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IEP Team Members Play an Essential Role in the Development of Your Child’s IEP

(October 25, 2011): By law, certain individuals — IEP Team members — must be involved in writing a child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP).  Note that an IEP team members may fill more than one of the team positions if properly qualified and designated. For example, the school system representative may also be the person who can interpret the child’s evaluation results.

IEP Team members must work together to write the child’s IEP. A meeting to write the IEP must be held within 30 calendar days of deciding that the child is eligible for special education and related services.

IEP team members bring important information to the group. Members share their information and work together to write the child’s Individualized Education Program. Each person’s information adds to the team’s understanding of the child and what services the child needs.

Parents are key members of the IEP team members. They know their child very well and can talk about their child’s strengths and needs as well as their ideas for enhancing their child’s education. They can offer insight into how their child learns, what his or her interests are, and other aspects of the child that only a parent can know. They can listen to what the other team members think their child needs to work on at school and share their suggestions. They can also report on whether the skills the child is learning at school are being used at home.
Teachers are vital IEP Team members as well. At least one of the child’s regular education teachers must be an IEP Team Members if the child is (or may be) participating in the regular education environment. The regular education teacher has a great deal to share with the team. For example, he or she might talk about:

• The general curriculum in the regular classroom;
• The aids, services or changes to the educational program that would help the child learn and achieve; and
• Strategies to help the child with behavior, if behavior is an issue.

The regular education teacher may also discuss with the IEP team members any supports for school staff that are needed so that the child can:

• Advance toward his or her annual goals;
• Be involved and progress in the general curriculum;
• Participate in extracurricular and other activities; and
• Be educated with other children, both with and without disabilities.

Supports for school staff may include professional development or more training. Professional development and training are important for teachers, administrators, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and others who provide services for children with disabilities.  A child’s special education teacher contributes important information and experience about how to educate children with disabilities. Because of his or her training in special education, this teacher can talk about such issues as:

• How to modify the general curriculum to help the child learn;
• The supplementary aids and services that the child may need to be successful in the regular classroom and elsewhere;
• How to modify testing so that the student can show what he or she has learned; and
• Other aspects of individualizing instruction to meet the student’s unique needs.
Beyond helping to write the IEP, the special educator has responsibility for working with the student to carry out the IEP. He or she may:
• Work with the student in a resource room or special class devoted to students receiving special education services;
• Team teach with the regular education teacher; and
• Work with other school staff, particularly the regular education teacher, to provide expertise about addressing the child’s unique needs.

Another important member of the IEP team is the individual who can interpret what the child’s evaluation results mean in terms of designing appropriate instruction. The evaluation results are very useful in determining how the child is currently doing in school and what areas of need the child has. This IEP team member must be able to talk about the instructional implications of the child’s evaluation results, which will help the team plan appropriate instruction to address the child’s needs.

The individual representing the school system is also a valuable team member. This person knows a great deal about special education services and educating children with disabilities. He or she can talk about the necessary school resources. It is important that this individual have the authority to commit resources and be able to ensure that whatever services are set out in the IEP will actually be provided.

The IEP team may also include additional individuals with knowledge or special expertise about the child. The parent or the school system can invite these individuals to participate on the team. Parents, for example, may invite an advocate who knows the child, a professional with special expertise about the child and his or her disability, or others (such as a vocational educator who has been working with the child) who can talk about the child’s strengths and/or needs. The school system may invite one or more individuals who can offer special expertise or knowledge about the child, such as a paraprofessional or related services professional. Because an important part of developing an IEP is considering a child’s need for related services, related service professionals are often involved as IEP team members or participants. They share their special expertise about the child’s needs and how their own professional services can address those needs. Depending on the child’s individual needs, some related service professionals attending the IEP meeting or otherwise helping to develop the IEP might include occupational or physical therapists, adaptive physical education providers, psychologists, or speech-language pathologists.

When an IEP is being developed for a student of transition age, representatives from transition service agencies can be important participants. Whenever a purpose of meeting is to consider needed transition services, the school must invite a representative of any other agency that is likely to be responsible for providing or paying for transition services. This individual can help the team plan any transition services the student needs. He or she can also commit the resources of the agency to pay for or provide needed transition services. If he or she does not attend the meeting, then the school must take alternative steps to obtain the agency’s participation in the planning of the student’s transition services.

And, last but not least, the student may also be an IEP team member. If transition service needs or transition services are going to be discussed at the meeting, the student must be invited to attend. More and more students are participating in and even leading their own IEP meetings. This allows them to have a strong voice in their own education and can teach them a great deal about self-advocacy and self-determination.

Ashley Morgan Healthcare AttorneyIf you are having problems with one or more IEP Team members and need assistance negotiating a reasonable resolution with the school district, call attorney Ashley Morgan, as attorney with Liles Parker, for assistance. For a free consultation, call: 1 (800) 475-1906.

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