Supporting Parents During The IEP/IFSP Process

Parental involvement in the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process is not only required, but also assures that the IEP is a continuing guide to development. This checklist, developed for disabilities coordinators and other staff members, outlines ways to support the parent in the special education process including screening, evaluation, community services, and IEP meetings.

The following is an excerpt from Translating the IEP into Everyday Practice.

Appoint a Head Start staff member to support the family throughout the IEP/IFSP process. This person may be the disabilities services manger, teacher, or someone else in the program who is knowledgeable about the IEP process and relates well to the family. This person can help in the following ways:

  • Share with parents the screening and assessment results, explaining what the results mean and why an evaluation would be helpful. Be sure to ask parents about their thoughts and observations or any questions they may have.

  • Provide parents with an overview of the IEP/IFSP process and the steps that are involved. Point out the benefits that the process offers.

  • Inform parents about requesting a diagnostic evaluation from the local education agency (LEA), and assist them in obtaining one. (For example, some programs develop form letters that parents can sign.)

  • Assist parents as their child goes through the evaluation process. (Some Head Start staff take the parent and child to the clinic, and offer support while the evaluations are being conducted.)

  • Involve parents in assessing their child's strengths and needs. Find out what they want and need for their child; help them clarify their goals.

  • Inform parents about organizations in the community that can offer assistance as they go through the process, such as parent support and advocacy groups.

  • Familiarize parents with federal and state laws and regulations that protect the rights of children with disabilities and their families. Be sure that parents know that they don't have to sign the IEP/IFSP right away.

  • Prepare parents for the IEP/IFSP meeting. Tell them what they can expect when they walk into the room, who will be there, and what might happen. If possible, introduce parents to key people ahead of time. Obtain copies of the IEP/IFSP forms from the school department before the meeting and walk through the forms together.

  • Accompany parents to the IEP/IFSP meeting. Make sure that you, and the parents, understand what is said. If team members use jargon, don't hesitate to say, I don't understand that phrase. "Can you explain it, please?" During the meeting, encourage parents to share their goals, expectations, and priorities, as well as any concerns they may have.

  • Other:

"Supporting Parents During The IEP/IFSP Process." Translating the IEP into Everyday Practice. Training Guides for the Head Start Learning Community. HHS/ACF/ACYF/HSB. 1998. English.

Last Reviewed: November 2009

Last Updated: October 6, 2014