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Turn worries into opportunities with a well-crafted IEP Parent Input Statement.
In this empowering episode, we dive into the world of Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and the pivotal role of the Parent Input Statement. Join us as we welcome Heather Wright, a Master IEP Coach, who shares invaluable insights on how parents can effectively advocate for their child’s education.
Discover the secrets to crafting a compelling Parent Input Statement, one that goes beyond mere concerns and transforms your child’s educational journey. Learn how to embrace your essential role in shaping your child’s IEP and why preparation is the key to a successful IEP meeting.
This episode is a must-watch for parents, guardians, and anyone involved in the IEP process. It’s time to supercharge your advocacy, foster collaboration, and unlock your child’s full potential in their educational experience. Don’t miss this chance to take your child’s education to the next level.
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“LazyDay” by Audionautix is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
She obtained her masters degree in Learning Disabilities and Behavior Disorders from Georgia State University, in Atlanta, Georgia and is also a member of the Master IEP Coach® Network. She currently works with families of children with learning disabilities, autism, developmental delays, behavior disorders, and other health impairments, to get the supports and services in the public-school setting, through collaboration. Parents know their children best and are their best advocates; however, they don’t have to be alone!
Heather grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and moved to Georgia in 2006, where she lives with her husband and two fur babies. When she is not working you can find her cooking and baking, crafting, binge watching her favorite show, or enjoying the lake.
Episode #82: Mastering the IEP Parent Input Statement
Turn worries into opportunities with a well-crafted IEP Parent Input Statement.
(Recorded September 26, 2023)
Full Transcript of Interview:
Narrator: Are you ready for your child’s next IEP meeting? In this video, we’re going to share some tips on how your input can make a big difference in how teachers work with your child. You’re going to learn why the parent input statement on the IEP is important, what you should include in it, and when you should write it. Stick around to the end for details on how to get some free parent training before your next IEP meeting, too.
Welcome to the Water Prairie Chronicles, a podcast created to encourage and support parents of special needs children. I’m Tonya Wollum, and I’m glad you’re here.
Tonya: Welcome back to Water Prairie, Heather.
Heather: Thank you for having me today.
Listeners, you met Heather a couple weeks ago. Actually, I think it was maybe three weeks ago that she was with us with Helen Panos, and we talked about the difference between an 504. So if you missed that one, go back and listen to it, because I think that’s really important information for you to understand if your child is in a public school setting.
Today, we’re going to talk more specifically about the IEPs. During our last conversation, we didn’t have time to dig into pieces of it, and one piece in particular that Heather was really passionate about and I agreed with her is the parent statement. So if you have a child on an IEP or if you have a young child about to go into school, it’s really important that you understand what this is. And we’re going to pick Heather’s brain to get as much information as we can from her today.
Oh, that sounds amazing, but scary at the same time, Tonya.
To help us understand more about the parent input statement, I asked Heather if she would tell us more about what it is and why it’s part of the IEP process.
So let’s start out with what is the statement, like basically where is it on the document and what, what does it serve as a purpose?
Yeah. So the parent input statement, and I literally could chat about this. And probably get on my pedestal and soapbox for hours upon hours upon hours. So make sure you keep me in check with like the time.
So parent input statements or parent input is a section in the IEP that you probably have missed before because it’s not necessarily titled parent input. It’s usually titled Parent Concerns. That is a statement or a section of the IEP where parents can submit questions, concerns that the teacher of record, your case manager, puts your concerns into this section.
Now most documents that I review as an advocate, parent input or parent concerns is maybe one or two lines. My parent is concerned about Blankety blankety-blank. They’re concerned about Johnny doing blankety-blank, and then it’s it, or I’ve seen some parents have no concerns. And that’s, as an educator or former educator, I was like, okay, that’s what needs to be in there.
We’ve got to fill the box to check the box. But how awful is that statement that parents have no concerns? You’re a parent, Tonya, you have lots of concerns for your child or children at that point, like It needs to be so much more than just, they’re concerned about nothing, or they’re concerned about math.
Like, we need to start getting input from a parent, because who knows their child best? You, as the parent, you know your child best. You’re the only consistent person that’s going to be at that IEP table from kindergarten through graduation. So you know the ins and outs and workings and really need to make and develop that statement for your whole child.
So, if you are getting asked at the IEP meeting, what are your concerns? That’s not good enough. You need to be doing it beforehand.
I shared with Heather before we started recording that, um, you know, my, my kids are both in college right now. Both of them came all the way through with an IEP from, well, my, my son, it was a little bit later, but my daughter from day one, I never knew cause every, every state’s different.
And even within a state, every few years, the document changes how it looks, but on our cover page, we always had a section that said parent concerns. I think we had two sections where I could make a statement if I wanted to, and then I could also voice my concerns. If you’re like I was, you saw a small box on the form for your input statement or concerns and thought you could only write a sentence or maybe even less.
