How To Help Parents Through The IEP Process

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I have always thought about parent communication from an SLP’s perspective. While in the evaluation process, I usually have thoughts such as, ‘I NEED to make this call’, ‘I HAVE to send this note home’ or ‘I NEED to give them this paperwork’.

Well, this past year, I have had growing concerns about my son’s expressive language development. Of course, I kept going back and forth between ‘He has an expressive language delay’ and ‘It’s just me overreacting because I’m a speech therapist’. His pediatrician and everyone else I talked to confirmed the overreacting thought by all saying the exact same thing, ‘He is fine! He is a boy and his older sister talks for him.’

Still, I had this gnawing feeling that something wasn’t right.  So finally, I decided to listen to my gut and go with my SLP thoughts…GET HIM EVALUATED!

About two months ago, I called a phenomenal and nationally known speech therapy clinic that happens to be down the road from my house. I won’t name their clinic, but let’s just say I had an SLP star struck moment when I talked to the owner!

Okay, back to the story…

We scheduled an evaluation for the clinic and it was extremely simple.  I brought my son in, they evaluated him and recommended therapy.   It took about 2 hours, 2 signatures and that was it!  We set up our therapy times for the next week…fast and easy!   Oh and by the way, my inner SLP was correct.  My son has a mild expressive language delay.

I also called the county’s early on program to get him evaluated through the school system. Well, I have to say that this process was SO DIFFERENT than the clinic.  If you work in a school, you know there are so many legal documents, meetings, phone calls, plans and hoops that you have to jump through just to qualify one student.  Yes, it is a free service, but boy as a parent can it be overwhelming, confusing and downright frustrating!

Don’t get me wrong, my county’s early on program did a phenomenal job and I was very happy with them.  However, I realized how much information overload can happen if you are a parent that doesn’t know the process, the lingo or the paperwork.

AS A PARENT, I want to reiterate just how important it is to not only keep the parents informed about the process, but to walk them through each and every step making sure to constantly ask if they have any questions.  There were so many times throughout the process that I thought, ‘How do parents without IEP experience know what to do, what to expect and what their rights are?’.

I think that having 50+ IEPs every year makes it hard to realize that not everyone can do this in their sleep! Sometimes, IEPs and all of the meetings can become so routine that it is essential to step back, slow down and remind ourselves to walk each parent through every single detail.

Let’s try not to let our parents feel like this!

So, here is my SLP Public Service Announcement (stated as a parent):

No matter how many evaluations and IEPs you go through, make sure to be thorough in helping each and every parent feel comfortable, informed and A PART OF THE IEP TEAM! I know that this experience gave me a very new and refreshing perspective and I hope that it helps you too!

Now the question is, in our busy SLP lives, how can we be sure that we make EACH parent feel comfortable and informed?  Use this FREE PARENT COMMUNICATION CHECKLIST! I have used this checklist to help keep the communication lines open with parents, but also to keep myself organized.  You are welcome to edit it, as it was made for my personal use.  I hope you find it useful and it makes your SLP life a little bit easier!

Click Here For The Freebie

Click Here For The PPT version (Editable)

If you have ANY suggestions or things that would be beneficial to add to this checklist, please leave them in the comments.  Collaboration is key as SLPs!

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