How to Prepare for the IEP Meeting
The maximum amount of time allowed to pass between the parents’ request and/or agreement to conduct the evaluation to the IEP development differs from state to state, but most regulations cite a time line somewhere between fifty and 120 days. (Note: In some states the meeting at which the IEP is written is called by the somewhat misleading phrase Admission, Review Dismissal meeting–the ARD meeting.)
Whatever it’s called in your state, you will have a lot to prepare so that the meeting is productive and so that the school personnel understand the necessity of the accommodations. Being prepared will also ensure that the IEP is well written.
Parents must be prepared to educate the school team, develop a resource binder, rehearse the meeting beforehand, and decide who will be at the meeting with them (the child psychiatrist, an advocate, an educational lawyer).
Any written materials about early-onset bipolar disorder that you want the special education team at school to review (perhaps the article What is Juvenile Bipolar Disorder?) should be sent about two weeks before the scheduled meeting so that the IEP team will have time to digest the materials and better understand how to write the IEP. Few could skim and grasp the implications of this illness and construct an IEP in the hour or two allotted to the process without prior knowledge about the student’s challenges and illness.
Preparing the Binder
The three-ring binder should carry a picture of your child on the front, his or her name and grade on the spine, and be divided into sections inside. These should include:
1. Important contacts and telephone numbers.
2. Reports or letters from the professionals working with your child. An example would be letters from the psychiatrist or therapist with any recommendations they have for your child’s education.
3.Results you have from private assessments such as the neuropsychological testing. These test results should support your child’s need for an IDEA classification.
4.The complete list of accommodations from this article.
5. The sample IEP from The Bipolar Child website. This sample IEP will help you with your input at the IEP meeting.
6.The Behavior/Symptom/Accommodation chart from this article is a visual aide to help the IEP team better understand how to interpret disruptive behaviors and recommend how to develop interventions which will reduce these unruly behaviors.
7.Examples of your child’s work which exemplify areas of difficulty and areas of giftedness.
8. A copy of Jennifer Bollero’s beautifully written and reasoned article called “Playing Hearts, Not Poker” available at the Harbor House Press Law site. No parent should leave home for an IEP meeting without reading or re-reading this article.
Educating the Team About Accommodations
That Will Benefit Your Child
Since a parent usually understands the illness and the side effects of the medications better than anyone, he or she should be ready to spell out a list of symptoms and medication side effects and proposed modifications in the academic schedule to accommodate the child’s difficulties and to make the school day more productive and comfortable for the student.
Hopefully, by the time the education team sits down to write the IEP, the parents can provide the independent neuropsychological assessment which can pinpoint any specific learning disabilities, learning styles, and possible weaknesses in the domains of executive functions. (This neuropsychologist’s report should make recommendations for the academic arena and these recommendations should be addressed in the IEP also.)
We thought it would be helpful to divide the modifications into categories where parents and educators could see at a glance which symptoms the student has and which accommodations will have to be incorporated into the IEP. Four categories the IEP team should consider when developing an appropriate IEP for a student with a mood disorder are:
I. Symptoms caused by the mood disorder
II. Side effects of the medications used to treat the condition
III. Attention and organizational difficulties
IV. Specific learning disabilities
(Click here to view all the symptoms and accommodations)