A note about terms
To begin, let’s explain some terminology we’ll be using. In Texas, the team that develops your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) is called the Admissions, Review and Dismissal Committee. This is usually shortened to “ARD committee,” or simply “ARDC.” In most other states, the group that develops an IEP is called the “IEP team.” The terms “IEP team,” “ARD committee,” “ARDC” and “ARD/IEP” team are used interchangeably. They all mean the same thing. Since this site is by Texans and for Texans, we mostly—but not always—use the term “ARD committee.”
Meet the members
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), there must be people on the ARD committee to fill specific roles. But there doesn’t have to be a different person for every role. Often, one person fulfills multiple roles on the ARD committee. Here are the roles, and their responsibilities.
The parent—That’s you. As the parent, you are the most important person on the ARD committee. No one knows your child better than you. You know your child’s strengths and weaknesses and everything that makes your child unique. Your knowledge can help the team develop an IEP that will work best for your child. You should share your most important goals for your child, as well as your concerns. Share insights about your child’s interests, his likes and dislikes, and his learning styles. By being an active ARD committee member, you can help make sure that your child’s IEP is developed with his long-term needs in mind. Your job at the ARD/IEP meeting is to:
- Learn and understand the process
- Share information
- Ask questions
- Offer suggestions
- Keep the team’s focus on “the big picture” and your child’s long-term needs
- Speak up (advocate) on your child’s behalf
School administrator—This should be an employee of the school district who:
- Knows about the general education curriculum (the same curriculum taught to children who do not have disabilities)
- Knows about the resources available to the school
- Is qualified to provide or supervise special education services
- Has the power to commit the resources needed so that services can be provided as outlined in your child’s IEP
This could be the campus principal, a special education coordinator or director, or anyone with the above mentioned knowledge and power.
General education teacher—This may be a preschool or kindergarten teacher. The general education teacher knows the curriculum for your child’s age or grade level and what students in general education classes are expected to do. If your child is going to be educated in the general education classroom for any part of the school day, then the general education teacher will talk about what your child will be expected to learn. He or she may also talk about any supports, changes, and services your child needs to be successful.
Special education teacher—Your child’s special education teacher is a specialist on disabilities and individualized instruction. He or she understands how and when to use different teaching styles and instructional methods to meet your child’s needs. Usually, the special education teacher on your ARD committee:
- Has been involved in your child’s evaluation
- Understands the evaluation results
- Can explain and interpret the evaluation results
The special education teacher may talk about the supports and supplementary aids your child may need to participate fully in learning and other school activities. He or she may take the lead in developing your child’s goals, focusing on those areas where your child has special instructional needs. In many schools, the special education teacher also makes sure that all the people who help your child follow the IEP plan.
Evaluation personnel—This person is someone who knows about your child’s evaluation, what the evaluation results were, and what the results mean in terms of instruction. So the special education teacher may fulfill this role, too, particularly if your child has just been evaluated. But a school psychologist, administrator, or one of your child’s teachers could also fulfill this role.
Others—Both you and the school can invite other people to the ARD meeting, such as:
- Translators or interpreters—If English is not your first language, or if you communicate by using sign language or another mode, the law says the school must provide an interpreter if you ask for one. So make sure you do.
- Transition personnel—If the ARD meeting will include transitioning out of Early Childhoold Intervention (ECI) services, staff from ECI may be invited to attend with your consent. This can help provide a smooth transition from ECI to elementary school. Parts of your child’s IFSP may be considered in this process.
- Others with knowledge or special expertise about your child—Many parents find it helpful to have a support person at the ARD meeting. This can be another parent, a friend, an advocate, or a consultant. Others could include specialists, tutors, educational consultants, or school staff with whom you are comfortable and who know your child. It can also include therapists or other related services personnel who work with your child. Both you and the school have the right to invite people like this to the ARD committee meeting.
- Your child—As your child matures, he may become involved in his annual ARD meetings.
This article was adapted from the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY), Parent Guide 12 by Theresa Rebhorn.