A Parent’s Role in a CSE or IEP Meeting
As a parent, you play a vital role in your child's education. If you are a parent of a child with special needs, then one of the most important roles you play is as a member of the Committee of Special Education (CSE) or the committee that generates an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) each year. Prior to attending your first CSE/IEP meeting, someone from the school should explain to you your participation in the meeting and your rights as a parent. If this wasn't done, or you want a quick review, the following provides an outline of your role in a CSE/IEP meeting.
- Establish a rapport with staff prior to the CSE/IEP meeting. In most cases, the school district has the same desire as you do regarding your child. Everyone wants to see your child in an appropriate program, working towards meaningful goals, receiving any necessary related services (i.e. speech, OT, PT), and having positive interactions with the general population. By making the effort to know your child's teachers, aide and related service providers throughout the school year, it will take away some of the stress when you attend the CSE/IEP meeting. It also helps to take chocolate chip cookies which will boost everyone's mood!
- As a parent, you have the right to participate in the CSE/IEP meeting. Since the CSE/IEP meeting is in regards to your child, you have the right to attend the meeting. In fact, the school should make every effort to have you attend. Many states require that the meeting be held at a time that is mutual for both the parent and the school district. If an effort has been made to change a meeting date or time and it still isn’t possible for you to physically attend, you can request to attend by conference phone. This will enable you to still participate, voice your concerns and contribute to the discussion of setting goals and objectives.
- Mandated members are to be present at the CSE/IEP meeting. There is a list of mandated members that must be present at a CSE/IEP meeting, such as an administrator knowledgeable about special education, school psychologist, special education teacher, and general education teacher. If the chairperson of the CSE/IEP knows in advance that a mandated member cannot attend, you should be notified and given the opportunity to reschedule the meeting. If you are comfortable with having the meeting with partial members, that is your choice.
- Goals and objectives presented at the meeting are not cut in stone. Because there is so much information that needs to be discussed and decided upon at a CSE/IEP meeting, special education teachers and related service providers will often bring suggested goals and objectives with them to the meeting. This sometimes can feel a little intimidating to a parent. However, keep in mind that these are to be discussed, revised and agreed upon. If you feel that a goal isn't appropriate for your child and can explain why, then the committee needs to take your concern in consideration.
- You are entitled to bring an advocate with you. Some states require that the CSE/IEP have a "parent" member, another parent of a special needs child. The role of this team member is to listen to all of the information being presented, ask questions that might help you as the parent, and to give input on your child's program. If this is not mandated for your state, you're still entitled to bring an advocate with you. Your advocate might be another parent, someone who helps care for your child outside of school, or someone knowledgeable in the area of your child's disability. An advocate will ask for clarification regarding the information presented at the meeting and will often go to bat for you if you feel your child has a particular need that the committee isn't addressing.
- Request to visit a program before your child is placed in it. In some cases, the general education setting is not the most appropriate setting for a child with special needs. Ideally, if the CSE/IEP is going to recommend a different program, or possibly a different school, information should be provided to you in advance. You have a right to request to visit the program and meet the staff. If possible this should be done prior to your child's meeting so that a final decision can be made at the meeting.
Although certain components of your role as a member of the CSE/IEP vary from state-to-state, the ones mentioned above are common to most states. Lastly, thank the committee for their investment in your child's education. Just as you pour your heart into being a good parent, your child's teachers and related service providers care a lot about your child. A simple thank you can go a long way. But we'd like to know, how was your experience with your most recent CSE/IEP meeting?