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Building a Strong Special Education Team for Your Child

An Individualized Education Program or IEP is a document that spells out the specific services a child with a disability needs in order to access the free public education they are entitled to by law. It’s important to build a strong special education team and learn how to work effectively with them for the benefit of your child.

Special education team members and their roles:

The Student.  A child should always be welcome to participate in their IEP meetings and learn how to advocate for themselves, as appropriate. Once a child reaches age 14, they must be invited to attend the IEP meeting. At this age, they can also become an official member of the IEP team as they prepare for post-high school transition.   

Parents and/or Guardians.  Parents are crucial to the IEP team, as they know their child best.  Parents can also learn to become the child’s most effective advocate as they have a vested interest in the child’s success. Your EFMP team can help you learn how to become a prepared, informed, empowered, and effective IEP team member and advocate for your child. 

Support Person.  IEP meetings can be overwhelming! Parents are able to bring someone with them to offer support, take notes, or just be an extra ear to listen. Your EFMP Family Case Worker is happy to attend and offer support. Reach out if you’d like to have your Family Case Worker at your child’s next IEP meeting.

General Education Teacher.  Next to the parent, your child’s General Education teacher most likely spends the greatest amount of time with your child and will have good insight about any problems, needs, or adjustments made to support your child in the classroom.

Special Education Teacher or Provider.  This could be the special education teacher or a related-service provider, such as an Occupational Therapist. These team members will give valuable insights into what accommodations or services might be needed in the classroom to help your child be successful. 

School District Representative.  This could be the principal, special education coordinator, or another person who has a good understanding of school resources and a strong knowledge of special education services. This is the person who will likely explain the IEP meeting procedures and head the discussion. 

Results Interpreter.   This person interprets and explains the results of any special education evaluations in a way that can be understood by everyone in the meeting. Based upon their training and background, the results interpreter might also be the special education teacher or district representative.  

Outside Specialists or Advocates.  If your child works with a private specialist outside of the school setting, such as a Speech Therapist, these specialists may attend an IEP meeting. They offer their professional observations associated with their support of your child. Parents may also choose to bring an advocate with them to an IEP meeting. Some advocates volunteer their time, while others are paid professionals. If you bring an advocate, ensure they are knowledgeable about the special education system and federal and state laws. 

Transition Services Expert.  Students who are graduating from high school and transitioning to post-school activities will have a transition services expert join the IEP team. This could be a vocational school or career coaching agency representative.

Understanding who and what to expect in the IEP meeting, can help parents feel better prepared. If you’d like to learn more about how EFMP can support your special education questions or you’d like to learn how to become a more informed advocate, please contact your EFMP Family Case Worker. You are also invited to attend one of their regularly scheduled special education training sessions.

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