It's IEP Time!
The IDEA requires that public school districts develop IEPs by the start of the school year. For extended school year students, that means the IEP has to be in place by July and for 10-month students, the IEP has to be in place by September. Most parents will have their IEP meetings in the early spring. Here are areas where I've seen parents get tripped up:
1) Organization. Keep all documents about your child in one place - a file, an envelope, a drawer. Bonus points if you can organize them into categories, like a file for all evaluations, a file for all IEPs or a file for each year.
2) Understanding You're here, so that's a start. Learn about your rights by reading my site and blog and other sources, like Understood.org, Wrightslaw.com, or IncludeNYC.org . If you aren't 100% confident in your English, you can ask for an interpreter and for all documents in your native language.
3) Channel your inner lawyer In all of your interactions with your public school district, be business like, confident and calm. Giving respect signals that you expect respect in return.
4) Know when it's time to go Sometimes you need to realize that your public school district has limited offerings that will never work for your child. It's time to go. Start learning about your options early in the school year.
5) Let the Other Side Make Mistakes While you are a member of your child's IEP team, it isn't up to you to do the District's job. It's up to them to get you copies of evaluation reports, IEPs, Prior Written Notices and, within the NYC DOE, school placements. You are legally entitled to these records. It's up to them to re-evaluate your child every three years and to assess for all suspected disabilities.
The IEP process can be collaborative and successful. Some children really do get a great public school education, but when your child has or needs an IEP, litigation is always a possibility. It's better to be prepared.