The Language of IEPs and 504s: The Importance of ALL and BEFORE

Today we're covering the use of all and before in IEPs and 504s, and how all doesn't always mean all, and how before needs its own timeline.

When A-L-L is M-I-A

Imagine your child has the following on his IEP:

"The IEP will share reading data with parents on a monthly basis."

After six months of meetings, your internal parent alarm starts going off. In the beginning, you understood everything was new, but since months in . . . The data provided by the school doesn't match what you're seeing at home.

You decide to submit a FERPA request, and you request all reading data related to your child.

In the response to the FERPA request, you receive negative reading data that the school didn't previous share with you. Maybe you become upset, because another six months have passed and, rather that examining the data and adjusting the program that wasn't working, you feel like you were kept in the dark.

You want to complain to the school and/or submit a complaint to the state, but . . .

The school followed the IEP. It did share reading data on a monthly basis. There wasn't anything in the IEP that stated all data had to be provided. More specifically, there wasn't anything stating all positive and all negative reading data would be provided.

Next steps?

In the next IEP meeting, you ensure all is inserted and clarify that all reading data, whether positive or negative, will be shared with you.

Imagine your child has the following accommodation, too:

Extended time: 50% for assignments

You ask that all be inserted and the accommodation changed to the following:

Extended time: 50% for all assignments

The team agrees to the change. Yet, as weeks go by, you start to see a downward trend in one of your daughter's classes. You decide to ask questions and the teacher responds:

Assignments are defined as homework, not as classwork.

Now, you know that this is not what was discussed with the IEP team—and you remember the conversation because, you insisted on adding all and you specifically asked if anything else needed to be clarified.

In response, the procedural support liaison even said, "all means all", hence no need to clarify anything else. Yet, the teacher reading the IEP had a different interpretation.

Lesson learned:

  • Ensure the word all appears as often as possible.
  • Ask what all incorporates. If it is all tests, does that mean all quizzes and any other forms of assessments, whether formal or informal? If it is all assignments, does that mean both homework and classwork?

When Before Comes After

Imagine your son has the following accommodation:

Copies of teacher's notes to be provided.

Perhaps he has processing struggles, Dysgraphia, Dyslexia or any of the number of hurdles kids face when it comes to listening and taking notes at the same time. He needs the notes 1) to preview them, to familiarize himself with the vocabulary and content; and 2) to help minimize and/or fully avoid the stress of trying to listen, comprehend, and write all at the same time.

Later, you learn that your son's teacher isn't posting her notes until after the class. You say something and are told that the accommodation only states that they be provided, not when they be provided.

So, you ask for the word before to be inserted into the accommodation, so it reads as follows:

Copies of teacher's notes to be provided before class.

Good, you think to yourself. All sorted out.

But wait . . . There's more.

You learn the teacher is providing the notes to your son as he walks into class, before the lesson, but not long enough in advance for him to review them before the lesson is taught.

Lesson learned:

  • Ensure the word before is front and center.
  • Define before. Is before one day, two days, a week? And, how will whatever it is be provided before? Print hand-out, digital file? Another format?

Go into your IEP or 504 meetings ready to collaborate, but understand that clear language, with as much as possible defined in advance, helps everyone. Your child's teachers don't attend every IEP meeting. They don't know what was discussed, which leaves the IEP or 504 language up to interpretation.

Keep it simple and clear—and ensure there's no room for misinterpretation.