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IEP: Intervention and Oversight - featured May 28, 2010

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IEP: Intervention and Oversight

By: Susan N. Schriber Orloff, OTR/L

Every time that I write something about how to get the most out of an IEP (Individual Educational Plan) some administrator writes me to tell me that I am “all wrong”, “missing the meaning of IEP’s”, “not aware of the law” or other such remarks, which in my mind are defensive and totally out of place.

When I was sitting as a parent in my child’s IEP/504 meeting, and was told I should be wanting to “make friends” with the high school staff, and that I was being “too nit-picky”, my response was, “10 years from now I will probably not remember your names, but 10 years from now I will still know my son, and he is my focus.”

Intimidated even though outspoken, I quaked in my chair as I thought about the repercussions of my being too “nit-picky”. Today as we prepare to go to his graduation and see him get his PhD in physics, I know I did right.

As occupational therapists, we are the ones who look at function, potential, and processing. We are not focused on the standard IEP goals that want the child to ….’read 5 out of 7 spelling words with 95% accuracy in 3 months’…we are the ones that often simultaneously touch the child, the teacher and the parent from multiple angles.

The child can be frustrated or shut down; it is our job to open him/her back up.
The teacher may be baffled by why the child seems to “get it” and then “can’t do it”. The parent may be too confused to know what to ask, and so we are often the “explainer” tying together home, school and therapy.

How to make this work without becoming adversarial, enmeshed or too clinical is an often difficult and always a delicate line to maintain.

Parents are by nature protective. This is THEIR child, and they often feel that ONLY they can be the forceful advocates that their child with special considerations often needs.

Teachers (especially elementary level instructors) are bound by duty to cover a specific amount of material in carefully constructed curriculums on a variety of subjects.

The therapists sees that everything done in therapy must relate to the IEP, and explaining that balance is associated with learning, that a skewed tactile system can impede executive functioning is crucial to treating the child correctly.

Make no mistake about it I am vehemently opposed to those end of year tests that have reduced education to a “teach to the test” system, rather than one that fosters curiosity and creativity. There are much better ways to measure teacher/student productivity. But that is for another time.

From my book, “Learning Re-Enabled”, here are some guidelines that have helped me and I hope will be of use to parents and professionals as well.

How to have a successful IEP meeting
  1. Have the right mind-set. This is a meeting of “experts” about the child, and the parent is the primary expert.
  2. Talk from the “heart”. This is not about wanting to control the school or the committee. This is about the fears and dreams each of you have for this individual.
  3. Talk about what is frightening for you:

    Some, any or all;
    The classes he is now in will limit his choices when he is older.
    The situation he is now makes him feel like a loser.
  4. List what you want:
    I want him to have friends.
    I want him to feel like he belongs at the school, like he has a niche here.
    I want him to feel like someone cares.
  5. State what is likeable:
    Always cheerful
    Never gives up
  6. Set the IEP goals based on these dreams and fears.
  7. Have the goals be specific.
  8. The goals (by law) need to be measurable. (He will do ________ by ___date-time_______.)
  9. A communication system should be established for both parents and staff to reach each other if there are questions and or concerns.
  10. Everything should be in writing; no one should accept verbal “promises”.
  11. Let parents know that they should not sign anything they are unsure of, and that they have the right to clarification.
  12. Parents, teachers, etc. have the right to convene a meeting or adjourn one, for any reason.
  13. Parents have the right to bring other “experts” into the meeting, as long as the school is notified in advance.
  14. Child may want to be present—this is tricky—but I have found with older children that they may want to make an appearance to state how they are feeling, and this can be very validating for them and helpful to the team.


Yes, this one child is not the only child in the school who needs special help, but keep in mind that to the parent, this is their singular focus. Remembering that can help both parents and staff increase understandings, and prevent misunderstandings as well.

This Month's Featured Vendor: Children's Special Services, LLC

Special Thanks to Susan Schriber Orloff for providing an article for this issue's Therapy Corner.

Susan N. Schriber Orloff, OTR/L, is the author of the book Learning RE-Enabled, a guide for parents, teachers, and therapists (and a National Education Association featured book), and the Handwriting on the Wall Program. Children's Special Services, LLC is the exclusive provider of Personal Options and Preferences, tm social skills programs. She was the 2006 Georgia OT of the Year and the CEO/executive director of Children's Special Services, LLC, which provides occupational therapy services for children with developmental and learning delays in Atlanta.

Please support our contributing authors and visit Children's Special Services, LLC on the web at: She can also be reached by email at:

Tags: Article Parental Involvement Special Education Newsletter 28 May 2010 IEP