Heather explained to me what this is and what you can do if you have more that you want to say. But the box was just this little, like enough to write a tiny little sentence in there. I thought all those years that whatever I wrote had to fit inside that box. I know now that I was wrong, but I thought that’s all that I could write.
So what do you do if you want to say more than “A OK,” if you want to actually write a few sentences?
Right. Well, let me touch on the part of having the little box. Yes, there is a little box in there and I know that some IEP writing programs for different districts across the different states, they might have a text limit.
So sometimes there is a limit of number of characters that can go in that box, but you can write a statement that’s a page, two pages long and you can request that that be added to the file and attached to the IEP so that whenever anybody gets that document, they’re also receiving your parent input.
You don’t have to limit it to 200 text messages or, you know, icons on the text box, like that, that’s not okay. Um, you can actually have it uploaded to the file and have it attached. Now, most of the ones that I have seen… I ask, when I write parent input statements for families or help them write their parent input statements, I ask and request that they get copied and pasted directly into that box.
And they’ve, not paraphrased, don’t paraphrase it for me, don’t paraphrase it for the parent, please copy and paste everything into that statement. And like I said, the ones that I support families are typically a page, page and a half, two pages. It could be longer, um, Depending on, you know, questions that you might have for the team or if there are concerns or how much detail you go into depth about your child and what their learning styles are and things like that, but you can copy and paste it into that document or you can make sure that you ask the team to attach it if it doesn’t fit into that tiny little box that’s “Concerns.”
So I was one of those parents who didn’t want to make waves because you know, you’re sitting at the IEP table, you’re the parent coming in with all these professionals. Okay. So forget that I have an education background. I was a parent at that point sitting at the table hearing what my children couldn’t do.
And so, and I’m thinking we probably have some listeners who feel the same way. So you come in, you’re a little bit intimidated coming in to begin with. If you don’t have a good connection with your caseworker at the school. You’re even more intimidated because now everyone’s kind of, they’re up on these pedestals around you and you’re sitting down in the low chair.
It’s kind of how it feels. And, um, and so, I’m sure there’s others that were like me who, you know, I would have my conversations with the teachers with concerns, but we never put it in the document. You know, so aside from, even if I’d known that I could write more, I don’t know if I would have known what to write.
It’s one thing to understand what the parent input statement is, but do you know what you should include in it? Heather had some great information about what you can consider including in your parent input statement.
Can you give us some guidelines of like what should be included in this? Is it, it isn’t just a wish list of, you know, I want, I want Johnny to do blank, blank, blank. Or is it maybe, maybe that’s. I don’t know.
It could be that. It absolutely could be that, Tonya. It really depends on what you want to add for your child. So, you know, different advocates might have different ways to complete a parent input statement or give you suggestions. When you work with me, I have 10 questions that I ask a family.
I help guide what that looks like for you as a mom or a dad or a grandparent or a guardian. Um, I like to have the parent. Indicate words that they would describe their child. So, kind, um, energetic, maybe it’s, um, caring, you know, just what three words describe your child. Starts it off in a really positive manner.
And then we kind of go into, what’s their learning style? What type of learning environment do they work best in? Um, depending on the age of your child, you might look at different, um, motivators for your kiddos. Like, do they love earning? You know, time with teachers. Do they love earning recess, extra recess time, kind of things to help motivate them?
What are their interests outside of school? Maybe they love basketball or they play hockey. That gives insight to what their day looks like when they’re not sitting in a classroom, right? So they might have hockey practice after school or they might have baseball practice after school. That takes a toll on a kid’s day, right?
Um, maybe strategies that have worked in the past and strategies that haven’t worked in the past. Maybe fidgets are amazing for some kids, but maybe fidgets don’t work for your child because they get distracted by it, or maybe they do need seating location. By the teacher, but it’s not upfront because they like to stand and if they’re in the front standing Then they’re distracting to others.
So I try to encourage families to talk about that. I also encourage families to Think about what their goals short-term and long-term goals are for their kiddos, and that’s not just Academics, social, emotional, behavioral as well. So, maybe younger kids, and I think I might have brought this example up the last time we chatted, but it could be that they, you want them to get invited to a birthday party, or you want them to be more active in their clubs at school, and you want to see about that.
If they’re high school age, it could be transitioning into a job, and what kind of jobs are they interested in, or what kind of fields. Maybe they’re not college-bound, but maybe they do want to work in a veterinary office, so they need some skills to be able to handle that type of environment, right? Um, and then we look at also concerns and questions.
Now, you say, well, what if I have so many questions? Right, that’s okay, add them in there, right? But a strategy, because you’re like, okay, you just said it, Tanya, that you talk to one teacher about concerns, and then you talk to another teacher about concerns, but it was at different points of the year, maybe, and it never, you know, you forgot about the conversation that happened in September about the school bus when the meeting is in January.
