One of the topics presented at the April 2nd conference hosted by BC Parents of Special Needs Children was “The ABCs of IEPs”. The two presenters, teacher/parent Tina Patterson and parent advocate Dr. Sherri Brown went way beyond explaining the basics. As well as describing the IEP process, they provided a whole lot of tips.One of the most useful recommendations was to ensure that you, as parents, have control of the process. The presenters emphasized that you should only agree to a place and time for the IEP if it suits your need. Even summer meetings can happen if you ask!
Another key consideration is who attends the IEP meeting. The presenters pointed out that parents have a lot of influence over who is on the “home team”. You can invite other advocates and experts to join you and the school team, but best to check with the Principal first so that there are no surprizes.
While emphasizing a collaborative approach, the facilitators also reviewed some of the steps that a parent may have to take if agreement can’t be reached on the child’s program and environment. You may need to involve senior school district administration, trustees and the Ministry of Education. If issues aren’t resolved, you may have to get help in taking steps under the provincial legislation, BC’s Human Rights code, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and even the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Have the courage of your convictions!
Finally, completing and reviewing the terms of the IEP is an ongoing process, and parents have to stay on top of what’s happening. Having an electronic version of the IEP can help with that. That’s assuming you can get an IEP in the first place. Although the BC’s Special Needs Policy Manual states “A school board must ensure that an Individual Education Plan (IEP) is designed for a student with special needs” it seems that schools don’t always follow-through. And then there’s the looming situation under the New Curriculum. Read tomorrow’s Part II post on IEPs for more on this.