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Early Childhood Frequently Asked Questions

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

I would like my 4-year-old child to learn how to read. Can I ask that a reading goal be included in his Individualized Education Program (IEP)?

IEP goals, services, and supports are designed to help the child make progress in the general education curriculum. In your case, that would mean progress in whatever preschool curriculum is being used, but preschool usually emphasizes pre-reading skills only. You could ask team members about how you can support his pre-reading skills at home. Reading to and with your child is one of the best ways to promote reading.

My 5-year-old daughter is not toilet trained yet. We’re working on this at home but she is in school in the morning. Is it possible to have a goal written into her IEP to work on toilet training at school?

Yes, both academic and functional goals can be included, but be sure to discuss it with your IEP team. Your daughter is probably going to be more successful in toilet training if the same strategies are being used at home and in school. If you have found strategies that work at home, share these with the team so they can also use them at school.

My son is in childcare nine hours a day, so the childcare provider knows him well. Can I invite her to attend my upcoming IEP meeting?

Both the parents and the school can invite anyone they believe would be appropriate to attend the IEP meeting. You can invite your childcare provider if you think she has helpful information to share, but be sure to clarify her role at the meeting — to share strategies, for example, that are working in a childcare setting and learn about strategies that are successful at school. As an alternative, you could ask the provider to write a brief statement about how she sees your son functioning in the childcare setting and give that statement to you as the parent to submit to the IEP team.

My child has a history of running away from me and tends to isolate herself. Because of that, I think she will need a paraprofessional while she is attending preschool. How can I discuss this at our next meeting to plan the IEP (Individualized Education Program)?

Rather than telling the team that you think she needs a paraprofessional, begin the discussion by talking about her history of running, and then discuss the activities in the preschool classroom for which you think she will need additional adult support. Start with her bus ride to school and then go through the schedule for the classroom until the end of the day. Try to be specific about your concerns and focus on her having meaningful involvement and engagement in classroom activities and social interactions with peers. Bring up your concerns about her safety as well. For instance, if she has a history of running away from you unless you are holding her hand, let the team know about that. You will also want to discuss any needs she may have as far as toileting and dressing. If you and the rest of the team agree on the need for additional supports, the specific requirements for additional adult support can be written in the IEP under the Supplementary Aids and Services. If the rest of the team does not agree with you and the additional support is not included in the proposed IEP, you can use dispute resolution options to address the disagreement. (Call PACER and ask to speak with an early childhood advocate for more information.)

My son has turned 3 and is going to attend an inclusive preschool. According to his IEP, he’ll receive services from a special education teacher only twice a week for 20 minutes each time. How can he possibly make progress on his goals with such a limited amount of service?

In an inclusive preschool classroom, all staff members should be informed of a child’s IEP goals and any modifications or accommodations that may be needed. They most likely will create opportunities for your child to work on his goals throughout the day. If your son has an IEP goal related to expressing his wants and needs, for example, staff may set up a drive-up window in the dramatic play area to encourage him to order his favorite food. By using your son’s interests and activities, the staff can provide many opportunities for him to work on the goal, beyond the 40 minutes of direct service he receives each week. Since your son enjoys the activities, he is likely to stay engaged with them and make progress on his IEP goals.

If, however, you disagree with the special education services proposed by the school, you can indicate on the IEP that you disagree and ask for an IEP meeting to discuss your concerns. If you’re unable to reach an agreement on appropriate services for your child, you can call PACER to discuss ways to resolve your disagreement in the special education process.