Parents’ Role in the Special Education Process
Parents are considered to be full and equal members of the IEP team, along with school personnel (34 CFR 300.322). Parents are crucial members of the team because they have unique knowledge of their child’s strengths and needs. Parents have the right to be involved in meetings that discuss the identification, evaluation, IEP development and educational placement of their children. They also have the right to ask questions, dispute points, and request modifications to the plan, as do all members of the IEP team.
An IEP meeting is not to be confused with a Parent/Teacher conference in which the parent converses with the teacher with reports of the student’s progress and performance. In order to fully participate in developing their child’s IEP, parents must be knowledgeable about their child’s specific disabilities, their rights under federal and state law, and the policies and procedures of the local education agency (LEA). Often parents do not have this knowledge when their child is initially identified as having a disability. Under IDEA Part D, the U.S. Department of Education funds at least one parent training and information center in each state and most territories (NASDSE, 2010) to provide parents the information they need to advocate effectively for their child. Some centers may also provide a knowledgeable person to accompany a parent to IEP meetings to assist the parent in participating more fully in the process.