As your child’s primary advocate, it’s your job to help guide the IEP process. One way to do that is to use questions to gather information and prompt meaningful discussions. But the answers you get often depend on the questions you ask. Below are basic guidelines to help you hone the art of asking questions.
At every IEP meeting there are a handful of questions that should be asked:
- Why has this approach and program been chosen for my child?
- What needs will the program address?
- Who will be delivering the services and supports? How often? When? Where? And with whom, if not one-on-one?
- How and how often will the program be evaluated to determine progress?
As you prepare for the IEP meeting, review the most current IEP document and ask yourself the following series of questions. This will help you determine the questions you want answered:
- Are the Present Levels of Performance pages completed? Do they reflect your child’s and your input? If not, make a list of concerns you would like the IEP to include.
- Do you understand the goals and objectives? If not, make a note of those you do not understand and ask for clarification at the meeting.
- Do the goals and objectives meet your child’s needs as described on the Present Levels of Performance pages? Are they SMART—specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound? If not, rewrite them or make a note of the problematic ones, and review them at the meeting.
- How will your child’s progress be evaluated? Who will collect and analyze the data to measure her progress? Ask for copies of the baseline data that show how she’s currently doing, which you can then compare with future data. Request that any evaluation procedure include pre- and post-intervention data.
- If teacher observation is being used as an evaluation tool, how will the information be written, reported, and analyzed? Does the information refer back to the goals and objectives, so you can see what was taught and how your child progressed? How will you receive written feedback from the observations?
- How will mastery be measured? Will it be across all environments, including home and community as well as in academic (classroom) and nonacademic settings (cafeteria, playground, etc.) at school?
- Is the IEP document fully completed: Does it list all services and supports necessary to implement the IEP effectively, and does it represent all agreements made at the meeting?
Whether you’re using questions as a device to gain information, prompt discussion, or gently lead the team to a desired conclusion, question crafting is an art—one that gets better with practice.
- Although you may be angry and frustrated, remain calm and in control at the meeting. To do otherwise is likely to provoke a defensive reaction that may not be in your child’s best interest.
- Ask questions that focus on the problems and solutions, not on the people.
- To generate new ideas or approaches from other team members, ask questions to which you may know the answers.
- For clarification, paraphrase and restate questions.
- If you do not agree, do not be afraid to ask again in an effort to negotiate an agreement.
- Ask questions to understand the philosophy behind the staff recommendations.
- Ask questions that will lead to your final concern.
This article is based on information presented by Noreen O’Mahoney, SDA, CSW, founder and director of Collaborative Advocacy Associates, CT at an event sponsored by Smart Kids and SPED*NET Wilton (CT). Eve Kessler, Esq., a criminal appellate attorney is Executive Director of SPED*NET, Special Education Network of Wilton (CT), and a Contributing Editor of Smart Kids.