As an advocate who has attended more than 3,000 IEP meetings and served hundreds of clients over the past 25 years, I can tell you that obtaining an IEE by a reputable provider and holding the IEP meeting to hear the IEE findings is the most important IEP meeting you will ever have for your child.
Parents make comments about their IEE experience on my Facebook page saying:
- “They are only required to consider the IEE. It’s not worth it because the team doesn’t care what the IEE provider says.”
- “Nothing happened after the team reviewed the IEE report. I don’t know why I fought so hard to get an IEE.”
- “We didn’t have enough time to review the entire report and recommendations and they wouldn’t allow the IEE provider to attend a second meeting.”
- “I expected my IEE provider to make sure the team agreed to changing the IEP but that didn’t happen.”
- “My IEE provider didn’t do what I wanted. I expected more from the IEE report.”
In this article, I will show you how to overcome all of these comments.
This is the typical scenario that parents experience when they have the IEP meeting to review the IEE findings…
You go to the IEP meeting and your IEE provider reviews the IEE report. You may be pretty happy with the IEE report although you really didn’t understand what the report said because you don’t know how to interpret assessments or standardized test scores. But you still hoped and expected to be successful in having the team award your child what they need. You sit and listen along with the IEP team. You may ask questions and your team may ask some clarifying questions. The meeting seems to have gone well.
The IEP facilitator says, “Thank you so much for the information, Dr. Smith. We will take this information under consideration.” The IEP ends and nothing changes. They may have added a goal or two or revised or added a few accommodations. But overall, the big issues that you were hoping to address and change in your child’s IEP were never even addressed.
What happened? Why didn’t the team agree to add the IEE recommendations? Does this scenario sound familiar?
In this article, I am going to teach you how to avoid this scenario. But before I discuss how to prepare for the IEP meeting to review the IEE report, it is important you understand the requirements to ensure you obtain an effective IEE and what to look for in choosing a reputable IEE provider.
You’ve got to start this process by ensuring you choose a reputable IEE provider, or you will not have the outcome you are looking for to have the IEP amended to meet the needs of your child. There are good IEE providers who are willing to challenge the district assessment and be an expert witness at a Due Process hearing or mediation and there are IEE providers who are biased to advance school district agendas and are more concerned about jeopardizing their relationship with the district then they are in winning what your child needs to receive FAPE.
Please go to this link where you will learn this information:
A huge component in choosing a reputable IEE provider is to confirm they are going to be willing to partner with you in the IEE process. Your IEE provider should have no problem with working with you throughout the time in which they are conducting the IEE. They should be willing to communicate with you, listen to your concerns, answer any questions you may have, and meet with you prior to the IEP meeting.
If they tell you, “I am not allowed to give you a draft of the IEE report or speak with you prior to the meeting” then that IEE provider is not one you want to choose. Parents are the ones who request an IEE and choose the provider. They are working for you, not the school district. The IEE provider should be on YOUR side and not biased to side with the school district.
Think of it as your IEE provider is your expert witness in a hearing. Your IEE provider should be one who has experience as an expert witness in Due Process and/or mediation. If they aren’t willing to go the distance, that tells you they are more concerned with their relationship with the district than making sure you win what your child needs. Do not ever choose any IEE provider who will not communicate or work with you throughout the IEE process.
The other very important component where parents go wrong is allowing the district to tell you the IEE provider is not obligated to attend the meeting to personally present their report and recommendations. The district may tell you the team can review the IEE report with you at the meeting and the IEP team will determine any changes to the IEP.
This is ridiculous and will waste your opportunity to use the IEE recommendations to your child’s advantage. How on earth are you going to make a strong argument to have the team award the IEE recommendations without your expert witness present?
The district is obligated to fund the IEE expert’s time to attend the IEP meeting. The IEE provider’s attendance at an IEP meeting is part of the IEE contract. And just to add another Pro Tip: make sure you request at least a 2-hour timeframe. There is no way to have enough time to review the entire IEE and make a strong argument for the team to approve all the recommendations in less than 2 hours.
So now, let’s assume you have chosen a reputable IEE provider as outlined in the information above and the article in the link I previously provided. Next, you want to work closely with your IEE provider to ensure they conduct testing in ALL areas of your child’s suspected disability and address all your areas of concern.
Make a list of all the problems you have with your child’s IEP. Tell your IEE provider what you hope to accomplish in having them conduct an IEE and what changes you’d like to see in your child’s special education program.
Request that the IEE provider email you a draft of the IEE report as soon as they have it available. Review the report and highlight all the things you don’t understand. Make a list of questions you have regarding the findings. Meet with your provider either in-person, on Zoom, or telephone call and have them review the report with you and clarify all the things you don’t understand. If there are changes or additions that you’d like them to make to their report, let them know.
Work with your IEE expert to develop a “Plan of Action” regarding how you will work together at the meeting to argue your position to ensure the IEP team agrees to award your child the recommendations listed in the IEE report.
It is VERY important that you understand your IEE provider is NOT AN ADVOCATE. They are the expert whose job is to conduct a diagnostic assessment and write a comprehensive IEE report.
It is not their job to advocate for you to have the IEP team agree to their recommendations. Their job is only to offer the recommendations they feel are appropriate according to their testing and expert opinion. But if you use your provider as an expert witness and you ask the right questions, they will argue your position and use their findings to win what your child needs.
