Time and time again, I meet with parents who are baffled why their child's IEP (Individualized Educational Program) or 504 Plan (accommodations plan) is not being implemented at school. Sometimes parents do not notice for years that although their IEP or 504 has many items which are supposed to be done, not all of them ARE being done. This can be a heartbreaking discovery as lack of implementation may waste years of valuable time for a child.
Special education (both IEPs and 504 Plans fall under special education), is awash with issues like this. There are always questions of qualification and what to include in the IEP or 504. But, once the 504 or IEP is finally complete, most parents mistakenly put their minds on other things, trusting the school to follow through. Not so fast. A parent's job is NEVER EVER done when their child is in school, special education or otherwise. Rather, parents have to babysit the school and their implementation of any IEP or 504.
So many parents trust school personnel to act like the parent would in life- responsibly. Yes, teachers and staff are generally responsible adults and carry out their duties; however, there are a large portion of them who do not always do ALL that is required of them. In other words, some things get left behind: perhaps 504 accommodations or IEP implementation in the classroom?
Teachers may also lack knowledge, either because no one followed up with them after an IEP/504 meeting, or the plan got buried in their in-basket. Sometimes there is an attitude of "That is not my job," or "I am too busy with my other kids to work on this." IEPs or 504s can be poorly written as well, or so vague as to be almost meaningless. Maybe they are too dense to be easily digested by teachers, who remain confused so do not act. Schools themselves can also be disorganized and/or constantly putting out fires, thereby dropping the "small stuff." Once in a while there are staff who flat refuse to honor IEPs and 504 Plans. In all of the above, only the squeaky wheel gets attention.
Parents must remain on top of the situation to ensure their child does not get overlooked. Email to teachers and staff weekly can help ensure that items in the IEP are being implemented and can also alert a parent to problems. If staff refuse to email back or communicate with a parent, this must be addressed immediately. The obligation for the teachers to respond can be written into an IEP or 504.
Speaking with the child to see if services are being done is also important. For example, is the student being pulled out for services? Is someone working with them in class? Is the student able to go to the resource room to take tests? What should be being done at school depends on the IEP or 504 Plan.
A classroom inspection to see how things really are at school can often be illuminating. School visitor policies should be followed.
Ultimately, our trust in the schools and their competence should be earned. And it has to be earned yearly, depending on the staff involved. I have far too many times met with parents who trusted for years, only to find out their child never received a service and has deficient skills. It is very difficult to get those years back in education-land.
You make sure items are being done and implemented. You ensure your child is getting the services he/she is entitled to, and which are agreed to in his/her IEP or 504 Plan. Take an active, albeit respectful, role in your child's education so your child can win the education race, and not be left in the dust.
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