The Legal Side of Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for Blind and Visually Impaired Students

Overview
Legal Basis
Eligibility
IEP Team and Its Responsibilities
Development of the IEP
After the IEP

Overview

Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) provide the basis for special education services and equipment provided to children with disabilities in the United States. For families, IEP meetings can be stressful and overwhelming. Having information about the law upon which IEPs are based can empower parents to advocate for their children with more confidence.

 

The Goal of Goals in IEPs

In preparing for meetings of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team, both parents and educators spend a great deal of time focused upon goals. Understanding the purpose and basis of goals can help all involved achieve this objective.

Federal law requires that IEP documents contain “measurable annual goals,” and directs that these goals should ameliorate the skill deficits a child has in accessing and progressing in the regular curriculum and in other educationally-related areas. 20 U.S.C. section 1414(d)(1)(A)(i)(II). In order to determine what the child’s skill needs are, we must have excellent data on (1) the child’s present levels of achievement, and (2) the requirements of the regular education curriculum. In other words, if we don’t know where we are or where we are headed, our journey has little chance of success.

The Importance of Keeping Written Records for IEP Meetings

What is the purpose of your upcoming meeting? What has been going well? What needs to change? These are three questions you should ask yourself before each IEP meeting for your child. It is essential to know what things you want to accomplish and to be able to steer the meeting in the direction you need it to go and avoid being sidetracked by other topics or concerns. I have found the best way to accomplish this is to write things down ahead of time, make sure my points are as clear as possible, and to share my writing with the IEP team. Writing things down helps in the following ways.

  • It gives you a chance to think about what you want to accomplish at each meeting.

  • It gives you the opportunity to develop arguments for why you believe what you want should be put into place.

A Member of the Team: Playing an Active Role on Your Blind Child’s IEP Team

Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings can feel overwhelming. Seated around the table are members of the team—a teacher of blind students, the classroom teacher, and the IEP team chair person. There may be an orientation and mobility specialist, speech pathologist, school psychologist, school administrator, special education director, physical therapist, and occupational therapist as well. Then, of course, there is you—the parent. Surrounded by all of these “experts” it can be easy to feel intimidated, especially if you are new to the IEP process. However, you are at the table for a reason. You are an expert as well—an expert on your child. You are your child’s first teacher, and you have just as much to contribute as anyone else on the team. Don’t sell yourself short! Here are some tips for taking full advantage of your status as a team member.

An Overview of IEP Assessments

In order to craft appropriate goals for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), the team needs recent, high quality data. This data needs to cover the child’s current skills, strengths, and FACTOR IN future success.

Here are some things to keep in mind when assessments are administered to, and interpreted for, children who are blind or low vision.  

  • Who is administering the assessment: This is extremely important, especially for tests that may have many visual components. A blind or low vision child should be assessed by a professional who has received training in conducting assessments with this population. Many of these professionals are affiliated with state schools for the blind or a state commission for the blind. Local school districts can contract with these professionals to insure students are assessed properly.

It Happens Every Day

In the spring of 2015, I was a busy mom of three kids—two blind and one sighted. My husband, Mark, had recently been elected president of the National Federation of the Blind. Largely because of his new demands at work, we made the decision to move into a house within walking distance of NFB headquarters. While moving preparations were being made, our two older kids still needed to go to school, meals needed to be cooked, laundry needed to be done… In other words, this was a fairly stressful time for all of us—even if we were excited for this move and all of the fantastic benefits it would bring to our family.

Double the Blessing

Mom:    “You have a college degree, a good job, a great husband, a beautiful home, that should be enough for you!”

Me:        “I seriously doubt anyone ever questioned your decision to become a mother.  Just because I am blind, does not mean I do not have the same hopes, dreams and desires as any other woman.”

Fatherhood

I have been a father now for more than thirty years, and I remember very well when this condition came upon me. It was mysterious, scary, and joyous. A brand new human being was my responsibility, and I could imagine all of the things that could go wrong. Many of them did.

Our son David came first, and our daughter Dianna came later. Although both my wife and I are blind, our children are sighted, which has led to a number of interesting discussions.

The job of a father is to give support and love to Mom and the new lives that come to the family. Children are extraordinarily demanding, dramatically expensive, and inconvenient. If it weren’t for love, having children would be close to intolerable. However, every moment comes to be worth the trouble because the love exists.

Ten Tips for Parents at the National Federation of the Blind Convention

Many parents of blind children first come to know of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) through its Parents’ Division, the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC). The NOPBC holds its annual conference during the NFB national convention each summer, this year, from June 30 to July 5 in Orlando, Florida. Without a doubt, the NOPBC Conference is impressive, boasting a full day of sessions reaching out to parents of blind children of all ages and abilities. The NOPBC conference also hosts important, enriching activities, such as the Cane Walk (where parents and their children learn about the independence provided by cane travel), Braille Book Fair (where you may pick up as many gently-loved Braille books as you wish and have them shipped home at no cost), and many more activities for children and teens.

I’m Not Just a “Blind” mom. I’m a (insert adjective here) Mom.

There are many different kinds of moms out there.  The crunchy mom who makes her own almond milk, the crafty mom who makes every birthday party decoration or teacher gift from scratch, the soccer mom, the yogi mom, the play group mom, the PTA mom, the new mom, the empty nest mom, the ___(fill in the blink)___ mom.  Me, I may be seen in my neighborhood or at my daughter’s school as the blind mom, but I’m so much more than just that. 

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