You must understand that if YOU don’t work with your provider to advocate to have the IEE recommendations adopted into the IEP, you will have wasted your time and the opportunity to obtain an IEE. The burden of adopting the recommendations into the IEP is placed upon YOU.
Why? Because the IEE provider’s job is to simply come to the meeting, review their findings and make their recommendations. After which, the IEP team will say, “Thank you for the information” and the meeting will end and the IEE recommendations for goals, accommodations, supports, and services will not be added to the IEP.
Think about it, if the IEE report recommends 16 goals, 20 accommodations, a one-on-one aide, an increase in services, do you think the team is simply going to agree to award this at the meeting? Not without a fight!
The IEP team is not obligated to adopt the IEE findings into the IEP. Federal law states, the IEP team is only required to “consider” the IEE findings. They won’t change anything unless you point out WHY they should agree to adopt the recommendations and you do this by working with your IEE provider to argue your position to prove your child’s current IEP is not meeting the needs of your child.
How do you accomplish this? By using your IEE provider as the expert by asking them for their opinion as you move through the recommendations. Because you chose an IEE evaluator that is not afraid to argue with district staff and identify their mistakes and violations by questioning and challenging other assessors’ testing and conclusions, when you ask for their input during the meeting, you have a fighting chance to win what your child needs.
You should expect the IEE report to uncover and legally document new information that may contradict the district’s findings. The IEE evaluator should include a comparison of the district test scores to that of the IEE findings. This can reveal disparities, inaccurate assessment findings, and downright falsification of information. A comparison of past district assessments to the IEE test scores and recommendations/conclusions gives you the opportunity to ask the IEE provider to use that information to argue why the team should adopt the recommendations listed in the IEE report.
The IEE evaluator should not be afraid to question the district and identify their mistakes and violations. However, they will not speak up or offer this argument unless you ask them for their opinion.
Your IEE provider won’t challenge the IEP team unless YOU ask them to give their expert opinion. YOU are the one who must facilitate this argument by asking your provider to state why the team should change the IEP. Then you ask the team to make a decision to either approve or deny that recommendation and document it in the IEP.
If you don’t do this, the IEE provider will read the recommendations and the meeting will end and nothing will be added or amended in your child’s IEP.
As an example, let’s say the IEE provider is reviewing the recommended goals in the report. After each goal is presented, you ask the team, “Does the team agree to add this goal to the IEP?” At that point, the team should have a discussion about whether the goal would be adopted or rejected. They may already have a similar goal in the IEP and decide to amend the existing goal to include the goal listed in the IEE report.
If the team says, “No, we don’t feel it is necessary to add this goal”, that’s when you ask your IEE provider to state why the team should agree to adopt that goal. The IEE provider will use their test scores and present the disparities they uncovered to argue why the team should agree to adopt their recommendation.
Either way, it’s up to you to stop the IEE provider after they present each recommendation and ask the team to either approve or deny that recommendation and insist the team makes a decision right there during the IEP meeting and document it in the IEP.
There should not be any discussion that pertains to the IEE report that is postponed to a future date. You’ve only got one shot to have your IEE provider present their findings and be in attendance at the meeting. Don’t let them delay decisions…this is another one of their delay tactics and if they succeed, you’ve lost. Without your IEE provider present, there is no one you can use as your expert witness who will back you up or argue your position using the IEE findings.
Now what I’ve described is easier said than done and most parents are not equipped to handle this on their own. Without parent training or an advocate’s support, there is little chance for the average parent to accomplish what I’ve explained in this article.
If there was a time in which you decide to invest in an advocate, this is the time to do so. The IEE is the most powerful advocacy tool a parent can utilize under IDEA to win what their child needs. Don’t blow it. Get parent training or invest in having a highly trained advocate to assist you at this meeting.
I can’t tell you how many times parents tell me, “I had an advocate at the meeting, but they didn’t say anything.” This is not a highly trained advocate! Please don’t waste your money hiring advocates who don’t know what they’re doing.
When I take on a new case, the very first thing I do is request IEEs in all areas of that child’s IEP. The IEE is how I win the goals, accommodations, supports, services, and placement a child needs and deserves. The IEE is how you develop an appropriate IEP and obtain the legal evidence to argue the parent’s position with school district administrators. The IEE is what attorneys use to win Due Process cases.
No matter the outcome of the IEP meeting when the IEE provider reviews the IEE findings and recommendations, a comprehensive and diagnostic IEE can be used as evidence in a Due Process or mediation to expose the district’s failure to provide FAPE or meet the needs of your child.
Parent training, interpreting district assessments and IEE reports and preparation for a successful IEP meeting is my specialty. Don’t go to an IEP meeting without parent training or attend alone when an IEE report will be presented. Don’t waste your opportunity to obtain an IEE by a reputable IEE provider and use the findings and recommendations to fix the problems in your child’s IEP.
Cheering you on always!
If you haven’t joined our Private Special Education Parent Empowerment Facebook Group yet, you should check it out here.
Here’s what parents are saying about the group:
“I take my job of advocating for my sped students very seriously! I love your page Valerie. Thank you for all the great information you provide!” – BJ,Teacher
“I tell parents and grandparents all the time, about her, as a fierce mamma-bear who never gave up. Because it is a story that needs repeating, to empower those who are where she was all those years ago when her daughter was in school. She’s a wealth of information. God bless you, Valerie!” – CA, Parent
Valerie Aprahamian is a special education advocate, IEP strategist, and speaker. She speaks on behalf of parents to protect the rights of neurodiverse children to receive the supports they need in public school.