Keep a journal. Like, keep a notepad, or, now with technology, you could probably make a note on your phone and just say, hey Siri, add this to the note. Positives and now my phone’s trying to think that I’m making a note for the listeners, my phone’s here and now she’s, you know, trying to think I’m making a note.
Um, but you as a parent can keep it, keep notes like that. Maybe you heard something on the playground from another parent, or maybe you’re watching your child at a birthday party or you’re seeing them in the grocery store and they don’t know the difference between a $20 bill that they need to be purchasing this with versus a $5 bill that they have and you know all of those things can add up. So, keep a journal of that Keep a notebook of what you want to include in that parent input statement, and I promise you that it seems like a lot but you could probably get it down to like two pages. And I probably wouldn’t do more than two pages because it gets hard to read from the teacher’s side, and you want to be thorough as you’re?
As the parent, but you don’t want to go off on tangents either. You want to make it short, concise, but make sure that it’s including every aspect of your whole child, not just the math, the science, the reading.
Even after hearing all of this, you may be wondering if your statement can actually make a difference. Listen to what Heather says about why you should include a parent input statement.
So even though we’re calling it a parent concern section, it really is a parent statement. It is. We’re sharing our heart with them the same as my, my kids at the beginning of each school year. I would write their teachers because I wanted them to see them as an individual aside from the documents that go with them, um, and possibly the behaviors that may come in the room, right?
I wanted them to hear what are their successes. What are they going to get out? What are they passionate about? So that would have been what I could have put into that statement as well. Yes. Now, um, it’s my understanding, and correct me if I’m wrong, that. If it’s in that section, the team has to read through and address what’s in that statement, is that correct?
They do need to address it. And you, when you submit it to the team, you say to the team, I request that this document is added to the parent questions section or the parent concerns, whatever is it’s typically called in your district. Um, and we want to review all of the questions in this document. And then you as a parent.
Print that, print your parent input statement off, and use it as an agenda when you’re going through the meeting to check off, yep, we talked about social skills, yes, we talked about bathroom, we talked about math class, we talked about communication and accommodations, use it as your agenda and guideline of, okay, we talked about all these things because you know, sitting at the IEP table can be overwhelming, stressful, there’s a lot of information going on.
Being thrown out at the team, and you just always want to make sure that you’re going back to that statement. Have you addressed my concerns as a parent? And make sure that you’re there, your questions are being answered. Meeting notes are not required for IEP meetings, but you can ask at the beginning of the meeting who is taking those notes.
So you’re making sure That your questions are also the answers to those questions are outlined in those meeting notes. So you also have documentation that it was discussed and addressed by the school team.
I really like the idea of having a printout of what your statement is as, as a checklist, you know, and if I’m thinking if we can write these as a bulleted list, it’s easier to read, it’s easier to address and, um, and we’ll, we’ll make it easier for you to check off as well as you go.
Yeah, there, I mean, there’s definitely, I add some questions typically in different sections, and when I’m writing, when I’m supporting families writing their parent input statements, um, when they’re talking about even like their, their interests, I might ask the question, how can we, uh, implement some of their interests into their school day?
That could be a question that’s embedded into that paragraph, but then there’s also a section that I put at the bottom that I say, these are questions That we would like discussed and answered at the meeting, as well as the ones above. So then you do have five, six, whatever those questions are, right? You want to have them as open-ended as you can to say, you know, not just yes or no answers either.
Yeah, it’s helpful. I’ve had a parent, like they reached out and we did a parent input statement for them. And she messaged me back after the meeting and she was like, Heather, This is hands down the most useful tool that I have ever seen and ever drafted going into this meeting. She was like, it helped me stay focused.
It helped the team stay focused. She was like, thank you so much. Like she was like singing my praises and I was like, thank you. I’m so glad because your input as a mom and a dad and the adult that’s sitting there at that table is so, so important and sometimes so overlooked. You know, because everybody’s focused on the math and the language arts and the reading and all the things, but they forget about your child as a whole.
What are their strengths? What are they like to do when they’re not sitting there having to read a book? Like, let’s talk about that because… That’s part of your child too.
Well, I think too, it can help and not all of the teachers are at the team meeting usually, but it can help those who see this document understand your child aside from the struggles that you may have in the classroom on the academic side of it, and um, I think that makes it easier on your child now because now they have someone who sees them for who they are.
Now that we know more about what the parent input statement is and why we should write it, I wanted to know if Heather had any suggestions on when we should write it. She suggested we start early and submit it ahead of time.
Six to eight weeks before your IEP meeting, you should be thinking about what am I going to be putting in a parent input statement and taking the notes that maybe you have in your phone or in your notebook or however you’re taking those notes and really sit down and just outline a letter, right?
