Episode 15 - Navigating the IEP Process

Episode Summary
In this bonus episode on special education, we are joined again by Peter Beardsley and Lara Damashek, the Committee on Special Education liaisons at The Windward School. We tackle questions like, how do families start and navigate the IEP process? Who makes the referral for services? How should families and educators be prepared for meetings with the multi-disciplinary team? We also discuss the rights of families and students like due process. This episode contains the golden nugget of information for families and educators to navigate the special education process. READers will identify key action items that educators and families can take in the special education process to effectively advocate for students with disabilities.

Top READ Bookmarks
Each episode, host Danielle Scorrano identifies key takeaways or “READ bookmarks.” 

1. Children can be identified and classified in special education across different developmental age groups through age 21.

  • Birth to age two (early intervention)
  • Preschool age (three to five)
  • School age

2. The special education process includes meetings that serve distinct purposes.

  • Initial meeting: establishes the need for services, the IEP and placement.
  • Annual review: assesses the current IEP plan and goals.
  • Triannual review: evaluates the IEP plan and makes changes based on student progress and needs.

"It is the responsibility of the school district to provide services [to students with dyslexia]. The issue here is… the level of services that are necessary for kids who are dyslexic."

3. The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA, 1975) transferred special education decision-making to multi-disciplinary teams, which evaluates and determines individualized education plans and student placement. There is a continuum of services that a school district can provide for students with disabilities based on principles such as Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). LRE is supposed to be a setting that allows for maximum appropriate interaction with typically developing peers and a setting where the special education needs can be addressed. However, for students with dyslexia, they are often just being fit into existing programs that do not always appropriately fit their needs.

"I think that in many cases kids with disabilities, especially those who are dyslexic, are just being fit into existing programs, rather than being provided with the level of services that is really necessary for them to make that kind of progress that is envisioned under the law."

4. Tips for preparing for the IEP meeting:

1. Know your student well- academically, developmentally, and social-emotionally

2. Communicate frequently with your child’s general and special education teachers

3. Prepare your child’s skills and needs in areas such as

  • Reading (fluency, decoding, comprehension)
  • Writing (handwriting, sentences, paragraphs)
  • Math
  • Organization

4. Find out what is available in the district, especially for students with dyslexia who need specific, explicit systematic reading instruction

5. Understand your rights (i.e. due process)


Understood   Wright's Law 
Special Education Legal Fund

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READ Podcast is produced by The Windward School and The Windward Institute. READ is hosted by Danielle Scorrano.

About READ: READ, the Research Education ADvocacy Podcast connects you with prominent researchers, thought leaders, and educators who share their work, insights, and expertise about current research and best practices in fields of education and child development.
Note: All information and insights shared demonstrate the expertise and views of our guests.