Have you ever sat in an IEP meeting and heard a member of the team say, “We took the liberty of filling out a “draft” IEP, please sign here.” How did you respond? Do you know how to respond? The Hands & Voices team recommends responding in this manner. “Because I didn’t have time to look at this draft ahead of time, let’s have a discussion about each of the elements, and as a team, we can incorporate the parts of the draft we determine are needed for the child into the one we write today.” They also suggest contacting the IEP team 2 weeks prior to the scheduled IEP meeting and say, “I wanted to make sure that before we meet in 2 weeks, you will be creating a draft of the child’s IEP, that I get a copy of that 10 days before the meeting, so that I may come to the meeting prepared to talk about the recommendations in the draft. Better yet, let’s set up a time to work on the draft together.”
The Hands & Voices team explains that a lot of school personnel, realizing the limited amount of time in the IEP meeting, may draft an IEP for the child ahead of time. The problem is, if it was not created in context of the discussions, concerns and priorities of the parents and other IEP team members, it is out of compliance with the law. A draft IEP is truly only a list of proposed recommendations that the educational personnel happen to put on the actual form. It carries no weight until the considerations of the draft have been discussed and agreed upon by the entire IEP team, including the parent(s). It is true that to actually discuss, agree upon, and write the IEP in one 1.5 to 2 hour meeting is usually impossible. Beginning to see the IEP “negotiations” as a series of meetings, emails and phone calls is probably more in line with reality. As long as you are involved with the draft, it does make sense to work ahead of time on the IEP.