Parent under IEP meeting stress
Suzanne Shaft

IEP Meeting and Prior Written Notice: Know Your Rights

Parent under IEP meeting stress
Suzanne Shaft

IEP Meeting and Prior Written Notice: Know Your Rights

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It’s about that time again… IEP meeting season is coming, and that means I’ve got my migraine medicine handy!

For many parents, a root canal maybe more desirable than an IEP meeting 😅

I don’t know about you, but I hate IEP meetings. I’m guessing I’m not alone in this feeling. If you’re like me, and you find that you’d rather have a root canal than an IEP meeting, I have some tips to share. Note that I’m going to cover more of these topics in great detail soon in my Vitalxchange channel Plan AtoZ.

You have a secret weapon ⚔️

Today, I want to tell you all about a powerful tool that is always at your disposal, but you may not know about it. It’s the Parent Response Letter to the Prior Written Notice.

What is the Parent Response Letter to Prior Written Notice?

According to IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), school districts must tell you in writing if they are proposing any changes to your child’s education program. This is called Prior Written Notice (PWN). You may get one before an IEP meeting, and another after an IEP meeting. It outlines everything that was proposed by the IEP team and why it was adopted or rejected. And that right there is the key – it has to state in writing why something will or will not be written into the IEP.

Along those lines, it also must state what other options were considered (if any) and why they were discarded. It should also detail any supporting evaluations, assessments, records, etc. that were used to propose or refuse the action being requested. This helps you form one of the most important things you need as the parent of a child on an IEP – a paper trail.

A paper trail for an IEP meeting is key – if its not written, it didn’t happen 🔐

If you learn nothing else from me, learn one thing: document it, or it didn’t happen. If you can’t prove that it happened by creating a paper trail, it’s simply your word against theirs.

You don’t need to accept the IEP meeting PWN as is

Did you know that you don’t have to just accept the Prior Written Notice as the school writes it? You can write a response letter and ask that it be attached to the Prior Written Notice in your child’s file.

Let’s say the school district proposes something you don’t agree with – like a change in placement. They can give all the reasons on the PWN why they think this should happen, but what if they don’t include your objections? Or, maybe they just note that you disagreed, but didn’t state why. You have every right to make sure your side of the story is written into your child’s school record. This can very simply be in the form of a letter.

Share your point of view with everyone on the IEP meeting team

I’d send it to every member of the IEP team. It should discuss points written on the PWN and your thoughts on what you’d like to see happen, or your view on what happened in regard to those individual points during the IEP meeting. You could think of this as your chance to clarify things. It also gives the school the chance to clarify things, if need be. It may even cause the school to amend the original PWN to include your input.

You need to be a co-author of the PWN

The Prior Written Notice is there to protect all parties in an IEP meeting. However, it is written by the school and may not include everything you want noted on the record. Maximize your position on the IEP team by writing Parent Response Letters. It creates that all-important paper trail. You never know when you’re going to need that.

If my experiences can be the guidebook for someone else, it will make me very happy!

I have experience in a variety of topics, come visit my personal page on Vitalxchange.

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About the Author

Suzanne is a mom of children with Autism and other special needs and has been caring and advocating for them for over 17 years. She is passionate about helping parents navigate all aspects of special needs parenting including therapy, advocacy and education. Her expert storefront is called Plan A-Z

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