Tuesday, May 11, 2010

"The Best Laid Plans...

of mice and men gang oft aglee". This phrase rings out to me before, during, and after IEP meetings planning for a year ahead. Seems no matter what, something unexpected will happen. To that end, my best tips for IEP preparation are posted here.

I'm organizationally impaired, myself, so I keep an expanding file for each child, each year. One pocket for letters/correspondence, one for IEP proposals and drafts, one for work samples, one for evaluations (school and private). Since districts shred at years end, it seems appropriate to be able to supply missing yet pertinent documents for them, should the need arise. Save every note from the teacher, every scrap they send with your child. (Yes, even Post-Its). The district saves every excuse note you write, every jotted line you send. Return the favor.

The letters you write, not only copy and save, but make them count. NIMH has a great booklet of sample, customizable letters to districts. The single most important thing about any IEP, evaluation request, etc, is that it be IN WRITING. "If it's not in writing, it doesn't exist." That is SOOO true. If you haven't requested in writing that your child be evaluated for a disability, you have no proof that you have at all, and if you do request in writing, you not only have proof that you have, but you have the DATE that you did. Similarly, if the district will not put a refusal in writing, they will say that they haven't refused at all. So get it in writing. If they are claiming they haven't refused, then ask them to put it in writing that they're not refusing. Anytime a school or district says, "But you know this is how we will do it", say, "Put it in writing, please."

The next most important thing has to do with writing, as well. Don't let them get away with "weasel words". "Weasel words" are those words that sound nice when you read them, but render the IEP unenforceable. "May" is a weasel word. "May" also means, "May NOT". "student may have paraprofessional support" also means "student may be left to his own devices". "Have access to" are weasel words. "Have access to" means, "if your child requests it rather specifically, then that particular support "may" be available." Avoid weasel words.

I've been doing IEP's for 13 years now, and have learned a few tricks in my time. I'm sure there's always something new, but these are my biggest tips, the ones that got by me the first times out.

We're all in this together,



  1. I like that term "weasal words" going to remember that for the future and watch out for them big time.

  2. I should do a whole post on just weasel words. It so sucked finding out the hard way that my IEPs were unenforceable. :(