How to Make Sure Your IEP Is Being Followed (and What to Do if It Isn’t)
As Collin tells us, “If it is not written, it doesn’t exist.” Just as you did when you took the time to review your child’s IEP, you’ll want to continue to carefully document everything and review any important paperwork you receive, such as your child’s service logs and progress monitoring reports. Service logs will show you the dates that a provider, such as a speech therapist, worked with your child and for how long. You can compare the minutes logged with your child’s provider against the minutes listed in their IEP to see if they match. (Here's a sample letter you can use to request service logs.)
Progress reports should be sent to you multiple times a year, possibly with your child’s report cards. These reports should contain your child’s present levels of performance (PLOP), their goals, and number data representing their progress. According to Carey, some progress monitoring reports lack detail or contain language that is hard to understand. She suggests requesting a meeting with your child’s service providers or teachers to discuss what is written in the report in more detail.
Carey also suggests looking over your child’s homework and graded assignments. For example, if your child’s IEP states that they should have fewer problems per page, whether or not this provision is being followed will be evident by the worksheets they bring home.
Speak with service providers and teachers
For some types of accommodations, it can be trickier to determine if they are being followed as there isn’t any documentation for you to review. Carey suggests speaking directly to your child’s teachers and service providers and asking detailed questions.
For example, if your child has sensory breaks written into their IEP, you can ask their teacher, “How are their breaks going?” or “How do you know when my child needs a break?” You could also ask, “Is my child asking for breaks, or is someone else asking on their behalf?” Asking prompting questions can give you a good idea of what is going on and alert you to any red flags, such as the teacher being unable to answer your questions.
By opening a dialogue with your child’s teacher about specific details of their IEP, you may find that some provisions are working better than others. For example, if the teacher is following the provision that your child be given preferential seating and has seen reduced engagement, that gives you and the IEP team essential feedback that can help you refine the IEP for better outcomes. (It’s important to note, however, that the school is still legally required to follow all aspects of your child’s IEP and should not make any changes to the way it is implemented without your consent.)
Speaking with school staff can also help you better understand how your child’s goals are being worked on. What is being done in class or sessions with providers to meet their goals? Collin suggests asking specific questions about your child’s progress and what the teacher means when they say “progress.” The term can sometimes be misleading without context. (Here's a sample letter that shows how to document conversations with the staff, which may be helpful to review during the next IEP meeting.)
Collin tells us that if it looks like one of your child’s goals will not be achieved during the school year, the district is supposed to call an IEP meeting to discuss why that is the case. If they do not, it is a good idea for you to do so. It could be that your child’s goals are not being met because parts of their IEP are not being followed or are not working as intended.
Speak with your child
Not all children will be able to communicate whether their IEP is being followed, but if your child can, it’s a good idea to ask them about the particulars, especially if they are older. For example, if their IEP says they should be seated near the teacher at the front of the room, ask your child whether they are. If they say no, you can reach out to the teacher to find out why. It can also be a great way to educate your child on what is in their IEP and encourage them to advocate for themselves.
Request to visit your child’s classroom
A classroom visit can be a great way to get an idea of how your child’s accommodations are being implemented. Collin suggests taking a list of accommodations from your child’s IEP so that you can check them off as you see them being used.
If you are not able to observe your child’s classroom yourself, you can ask (or hire) someone you trust to do it for you. Collin says that anyone with the skill set needed to understand your child’s accommodations can fill the role, whether they’re an advocate, a psychologist, or a friend.
She adds that some schools are more willing to set up observations than others, and suggests speaking with your child’s teacher or principal beforehand.
As Dr. Sarah Pelangka explains in this clip, you can also request to observe your child's service sessions (or send an observer in your place if you worry that your presence would affect your child's behavior during the session):