The Child Study Team may suggest you sign it sight-unseen, or hurry you to sign once the document is delivered. An IEP can be an intimidating pile of paper, full of jargon and charts and evaluations and lists. What should you be making sure of before you make it official? Here are some common areas of concern:
Whether academic, social or behavioral, for speech or occupational or physical therapy, all goals should be clear and measurable. Just saying there will be improvement in an area is not enough -- how much improvement? who decides? Generally, there should be a percentage listed as a criteria for mastery.
Modifications and Accommodations
Absolutely everything your child needs should be listed in this document -- one-on-one aide, instructional aide, inclusion teacher, resource room, alternate assignments, assistive technology, adaptive gym, extra time for tests, reduced homework, bus transportation, anything that's ever been discussed as helpful. If it's in the IEP, the school is obligated to provide it. If you just sort of remember that somebody said something about it at one time, you may have trouble getting that enforced.
Therapies and Related Services
The details of any speech, physical or occupational therapy your child receives should be spelled out, not only with clear and measurable goals but with an indication of how many sessions a week will be given and whether these will take place individually, in a group, or in the classroom. Additionally, any related services should be specifically mentioned and details given.
The percentage of your child's day that will be spent in regular education and the percentage in special education should be clearly indicated. If this doesn't correspond with your understanding of how your child's services and education will be provided, request explanation and adjustment as needed.
If an IEP makes reference to a behavior plan, the behavior plan should be in the IEP. The ways in which behavioral goals will be acheived needs to be spelled out and agreed upon. An IEP may make it sound as though some sort of magic wand is going to effortlessly make your kid behave. Have the methodology behind this specified in the IEP, or ask them to send you one of those wands to use at home.
If there's anything you want the people working with your child to know, make sure it's in the IEP. There should be a section devoted to your child's background, and if the information isn't there, there should be a section for parents' comments where you can have it added. It may be that no one will read it, but if it's in the IEP, they can't claim they were never informed.