Back to School with your Child’s IEP

By Elizabeth Topaz, Senior Trainer, Parent Training and Information Center

Boy in front of BlackboardIf your child has a disability covered by special education law and is not making effective progress in school, he or she may need specially designed instruction and/or related services, such as occupational, speech and language, or physical therapy. If this is the case, he or she should have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP Team, made up of school staff, the parents, and the student (if age 14 or older), works together to develop an education plan that is uniquely designed to address your child’s needs so he or she can learn. Once developed (or “proposed”), the IEP may only be implemented if agreed to in writing by the parent or guardian (or student, if over 18).

If there is a proposed IEP that you haven’t responded to, now is the time!

If you have questions about how to respond, our Call Center is available to assist you. You can fill in an online intake form (use the Call Center link on the front page of our website: or call us at 617-236-7210). We are available to respond Monday – Friday from 10:00am to 3:00pm.

Accommodations are changes that help a student with disabilities engage with and participate in the general education curriculum. Accommodations are put in place by classroom teachers and school staff. The list of your child’s accommodations (if any) will be found under the heading “Present Levels of Educational Performance” (PLEP). There are two PLEP pages in the IEP. You should review both to understand what accommodations will be provided and when they will be used.
Typical accommodations might include:

  • additional time for tests or assignments
  • graphic organizers
  • seating near a role model
  • specific technology.

Each of your child’s teachers should have access to the IEP and know what accommodations your child needs.

Special Education is specially designed instruction. This means that a special education teacher has changed:

  • the content of the material,
  • the way the material is taught, or
  • the grading standards for your child.

If you want to know which of these changes will apply to your child, look at the last section of the “PLEP” pages of your child’s IEP. If the IEP proposes content changes, your child will be taught the same curriculum, but at a level appropriate for your child.

Special educators and therapists will work towards specific goals with your child. Each goal will be listed on its own page of the IEP, after the PLEP pages. Each goal is assigned a number, which will be useful to you when you read the Service Delivery Grid. Throughout the school year, you will receive as many progress reports as you do report cards, although the two may not be issued at the same time.

The Service Delivery Grid is located after the goals on your child’s IEP. It lists services the Team has determined are needed to reach your child’s goals. The goal number is listed in the left column of the Grid. Each goal should have at least one service on the Grid. The Grid is divided into 3 sections. Section A, at the top, lists regularly scheduled consultations between a professional and teachers, service providers or parents. Consultations do not include any direct work with your child. Section B, in the middle, lists direct special education services that are provided to the student in a general education classroom. If the service that your child needs cannot be provided in a general education classroom, that service will be listed in Section C at the bottom.

Once you are familiar with your child’s IEP, you can better partner with your child’s school to ensure that he or she receives a great education. Use these tips as a starting point:

  • Check in with your child’s teacher to ensure that she or he has a copy of the IEP;
  • Confirm that arrangements are in place for the services and accommodations;
  • Ask your child’s teachers what you can do to support what your child is learning at school, and how to ensure consistency between home and school;
  • Attend back-to-school parent events and teacher conferences;
  • Let your child’s teacher know that you appreciate his or her work with your child, and keep a positive relationship with your child’s teacher;
  • If your child is older, ask him or her to reflect on their accommodations during the school year;
  • Learn what works best for your child (and what doesn’t help!), and share this information with school during the year and at IEP team meetings;
  • If your child is struggling, work with your child’s teacher first – you can also call a team meeting to discuss changes to the IEP.

Your role as an informed, supportive parent is an important component of a successful school year!
If you would like more information, consider attending our “free to attend” two -hour workshops on “Understanding Special Education Basic Rights” (to understand the special education process) and “An IEP for My Child” (to understand the IEP document):