It doesn’t have to be perfect right away but try to start thinking six to eight weeks because your parent input statement should be sent to the school team at least seven IEP meetings. So don’t just bring it the day of the meeting. You can, but for it to be effective, you want
Um, and have the answers to the questions that you have. How frustrating is it when you get to a meeting and you have a question and you ask it and everybody looks around the table like, uh, who’s going to answer it? I don’t know. I, you know, I’ve been there. I literally, I’m like, I don’t know the answer to that.
Is somebody going to ask, answer that question? And yes, they say, okay, well, we don’t know the answer. We’ll get back to you. And then how many times. Unless you’re on top of them, does it always, do you always get that answer? So by submitting it at least a week before, you’re able to have those truly good conversations because they have the answer there for you.
Not that you can’t ask additional questions at the table. Right, right. But if you’re specifically asking about, um, like a curriculum that’s being used or you had questions about the data that was being sent home, Then you can have a productive conversation around that and not deer in headlights. Like what’s, what am I supposed to say?
Well, and we as parents don’t like to be caught unaware. So it’s only fair that we not do the same thing to the team because we’re working together as a team here. Yeah. So, um, so that, that common courtesy as well. And like you’re saying, it gives them a chance to kind of strategize. Maybe there is an, maybe there’s a yes answer that’s coming and they have a chance to figure it out.
Instead of having to say a, a we’ll see or a no, because they don’t have the information that they need to be able to make that choice.
Great. I love to include, we would like the team to consider adding blankety blankety-blank. Because then that also, that terminology is collaborative. You’re not just telling them, we want this.
We would like the team to consider this, adding this accommodation based on this information. So you’re, you’re trying to work as a team, but you’re right. Nobody likes to be surprised, especially parents and school teams at the table. So, let’s be open. Share that information about a week ahead of time, if you can.
I know certain circumstances, you know, doesn’t permit, always permit that. But I could say at least seven days before. If you can get it even, you know, two weeks before. But that’s even, you know, more time and energy and, and I love that.
So Heather, I know that, um, from when we talked before that you’re able, you’re In the Atlanta area, you’re able to work, um, throughout the U.S. correct?
Yes. Five different states currently. Yeah.
Tell us how they can get in touch with you. If, if anyone wants to, to try and work with you or just to connect with you.
Yeah. So if you are in the Atlanta area, I am able to attend meetings virtually or in person. If you’re out of state, I would love to come visit you in person, but most of the time I’ll be virtually.
Um, but if you’re looking at support. I can book free consultations for any prospective clients. If you have questions, please reach out to me for a consultation. It doesn’t hurt you to get some knowledge. And the way you do that is visiting my website at HeatherWrightConsultant.com, so www.HeatherWrightConsultant.Com. Everything’s on there. You can download some free resources that I have um, and then you can book your free consultation at that point and then you’ll talk with me and I’m the person that responds to your email so don’t have a AI person that’s um, you know. Um, responding to you, but, um, you’ll hear back from me within typically 24 to 48 hours about getting that consult scheduled.
And we just see how I can support you guys in your, your journey. And that could be with parent input statements. It’s super important. It’s super, super important.
Well, even just, just having another set of eyes to help review something, you know, it’s, um,
yes. And I’ve done that too. IEP reviews.
Yeah, we’re not talking about someone having to come and work with you for months and months. It could be a one time check in or it could be an annual or something like that. So um, so good. I appreciate you sharing that. Do you have any special projects coming up?
I will be doing some free parent training workshops, um, probably starting in January. Um, this past September, I did four weeks. I talked about parent input statements, I talked about basics of IEP.
So in January, I’m gonna be starting another four-part series. Um, parent input statements are gonna be on there for sure because it’s. It’s something that I’m just passionate about. But if y’all want more information about that, or even just getting on the list, so you can get the information when I send out the actual dates and times, they will be virtual.
They’ll be Eastern Standard Time. Um, then please email me, or you can visit my website. Again, website is HeatherWrightConsultant.com and my email is email@example.com. And I think Tonya will probably have that in the, the bio and everything. So, if you want on that list for those three parent trainings, then yeah, make sure that you reach out to me and I’ll add you to my list so you can get all of that in firsthand.
Well, Heather, thank you for coming back and joining me on this. I think this was really important, but I feel like you gave some really good information here. So I hope people were taking notes. Go back, go back and listen again. If you’re. If you’re checking this so you can get all the information, but I’m sure we will be in touch again.
And, um, we’ll have to see if we, if we can have, have Heather come back again to, to go into some more, some more digging into IEPs with us.
Yes. Thank you, Tonya. And thank you to your listeners for just being on the call for this long and listening. And I do hope that you got some valuable information about parent input.
And maybe it got your head spinning a little bit going, what do I need to do? And how do I need to do that? And if you are in that situation, please feel free to reach out. I’d be happy to support you and walk you through that process.
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