It’s the end of the school year, so this is a good time to focus on whether your child is on track to meet their Individualized Education Plan (IEP) goals. Even if their annual IEP is not due at this time, you should have a sense of how close your child is to meeting their annual goals and ensure that steady progress is being made.

Because you may have spent much of this past year closely monitoring your child’s progress at home, you may already have a good idea if your child is not making progress. Take the time to pull out your child’s IEP, look at each of the goals, and look at the progress report for each goal. 

If there are no progress reports, that is a red flag! You should be receiving progress reports as often as grade reports are delivered, usually every quarter or every trimester depending on your school’s grading system. You may receive the goal pages of your child’s IEP with additional information filled in each time a comment is added. If you have no comments on your child’s goals, make a request to your school team to provide you with the progress updates.

If it’s clear that your child has not made progress on one or more goals, call an IEP meeting. 

  • You can call an IEP meeting at any time! You don’t need to wait for the annual review to call a meeting. 
  • You might have time to request an IEP meeting before the school year ends. If not, you can request an IEP meeting at the beginning of the school year. 
  • Once you make that request, the school has 30 days to hold the IEP meeting.

1. Share your own data.

As parents, you see first-hand how your child does academically, functionally, socially, and emotionally in relation to their school experience (especially this year with distance learning). 

  • What makes your child resistant to attend class?
  • What subjects are most challenging?
  • Where are homework meltdowns happening?

Share this data with the team. If you are not already collecting data, start right now!

Collecting data is as simple as making a list with the date and the subject, for example, and then writing comments about the tasks your child worked on and how successful they were. 

2. Look closely at how the goals are written.

Are the goals SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-limited)? If the goals that aren’t measurable, they likely won’t be met – or you won’t be able to tell if they have been met.

The goals should be based on robust present levels developed from comprehensive assessments. The present levels statement must describe:

  • The results of the most recent evaluations;
  • Academic achievement – the child’s performance in reading/language arts, math, science, and history);
  • Functional performance – dressing, eating, going to the bathroom; social skills such as making friends and communicating with others; behavior skills, such as knowing how to behave across a range of settings; and mobility skills, such as walking, getting around, going up and down stairs.
  • The strengths of the child;
  • How the child’s disability affects the child’s involvement and progress in the general education curriculum. (For preschool, this is how the disability affects the child’s participation in appropriate preschool activities such as identifying letters, colors, using scissors, following instructions, and playing games).

If the present levels don’t have clear data, you cannot develop meaningful goals.

3. Discuss current supports and interventions.

Ask about the specific academic or functional supports your child receives each day. How often does your child receive this support? In what setting (i.e. 1:1 in a quiet room, or in the corner of a loud classroom with 6 other students)? What curriculum are they using? Is it appropriate to meet your child’s needs, or simply what the district has available? 

Who is providing that support? If your child is struggling with behavior goals, is the support being provided by a BCBA (board certified behavior analyst) or RBT (registered behavior technician) or a floating classroom paraprofessional without any specific behavior training? If your child is struggling with reading, are they getting additional specialized academic instruction in reading by a credentialed special education teacher, or by a para who is not qualified to provide reading instruction?

When goals are not being met, generally it’s because: 

  1. The goals were poorly written.
  2. The goals are not based on relevant, accurate, and comprehensive present levels data.
  3. The child requires additional instruction.
  4. The child requires a different kind of instruction.
  5. The child requires a trained teacher to provide the intervention.
  6. The setting is not appropriate.
  7. A combination of the above.

Take the time to discuss all of these possibilities with your child’s IEP team to see if you can narrow down what the problem is, and what can be changed to support your child to meet their goals. You may need to revise the goals to make them challenging (yet reasonably attainable) for your child in one year’s time. The school may need to provide additional accommodations or other supports to ensure that your child can make progress in their goals and in the general education curriculum. Your child might need to receive instruction in a quiet setting, for example. Or the type of instruction they receive may need to change to meet your child’s unique needs.

If the IEP team insists that your child is indeed making sufficient progress, ask to see the data to support this claim. This could be work samples, logs of services provided to the student, running records from the teacher, behavior checklists, etc.

Review the entire IEP with your child’s team and try to come up with a solution that will enable your child to make progress.

4. Request re-evaluation.

Current, comprehensive evaluation data is the foundation of the IEP. You can request updated assessments as often as necessary, you do not need to wait until the triennial evaluation. If your child is behind in their goals or had a change in status (such as a recent craniotomy, hydrocephalus or shunt surgery, or any other major concerns) that warrants a full re-evaluation. 

Consider what new questions might need to be answered by updated assessments. For example, if your child is struggling in reading, has the school team looked at all areas of reading (the Big Five) plus visual processing and central auditory processing disorder? If your child struggles with handwriting, has an occupational therapist and a teacher of the visually impaired looked closely at visual motor function and visual dsicrmination, and has an assistive technology assessment been completed? If your child has behavior issues (including increased anxiety or school refusal) has a Functional Behavioral Assessment been completed?

You can request these assessments from the school district. Or, if the district already evaluated but missed areas of need, then their evaluation was not comprehensive. In that case, your child may be entitled to an independent educational evaluation (IEE). Any evaluation should include clear recommendations about instructional or support needs, accommodations, and specific goals.

If you cannot come to agreement about needed changes to IEP goals or additional support to help your child make progress, consider contacting your state’s Parent Training and Information (PTI) center, Family Voices chapter, or Disability Rights organization. Most of the services these organizations provide are free to families of children with disabilities.

It’s important to regularly monitor your child’s progress as the gap between your child and their typical peers will continue to widen if appropriate supports are not put in place.

Do you have questions?

Join our Director of Patient and Family Advocacy for weekly Power Hour! Use this link to register for the next session. 

Power Hour is an opportunity to ask any questions you have about education, transition to adulthood, connecting to financial or medical resources, housing options, epilepsy surgery, dealing with postoperative hydrocephalus or shunt issues, or any other concerns. We are here to help you navigate this journey across the lifespan.

About the author

Audrey Vernick is the Director of Patient and Family Advocacy for The Brain Recovery Project. She is the parent of a child who had hemispherectomy for seizures caused by stroke. Ms. Vernick holds a level 2 certification in Special Education Advocacy Training from the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates and is certified by The ARC in future planning. She represents The Brain Recovery Project in the Rare Epilepsy Network‘s Adult Transition Taskforce and serves on the Youth Advisory Council for HOBSCOTCH (HOme Based Self-management and COgnitive Training CHanges lives), a behavioral program designed to address memory and attention problems for people who have epilepsy.