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What Parents Need to Know Before IEP Meetings

Over the past few years, I have endured countless meetings to help parents and teachers develop Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for clients. IEP meetings are used to determine the necessity of services, accommodations, and modifications for students who qualify. In these meetings I have learned a few things that are not common knowledge.

First, there is a significant difference between medical services and educational services. I believe that it is unfair to expect our public schools to provide the same services as medical professionals. No one expects the school nurse to be a neurologist, we need to stop expecting teachers to be psychologists. 

Second, if your child’s therapy is medically necessary, the missed school could be excused. The 3-5PM time slot in the medical field books out months in advance If you can only get speech from 8:00-8:30 AM once a week, and your pediatrician states that it is medically necessary, the weekly absence should be excused. 

Third, do not assume that a medical provider contracted by the school for an assessment equates to medical treatment.  Schools often hire Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) to perform observations on students with maladaptive behaviors. After the observation is over, the BCBA writes suggestions for teachers on how to encourage behavior change in the child. These suggestions would then be implemented by teachers, not necessarily the medical professional. 

Most of my clients are children diagnosed with special needs. It takes a team of people to help these children be the best that they can be. When parents, educators, and medical professionals work together, the likelihood of success increases. Every person involved must communicate well and fulfill their part in helping the child advance. Parents must help with homework and flashcards if their child is behind, teachers must add pictures and other tools to help prompt learning, and those of us in the medical field must accurately determine the child’s strengths and needs to increase opportunities for the attainment of skills. It is imperative that we all do our part to help these children learn as much as possible.


Beth Long, PhD

After college, I began teaching math at a high school in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Time at the school taught me many things, but one in particular. My students would always come to me for council. In fact, most of my “breaks” were filled by talking to high school kids with real and significant problems. Even though I dreamed of being a teacher, God had other plans for me. Over the next two decades, I got married, had two kids, discovered Chick-fil-A, moved a bunch of times, ate Chick-fil-A, completed my formal education, ate more Chick-fil-A, and thought I knew what I was doing. Again, God had other plans for me. In 2017, we became a foster family. Our journey into the world of parenting children from trauma changed everything. During our first foster experience, I realized that my colleagues would offer sympathy and advice, but no real help for the problems happening “right now”. To survive, I needed to learn all I could about effectively changing behaviors without causing more trauma. This realization led me to Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). The basic tenant of ABA is to change behaviors through positive reinforcement. Make no mistake, this is not an “everybody gets a trophy” tactic for behavioral issues. Instead, ABA sets people up for success and then consistently reinforces their progress. This therapeutic approach has changed every aspect of my life as a wife, mother, friend, and practitioner. I love incorporating this miraculous intervention into everything I do.