • Are there accommodations that would help you in school?

  • Your student likely recently received a report card. Did you get progress monitoring data? If you did not, ask for it! Compare that data to the IEP goals, and don’t be afraid to ask the case manager follow up questions.

Our resolution at Sage Educational Advocacy & Consulting is to help you empower yourself and start the new year strong.  



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