Whew! You're sitting at the multidisciplinary team meeting and everyone is talking about test scores and using all kinds of terms you don't understand. It can be overwhelming, and even though you want to do the best you can for your child you may feel outnumbered and confused. And you may not be able to decide whether you should sign the Individual Educational Program (IEP) or not.
First, be assured that you absolutely do not have to sign the IEP that day. Second, remember that you may bring the independent evaluator(s) or anyone else you choose with you to the meeting to help you interpret what is being said and to obtain the services you think your child needs. And third, you have every right to ask to have any terminology explained to you.
According to federal and state law, children who are enrolled in special education must have an IEP. It is required to specify your child's current level of academic performance in his or her area(s) of need. Although it is not a binding contract, the IEP also establishes what are considered to be realistic goals and objectives, usually for the next year. It has to list general goals (usually taken from the evaluations) that your child will be expected to meet by the end of the IEP period, as well as specific short-term instructional objectives that break down the goals into teachable outcomes. In other words, what will your child be expected to do in order to reach the goals? The IEP is supposed to state beginning and ending dates, criteria for meeting the objectives, and the ways in which each objective will be evaluated. It also lists the type of educational program in which students will receive their instruction and any related services that are designated. (For older children, the IEP must also explain what services are needed to help them make the transition from school to post-school activities.) Finally, every student has to be serviced in the least restrictive environment (LRE), or in the regular classroom with peers that do not have disabilities, as much as is possible, considering his or her needs and the needs of the other children in the classroom. Therefore, the LRE can be different for different students.