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Hey, Mainstream Teachers, You Need to Read My Child's IEP

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The school year is underway. Some kids have been in school for a month while others a few weeks. When it comes to individualized education programs (IEPs), there are wrinkles that need to be ironed at the beginning of the year — which is understandable — but when issues keep coming up that are clearly stated in the IEP, a much deeper problem exists.

I have friends whose children have had health complications as a result of teachers not reading the IEPs for children with serious medical issues.

I have friends who have had teachers call and complain about issues they would know about had they read the IEP.

I have friends who have yet to hear back from teachers regarding supports that should be in place, as clearly stated on the IEP.

I have friends whose teachers have failed to provide the accommodations agreed upon the IEP.

I have friends whose children have been scolded on issues addressed in the IEP.

I could go on.

The point is, while special education teachers and IEP team members have a good grasp of what a child needs, mainstream education teachers are not always aware of the contents of an IEP. And this needs to change.

I understand teachers have many responsibilities and expectations from each of their students’ parents. I understand it is challenging to meet everyone’s needs. There are so many components to teaching, and school administration should provide teachers with advanced copies of a student’s IEPs as they plan for their classroom arrangements, assigned seats, etc.

I have friends who are teachers who do not receive a copy of a student’s IEP in a timely manner, sometimes even weeks into the school year.

I know of middle school and high school teachers who are not aware which of their students have IEPs.

And while I do believe administration is responsible for some of these oversights, I also believe it is a teacher’s responsibility to ask for those IEPs before school starts… and read them! And not just the day before school begins but as soon as they arrive at school for the new year.

A child with a medical condition who requires freedom to leave a classroom should not have to worry about a teacher calling them out in front of the class to explain why they were walking out. It would be embarrassing for the child and a breach of confidentiality. A teacher needs to know these things right away.

A child with cerebral palsy — even if not noticeable — should not be in trouble for being late when it is clearly stated in an IEP the student needs extra time for navigating the school hallways.

A child who needs modifications for tests should not have to take tests that are not adapted for them.

A child who needs a specific seating arrangement due to hearing loss or vision problems should not be assigned to the back of a classroom.

All examples of things that would be avoided if teachers read the IEP.

If you ever wonder why parents of kids with IEPs don’t “let up,” it’s because we have to make sure our child’s IEP is being followed and because we want to make sure our child is receiving the accommodations or interventions they need.

So mainstream teachers, we need you to read our child’s IEPs. You cannot rely only on information shared by the special education teacher because they might miss something. It is your job to be informed and personally read the IEP. You need to because that is the professional thing to do. But mostly, because you need to be following education laws.

We can be your allies and friends. Do you part, and read my child’s IEP.

Thinkstock image by Cheremuha

Originally published: September 18, 2017
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